Passed On Croatian Traditions
By: Cathryn Morovich
Many Croatian traditions have been passed from one generation to the next, perpetuating our beautiful and colorful heritage. The art of wine making and “rakja” (white lighting whiskey), hand work such as knitting, crocheting and embroidery, music played on the tambura, accordion or guitar and of course the many, many verses to folk songs which vary from region to region and village to village. Hearty main dishes of meat and fish stews, soups, BBQ lamb and pork, and of course the delicious old fashion cabbage rolls called Sarma, were a staple on a Croatian dining table.
One of the most endearing of passed-on traditions is the baking of delicious breads, cookies and other delicacies, lovingly mixed, kneaded, rolled and shaped with artistic hands. Bread baking was done on a regular basis, however, a variety of baked goods were prepared for special occasions.
Hrstule were fried for Christmas, weddings and baptisms. Povitica (also called Orahnjača) and Frite (also called Pršurate or Uštipci) were also prepared for the holiday.
Easter had its own special bread, which depending on the region is called Pogača, Sirnica or Uskrsnica. What made this bread so different were the 12 eggs that were part of the recipe. It seems that every baker had their own take or variation to the bread. Some used fresh lemons and oranges for flavoring. Anise and vanilla are also options. The bread can be decorated with a cross or an egg inserted in the top of each loaf.
Here is the Pogača recipe that my mother-in-law Ane Branica Morovich passed on to me. I’ve cut the recipe to make the dough easier to handle.
Grandma Ane’s Pogaca
1 cube butter
1 orange juice and grated rind
½ lemon juice and grated rind
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2 packages of dried yeast
1 cup milk
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pure vanilla flavoring
2 – 3 tsp pure anise flavoring (optional and to taste)
5-7 cups of sifted all purpose flour or enough to make a soft dough
Warm milk in sauce pan with butter, salt and sugar until butter is melted and sugar dissolved. Set aside to cool. In the mean time, proof yeast in ¼ cup of warm water. Beat eggs, add flavorings, cooled milk mixture, juices and grated rind and yeast. Mix in the flour enough to form a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface until the dough is soft and smooth. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Set aside in a warm draft free place to rise until doubled in bulk, approximately 2 hours.
Grease three 8” round pans. When dough has doubled in bulk, place it on a floured surface , cut it in three pieces and form each in a round loaf. Place in the greased baking pans, cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and let rise again until doubled in bulk. Just before putting the bread in a pre-heated 350° oven, cut a cross on the top of each loaf with a sharp knife. Brush with tops with egg wash and bake for 35 – 40 minutes until the bread is done.
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