Yesterday was a cold, rainy day in Varaždin, one where you don’t want to step outside, not even to get food. Fall has definitely arrived. It seems that after weeks of the people willing it to be cold by wearing coats and scarves in about 70 degree weather, the season finally caught up with their mindset. I for one am so happy that cooler weather is here because that means I can finally wear the other half of my wardrobe. Oh, sweater weather. On a nasty day like this, Iva and I could only think of one thing to do…bake! Iva and her mother have been telling me about Klipići (kleepeechee), a Varaždin tradition, and how they had to show me how to make it before I return home.
Iva knows the recipe by heart or I guess I should say, Iva knows how to make Klipićis so well that she doesn’t need a recipe. I quickly learned that Klipići is one of those things that almost everyone in the town knows how to make. A doughy treat that has been passed down from mother to child for years.
She starts preparing everything and I start asking questions. I know I’ve seen people eating them in the streets but I found out that a lot of cafés pair Klipići with coffee in the morning. I also learned that the main hotel in Varaždin, Hotel Turist, is the unofficial keeper of the recipe and of the traditional technique for preparing the bread.
As she continues to pull the ingredients together, I realize that not only is she cooking without a recipe but she’s not really measuring either. Klipići is the third thing she learned how to prepare as a child. First she mastered potatoes, then a meat dish, followed up by Klipići.
When Iva travels to other regions of Croatia and requests Klipici, they don’t know what she’s referring to. This pastry doesn’t really exist outside of the Varaždin region. There are similar pastries, like Kiflice, but they are often sweet and shaped differently.
I’m watching her mix and add milk and oil to the dough. She knows just how much to add and of what. Using feeling alone, she’s able to get the right consistency. Then she begins the kneading process.
The elders in Varaždin say you have to knead the dough like you’re mad at someone. I asked her if there was a fear of overworking the dough. For certain types of pastries and breads, yes but for Klipićii the more you knead it, the softer it will be once it’s baked. Ideally, the dough is kneaded for 15 minutes but she claims to not have the arm strength for that. Once the dough was well kneaded, Iva floured a bowl and placed the ball of dough inside for it to warm up and rise. For an extra boost of warmth, she placed the bowl on the radiator.
As we waited, Iva shared some Klipići history with me. Klipići dates back to when Varaždin was the capital of Croatia, that was way back in the 18th century. I love that this bread has been a staple in this town for so long. It’s believed that Klipići may have stemmed from Vienna when present-day Croatia was under Habsburg Monarchy rule. They also suspect that it’s a simpler version of the Viennese Kiflice.
We began pinching off pieces of the risen dough and forming small balls. Then I got my first lesson in the proper dough rolling technique. The trick is to spread or stretch the dough as you roll it up. I wasn’t too bad. Then we added a level of complexity by spreading cream cheese on the sheets of dough prior to rolling them up. That proved to be a bit more challenging and my dough babies were a little fat and ugly. We let them rise again, then brushed them with egg wash and added seeds. We used pumpkin and cumin. Often times, sesame is used but any type of seed will work.
We placed them in the oven and then came the hard part, waiting for them to be done. Soon, the yummy smells of freshly baked bread starting fill up the house and I rushed to the oven to check on my babies. They had started to turn a lovely shade of brown, but still not quite done. The smell was becoming so intoxicating it was making me crazy. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too much longer for them to be ready.
Once they had cooled down, I grabbed one straight from the cookie sheet. The roll was so soft to the touch and my first bite was warm and heavenly. As I continued to eat, that’s when I discovered the cream cheese, which took these Klipićis to another level. Those warm doughy bites were more than what I expected and they were so easy to make. This is definitely a recipe I’m taking home with me and one Iva is willing to share with you all.
500 mL of Milk
300 mL of Oil
900g of Flour
2 (literal) teaspoons of Salt
40g of Fresh Active Yeast
2 (literal) teaspoons of Sugar
1 (literal) teaspoon of Flour
2 Egg Yolks
Pinch of Salt
Preparing the Yeast
- Warm 100mL of the 500mL of Milk until it’s warm to the touch
- While warming the milk, place 1 (literal) teaspoon of Flour in a small bowl. Add the 2 (literal) teaspoons of sugar to the flour. Take the 40g of Fresh Active Yeast and crumble into the Flour Sugar mixture
- Add 100mL of warm Milk to the Flour, Sugar and Yeast mixture and set aside for it to rise
Preparing the Dough
- Pour 900g of Flour into a large mixing bowl.
- Add 2 (literal) teaspoons of Salt to the Flour and mix the two together
- Once Yeast has risen enough, gently fold the Yeast into the Flour and Salt mixture
- Once Yeast is folded in, begin to add a little milk and oil to the mixture and blend with your hands. Continue to add milk and oil (little by little) and mixing with your hands until the dough no longer sticks to your fingers. You may have milk and oil left over
- Form the dough into a ball and begin to knead “like you hate it” for a few minutes
- After kneading, lightly flour a bowl and add the dough. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest in a warm place until it doubles in size
Shaping the Dough and Baking
- After the dough has risen, pinch off small pieces and form balls (18-20 balls of dough)
- Roll out individual dough balls until they are thin sheets
- Optional- Spread cream cheese and/or add meats on top of the thin sheet of dough
- At the smallest end on the bottom of the sheet begin to roll the dough upwards. Try to stretch the dough while rolling upwards to create length. Continue with remaining balls of dough
- Place finished rolled dough on the baking sheet and cover with a cloth and let it rise for about 30 minutes.
- Heat oven to 220°C or 450° F
- Create yolk egg wash by separating two yolks from egg whites. Add a pinch of salt to the yolks and gently beat
- After the rolls have risen, brush egg wash on each roll.
- Add seeds on top of each roll. We used Pumpkin and Cumin but any kind will work
- Place Klipići in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until beautifully browned
- Let cool and then enjoy!