Biscuits with crackling. Sound weird? Or delicious? Well, this is something the Croatians and other nations in Eastern Europe have been doing for centuries. I don’t know the true history of this baked treat, but I can imagine it lays somewhere in using any limited provisions and making something that was either easy to carry around while working the land, or travelling. Something rich in animal fat, filling and actually quite tasty. It’s got to be peasant food.
This is something I know I had when I was as child but I simply can’t remember when, where or who made it. As soon as I began making these I started getting childhood memories just from the smell of dough mixed with pork crackling. It reminded me of being a child, picking at finger food with the adults as they sipped either strong black coffee or some kind of booze.
You can buy crackling from Croatian deli’s or butchers, I got mine from Ivan’s in Sydney’s Chester Hill, or you could grab some pork skin from the butcher and roast it up yourself.
I’ve based this recipe on one I found in a book named The Best In Croatian Cooking but I couldn’t help but add a little freshly grated parmesan cheese. Not enough to make it cheesy, but just so it adds another level. Versions of this “biscuit” have the result of flakiness, but the one I’ve done is slightly bready, almost scone-like. There’s the distinct flavour of crackling, and the odd crunch from it, and with my final sprinkling of sea salt it gives the feeling that you’re biting into a salted pretzel.
I think the traditional way of eating these is on their own, perhaps with a cold beer, but I’ve arranged a platter of goodies that complement these čvarkuše really well. Some Croatian kobasica (smoked sausage), olives, caperberries, chunks of parmesan, spicy ajvar (capsicum & vegetable relish), coppa and some pickled feferoni (mild chillies).
Combine flour, yeast, salt, pepper, parmesan and crackling in a large mixing bowl. Rub together using your fingers until mixed well.
In a small bowl beat 1 of the eggs, the egg yolk, sour cream and milk. Add this to the flour mixture and mix to a dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until elastic. Alternatively use a mixer with a dough hook or use a bread machine on the dough setting. Rest the dough in a warm place for 40 minutes, until risen.
Knock the dough back and roll it to 1cm thickness. Fold in half and roll again to 1 cm thickness, then fold in half. Cover and allow it to sit in a warm place for 20 minutes. Repeat this process two more times.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Roll the pastry to 2 cm thickness and cut 5 centimetre rounds, using a glass or cutter. Gather the off-cuts, roll to 2 cm thickness and cut into rounds until there is no pastry left. Place the rounds onto a baking sheet, beat the 1 remaining egg and brush the pastry with it. Sprinkle over a little sea salt flakes and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden.
Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.