Bučnica – an indispensable autumn delicacy

You’ll recognise a true bučnica (pumpkin strudel) the moment you take your first bite, when the combination of homemade cottage cheese and grated pumpkin wrapped in a crunchy, hand-stretched crust is still steaming. The autumn scents momentarily take reign over your kitchen, while waiting for the strudel to cool just a little bit prior to serving feels like eternity. Those are precisely the feelings aroused by relishing bučnica.

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Even though preparing bučnica requires time and a great deal of patience so it’s most commonly prepared at the weekend, in peace and quiet, with focus and dedication, our grandmothers didn’t have fixed working hours. When the family was in the mood for delicious homemade stretched dough and the ingredients aplenty, everything came down to making the dough and preparing the nice, rich stuffing.

When preparing the dough, quality flour is the single most important thing to which you then add oil, a bit of vinegar and water. These four ingredients are more than enough to get an elastic yet soft dough. When stretching it, you need to make sure the dough doesn’t break and you’re already halfway there.

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The bučnica stuffing is prepared as you see fit. There’s no universal recipe as to the quantities of cheese and pumpkin required to make sure your bučnica is the best one in the village. As far as preparing this Zagorje speciality is concerned, those more experienced have the rations in their back pockets, while other get to learn through trial and error. But trust us, this is no rocket science. Everyone will prepare bučnica to their own liking, with more or less stuffing, with a crunchier dough covered in butter and sour cream or a softer dough that’ll make bučnica even juicier.

Last year’s Bučijada and the huge turnout just go to prove that people of all ages and stages love bučnica. This year’s edition will take place from 19th to 21st October in Ivanić Grad. In addition to plenty of other side events, each year we’re particularly looking forward to the spectacular selection of pumpkin dishes you’ll be able to taste at restaurants and a gastro tent at event itself, while the dishes include a great deal of bučnica varieties of all shapes, sizes and flavours.

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Each year Mrs Sanja Emm treats visitors of Bučijada with a presentation of how she goes about preparing bučnica, while this year she also decided to let us in on her secret.

“I always add vinegar to the dough so as to prevent it from breaking. Once I knead the dough, I leave it to stand in order for it to turn elastic. It would be good to leave it to stand over the night. I use green pumpkin to prepare the stuffing, i.e. green pumpkin we’ve left to grow because they’re tenderer and more delicious in this type of dish. I don’t cover my strudels with cream, which is why they’re crunchier.

Apart from visiting Bučijada in Ivanić Grad, there’s also the option of visiting any of the Zagorje restaurants from our list and trying out your luck when ordering bučnica aimed at special guests. Biserka Jakšec, chef at restaurant Stara preša, revealed her recipe for preparing the most delicious bučnica, as well as the secret to this traditional specialty’s creamosity and rich flavour.

“First you make the stretched dough, it has to stand. Meanwhile, the pumpkin is grated and salted and left to stand for about an hour to release excess water. Then we add the cheese, an egg, salt and stir everything thoroughly. The dough is stretched, filled with the stuffing, rolled, covered with cream and then baked. That way bučnica will be creamier and more delicious”, Biserka told us.

You can also find bučnica at Đurina hiža in the green hills of Varaždinske Toplice where Nebojša Božić, father of restaurant manager Nikola Božić, has his very own recipe.

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“There are several secrets to the perfect bučnica, such as that the best ones are prepared using butternut squash, but grating and salting should not be overlooked either. At Đurina hiža we salt the pumpkin in layers. First we grate a part of the pumpkin, we add salt, add the other part of the pumpkin and repeat it until we grate the entire pumpkin. Cheese also has to be homemade and obtained from a reliable supplier because that’s the only way your bučnica will be the real deal. When folding it, we cover our bučnica with a mixture of butter and milk. We also add cream prior to baking it. Bučnica will be best if baked so as not to be in contact with other strudels, but it’s also great under peka”, Mr. Božić explained.

The season’s in full swing, pumpkins are already waiting to be combined with homemade cheese and season in the best possible way only to be placed inside crunchy homemade stretched dough. The only course of action is to make a reservation and enjoy the most delicious of autumn delicacies.