Croatia: Čupavci

Ok wow, hi, I’m like super late in posting this,, sorry for the delay! These past few weeks at my job has been CRAY and I’ve been low on motivation. But I’m making myself sit down and do this before I totally forget about this one. Soooo CROATIA!!

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So I’m actually cheating a little bit. If you’ve been following my map, you’ll be aware that  my next country was supposed to be Slovenia. I’m skipping that one for now and will come back to it later, because I am going to be doing a package exchange with a girl form Slovenia soon (long story as to how that got set up) but I’m really excited! We’ve decided to send each other things from our respective countries (especially sweets and snacks!^^) for funsies. I told her about this project I’m doing and if she had any suggestions of things to make, I’d be happy to hear them. She then responded and said her grandma is a chef and SHE’S GOING TO TRANSLATE AND SEND ME ONE OF HER FAMILY RECIPES AAAHHHHH!!! Sorry, I’ll calm down. I’m just really excited about that. 😀 Hopefully it all works out! Once we actually send our packages, I’ll come back to Slovenia. So on to Croatia!

As you can see from the title of this post, this week’s delicacies are called Cupavci, pronounced “CHOO-pahv-tsee,” which apparently means “furry” in Croatian? They are similar to Australian lamingtons. Or…so I’m told, but I’ve never had Australian lamingtons. However, I looked them up and they do look similar. The basic concept of these lil sweets is just two layers of sponge cake, with a layer of pastry cream sandwiched between them, and dipped in chocolate and coconut. Australian lamingtons look as if each layer of cake is individually dipped in chocolate before adding the pastry cream. These Croatian Cupavci are assembled, and then covered in chocolate.

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The recipe for pastry creme was a little odd to me, using powdered gelatin instead of cornstarch, but I thought “what the heck” and decided to go for it. The method was similar to most other pastry creme recipes I’ve used, except that it didn’t thicken quite as much during the cooking, and even after sitting in an ice bath for a while, I ended up sticking it in the freezer so it would thicken faster. I didn’t like it as much as other recipes I’ve used before. It only thickened up when chilled and then didn’t hold it’s consistency if it wasn’t kept cool…much like jello. I don’t think I’ll use this recipe for pastry cream filling in the future but…maybe it’s better suited for something else??

Once similarity I’m noticing between a lot of these recipes, or ones that involve cake, is that Europe really likes sponge cake. And I’m beginning to think America is the only place that often prefers heavier, richer cakes?? When I lived in Korea, the only cakes you could find in bakeries or stores were sponge cakes. And most of these cake recipes I’ve made so far from this trek around Europe have been sponges, or something similar. Which also makes sense, because the bakery I work at is a “European style” bakery and almost all our cake flavors (or at least the best selling ones) are sponges. Well..technically they’re chiffons, but to my American taste palatte that prefers heavier cakes, chiffons and sponges taste more or less the same to me!  But oh well! I’m getting lots of sponge cake practice!

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Apparently, these cupavci come in one of two ways in Croatia, in the way they are finished. One way is the way I made them, where they are cut into individual squares, then covered in chocolate. The other way is to cover the whole cake in chocolate, and then cut it into squares, so just the tops are covered in chocolate. I like chocolate, so I opted for the one with more chocolate, naturally.

The recipe called for coconut flower to sprinkle on top, but the picture on the recipe looked much more like very finely grated coconut. Also the coconut flour I saw in stores was literally flour, and I don’t really know how that would have worked. So I just bought some dried coconut chips and ran them through the food processor a bit.

Here’s some documentation of my process!

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Sponge ingredients
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Am I the only one who thinks egg yolks look weirdly fun?
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This was my breakfast that day. If any of my readers ever make it to south-east Iowa, go to this store. It’s the bomb.com. 

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pastry cream chillin in an ice bath. Haha, get it?…Cuz it…ice…ok sorry. 

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Once your sponge cools and you’ve sliced it in half, you’ll layer it back in the pan, cake-cream-cake, then freeze it for a bit so it’s at least semi solid for you to cut it. And it will be easier to dip in chocolate if the cream isn’t squishing out!

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Owl and Fox salt and pepper shakers are watching the process. 

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And into the freezer!
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Once it’s set, trim the edges to make them nice and straight.

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I hope you don’t mind getting messy, cuz this next part is exactly that! And it’s great! 🙂

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I wasn’t sure exactly how to apply the coconut, I felt like dipping each square into a bowl of coconut would have been kind of tricky, so I ended up just sprinkling the coconut all over them.

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I also added a little more chocolate than the recipe called for, just because I wanted it a little thicker and not so runny. However, next time I would probably leave it runny, or up the amounts of chocolate and milk, because I didn’t have enough chocolate to cover all the squares.

These little things are lovely, sweet confections with a nice mix of textures, from the spongy cake, to smooth pastry cream, to the coconut bits. And they need to be kept chilled, so they’re a nice little snack on a warm day. 🙂

Let’s do some current event’s before the recipe! News as of 9/18/16.
-Upon typing “Croatia” into Google and clicking the “News” tab, I found a surprising amount of the top headlines had to do with something called the Davis Cup. If you’re out of the loop like me, and have no idea what the Davis Cup is, I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up. It’s a tennis tournament. And Croatia made it to the final and are playing against Argentina.Croatia has only won this tournament once before, 11 years ago, and now Marin Cilic has gotten to the final this year. Will he make it all the way to the top???? THE SUSPENSE!
-There’s a whole debacle over money conversions going on, involving some banks and conversion rates between Swiss francs and Euros, and some loans… From what I can gather, an Italian bank, UniCredit Bank, owns a Croatian bank that offers loans in Swiss Francs. The exchange rates between Francs and Euros had gotten to be high enough that it’s become difficult for citizens to pay their monthly fees, so the Croatian bank converted all the loans to Euros. And the cost of the conversion has been covered by the banks themselves, something UniCredit is less than pleased about. They have written a letter to the Croatian govt I think demanding some sort of settlement, or else they’re going to sue. Croatia has until the 30th to address said letter. Goodness!
-And here’s something that my nerd side appreciates! There is currently speculation that there is some reshooting for the next Star Wars movie happening in Croatia! The movie is apparently already in the post-production phase, and Chloe Bruce who worked on the last movie and this one, recently posted about traveling to Belfast, London and Croatia. Bruce was involved in some night shoots, but none of the main cast were spotted there, sooo..no one is sure as to whether or not this was for Star Wars or for something else. BUT hopeful fans pointed out that it was around this time last year that early work for the movie was done in Croatia, so this time around, it’s possible they didn’t need the cast there if they were just capturing weather or scenery or something. Point is, Star Wars Episode 8 is on it’s way AND I’M PUMPED FOR IT!!

Ok. Star Wars fangirling aside, let’s get back to yummy things. Here’s the recipe! Well…recipes. There’s one for the sponge [HERE], one for the weird pastry cream [HERE], and one for everything else and assembling the Cupavci [HERE].
I’ll put them all here for your convenience.

Croatian Cupavci

For the Sponge (makes 1 9″ round pan (for three layers) or 1 9×13″ pan (for 2 layers)):

  • 7 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ounce or 2 tablespoons melted butter

For the pastry cream:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (I used vanilla bean paste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon powdered gelatin
  • 1 tablespoons cold water
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar

For the Chocolate coating:

  • 4 to 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 cup milk
  • Finely ground coconut
  1. Make the sponge. Place rack in middle of oven and heat it to 325 degrees. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray, place a parchment circle in the bottom, and spray again. Or do the same with a 13×9-inch pan.
  2. Place 7 egg yolks in one bowl and 7 egg whites in another bowl. Add 1/2 cup sugar to each bowl and beat whites until stiff but not dry, and beat yolks until thick and light. Fold whites into yolks. Using a sieve, sprinkle 1 cup flour over eggs in three additions and fold in, trying not to deflate the batter. Mix in melted butter. Bake 25-35 minutes or until toothpick tests done. Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan.
  3. While the cake is baking/cooling, make the pastry cream. Have ready a large bowl filled 3/4 full with ice and covered with ice water. In large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring milk and vanilla bean to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let vanilla steep in milk for 10 minutes. Remove vanilla bean.
  4. In small bowl, gradually sprinkle gelatin over cold water and set aside to soften.
    In medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with granulated sugar for about 1 minute to combine. Gradually pour in hot milk, whisking continuously.
  5. Return mixture to saucepan and, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, cook over medium heat until sauce has thickened and is 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, being careful not to over cook or you will have scrambled eggs! Turn off heat.
  6. Immediately stir softened gelatin into pastry cream until dissolved. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into medium bowl. Place bowl of pastry cream into bowl of ice water and stir frequently until it starts to cool and thicken. If not using immediately as part of a layered dessert, chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
  7. Slice cooled sponge cake in half horizontally. Place bottom half into a clean parchment-lined 13×9-inch pan. Pour pastry cream on top and then place top half of sponge cake on pastry cream. Place in freezer for several hours or until firm enough to cut easily.
  8. To make chocolate coating: If you are only going to cover the tops of the squares, use 4 ounces of chocolate and 1/2 cup milk, otherwise, use the larger amounts. In a microwave safe bowl, place chopped chocolate and milk. Heat for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and stir until smooth. The chocolate should be on the thin side but not runny. You may have to add more milk. Set aside to cool slightly.
  9. Invert sponge cake onto parchment paper and peel off parchment paper that lined the bottom of the pan. Invert again onto a cutting board. Trim all four sides of the filled sponge cake so you have a perfect rectangle. Cut into 24 even squares. Make sure squares are semi-frozen before dipping in warm chocolate, otherwise the pastry cream will run out. Quickly dip all sides of the squares into chocolate, then dredge in coconut. It gets a little messy, but the result is worth it. For a neater job, dip only the tops of the squares in melted chocolate and dredge only the tops in coconut. Store covered in the refrigerator.
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