The Intangible Fluffiness of Kremšnita
Obviously, as its German-sounding name suggests, the origin of kremšnita is to be found outside Croatia. This type of cake is present all over Central and South-Eastern Europe, in different versions. Yet, in Croatia, the town of Samobor, Zagreb County, is the undisputable capital of kremšnita. Visiting Samobor and not trying kremšnita is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower.
“For the classic Samobor kremšnita, go to either Livadić or U prolazu.” Image credit: Livadić Hotel and Café FB
All the versions of this dessert include layers of puff pastry and a generous amount of delicious custard cream in between. As so many dished deeply rooted in the cuisine of Zagreb and its surroundings, kremšnita, or Cremeschnitte, originates in the former Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The famous Samobor version is based on the recipe by confectioner Đuro Lukačić from the 1920s. What is so special about it? The custard cream, made of milk, some sugar and flour, a touch of vanilla and a lot of eggs, is so light and fluffy that you have a feeling you are eating a sweet cloud. Some enjoy it still warm, some prefer it cold. The old-school Samobor kremšnita, from the legendary U prolazu pastry shop and Livadić café, have only custard cream between sheets of puff pastry, but there are also versions with a thinner layer of Chantilly cream on top of custard. The two above-mentioned establishments are also the holders of the right to serve Samobor-style kremšnita labelled as intangible cultural good. Don't be surprised to see people queuing in front of them on a busy day to get their slice of this creamy delight.
“Some prefer their kremšnita to be extra soft and fluffy.” Image credit: Taste of Croatia
Of course, a lot of traditionally oriented pastry shops in Zagreb have it as part of their regular, all-year-round menu. These often tend to be more solid and firmer than their Samobor counterparts, which is not necessarily something negative, just slightly different. When you ask the locals which place has the best kremšnita in Zagreb, a few names usually pop up more than others. Like Orijent, the oldest continuously open pastry shop in Zagreb, in Maksimirska Street. Some say that under the new management and with the new shop just off Ban Jelačić Square the quality is not what it used to be, but kremšnita is still excellent and highly recommended. Others worship the quaint, family-run and very traditional Jakšić pastry shop in Zvonimirova Street. Well-known downtown shops like Zagreb or Cukeraj also make kremšnita on a regular basis, satisfying many people’s sweet tooth.
“The others like when kremšnita is more solid and firm, almost like jelly.” Image credit: Cukeraj FB
And then, there's Vincek, the popular pastry shop chain, whose branch in Ilica Street is usually always well frequented. In the 1980s they wanted to be different, so they invented zagrebačka kremšnita, Zagreb-style kremšnita. It became so popular and the recipe spread around that now it's considered tradition. The difference is that the Zagreb version does not have the top layer of puff pastry, but only a thin layer of chocolate icing, which stands on the Chantilly cream. Kremšnita is such an icon and its presence in our collective consciousness of sweets is so strong that even when you are a young and creative pastry genius trying to break off from tradition, you pay respect to it by reconstructing it. I'm talking about what Robert Hromalić did when he worked at the now closed Time pastry shop in Teslina Street, and maybe someone else will also have a take on it one day. On the other side of the spectre, kremšnita can be found at supermarkets and rest area cafeterias, but let that be your last resort. I hope this article has inspired you to treat yourself with a nice piece of kremšnita. Just remember, from now on, you're not eating just a traditional dessert – you're consuming a cultural good as well.
“Think of Zagreb kremšnita as the young, modern sister of Samobor kremšnita.” Image credit: infozagreb.hr
Author: Morana Zibar / Taste of Croatia