Bajadera is a symbol chocolate of Croatia and Zagreb. It is a sumptuous nougat praline wrapped in the most elegant golden pin striped design.
This, of course, is a Kraš Bajadera - the creme de la creme of the Croatian confectionary. The dearest of the Croatian candy.
But bajadere can also be homemade. And today, you are getting my easy, no-bake bajadera recipe. You’ll never have to wonder where to buy bajadera from if you live outside Croatia.
Bajadera is not only a silky smooth, melt-in-the mouth chocolate. Our favourite treat. Our iconic sweet-tooth indulgence.
It is a perfect and time-tested gift too. You can present it to a lover, to someone you are visiting for the first time or to a business partner.
So, what makes bajadera chocolate so special? Where does it magic come from?
Bajadera recipe balanced as music
To every Croatian person, the word bajadera means only one thing - a moreish candy. But the entire rest of the world associates this word with the famous La Bayadère ballet.
La Bayadère was first staged in 1977 in St. Petersburg in honour of the Prima ballerina Ekaterina Vazem. Both the choreography (Marius Petipa) and the music (Ludwig Minkus) made this piece one of the most hailed pieces of the classical ballet.
But the connection with the classical music doesn’t stop there. In fact, in 1871 Johann Strauss premiered his Die Bajadere polka at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna.
In 1921 Hungarian composer Emmerich Kálmán composed his operetta Die Bajadere.
All three music pieces thematize a magically seductive dance. The word itself comes from the Portuguese bailadeira, which means a temple dancer.
Back then, the simplified vision of the world saw everything east of Suez as exotic. So out character Bajadera was a dancer who could magically seduce us with its elegant, intoxicating movements.
Now, we Croatians may have fallen for the taste of this Croatian candy to the point of complete oblivion. But Kraš confectionary still keeps a reference to their musical inspiration.
The play of light and darkness, a dance, intoxicating with each move.Their taste is rich and tempting, like a sumptuous dance of an oriental Bajadera dancer from times long gone.
Now we see that musical roots are not coincidental. The harmony of bajadera flavours is just like listening to the most delicate music. This is what happens when the hazelnut and almond nougat marry the finest chocolate.
Homemade versus commercial
This is beyond comparison. Kraš bajadera is an institution which we won’t replicate at home. This finest nougat dessert is actually the first product in Croatia that was given the label ‘Original Croatian’.
You can look for other products marked ‘Izvorno hrvatsko’ by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce and Economy HERE.
There will be times when the original Kraš kind won’t be available. Then why not learn how to make bajadera by yourself.
In this recipe, I do my best to emulate the original finesse. Bajadera must be attractive so I go above and beyond to divide the dough twice to get those distinct layers. I also cut bajadera to its original size: 2 x 4 cm.
The other important thing are the bajadera ingredients. Many people make it with ground walnuts because this is the most widely available nut variety in Croatia.
Still, if you want the real deal, it’s best to use both hazelnuts and almonds. And roasting the hazelnuts beforehand is the difference that makes the difference. I urge you not to skip that step.
Now, let make this queen among chocolate pralines.
- 150 ml water (⅔ cup)
- 180 g sugar (¾ cup)
- 220 g butter, cubed (1 cup)
- 1 tsp vanilla flavour
- 1 tbsp rum
- 350 g tea biscuits, crushed (¾ lb)
- 150 g hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and ground (2 cups)
- 130 g almonds, blanched and ground (1 ½ cups)
- 100 g dark chocolate, melted (3 ½ oz)
- 150 g dark chocolate (5 oz)
- 5 tbsp oil, sunflower or canola
- Prepare the nuts. Blanche the almonds and ground them in a nut mill. Roast hazelnuts, remove the skin and grind them. Do not use a blender or food processor because the nuts will come out too mushy.
- Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. At the same time place water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add vanilla flavour. Set the melted chocolate aside.
- Add the cubed butter into boiling sugar syrup and stir until it melts. Add rum and set aside.
- Combine crushed biscuits with both nuts - but set aside 20 g (1/2 cup) of hazelnuts. Make a little well in the middle and pour in the butter syrup. Mix with a spoon until you get a smooth dough.
- Divide the dough into equal parts. Use the scale for precision.
- Put the rest of the hazelnuts in one part and melted chocolate in the other.
- Divide the chocolate dough into 2 parts. To be super precise, 1 part should be twice as big as the other. In other words, weigh the chocolate dough and divide it by 3. Then make 1 part 1/3 and the other 2/3 of the mass.
- Coat the cake pan (27x23 cm) very lightly with melted butter. Place the bigger chocolate dough inside and spread it evenly with your fingers. Place a sheet of baking paper on top and smooth the layer by rolling your hand over it. Remove the paper.
- Add the light part of the dough. First sprinkle smaller bits of dough evenly across the pan. Smooth it out through the baking paper, then remove it.
- Put the smaller chocolate dough last. This may be the trickiest part because this layer is the thinnest. Sprinkle the dough first then smooth it out through the baking paper.
- Place the cake in the fridge for a few hours.
- Melt the chocolate and oil in a bain-marie. Pour the icing over the cake and wiggle the pan to spread it evenly. Pop it back in the fridge overnight.
- Cut bajadere in 2x4 cm size pieces. Use a Stanley knife to for best and most precise results.
- You can freeze bajadere for up to 3 months.
So what is your favourite sweet tooth indulgence? Something traditionally Croatian? If so, then you will love the recipes in my best-selling Croatian Desserts cookbook.
You'll find all your childhood mainstays and my step-by-step recipes will guide you along in recreating your fondest memories.