Kroštule, hrštule or hrustule... the names for these crispy sweet fritters abound. Which only proves how much we love krostule all around Croatia.
The names vary but there is one quality of krostule that is contained in all of them. Krostule must be crispy, crumbly, and as light as air.
The Italian word crostoli speaks of that too. It means crispy by way of oil. Nice, isn’t it? Krostule are a real comfort food.
In Croatian the word hrustule comes from hrustati, to crunch. It’s an onomatopoeic word that describes the sound we make when we chew something crispy.
Hrštule derives from hrskav, which means crisp, crusty.
Croatian Krostule and local variations
Have you ever looked for a krostule recipe? Then you probably noticed the variations on that front too.
We have istarske krostule, Dalmatian ones... then each island has its own version.
And because we hold this Croatian pastry so dear, we believe our family’s recipe is the best one. I mean the one that our nona or baba left us.
It’s true, every family has their own unique touch, a little tip or trick on how to make krostule even crispier.
In Dalmatia, they swear by rakija or Maraschino. Alcohol added to the dough prevents it from sopping up oil during frying.
The Istrians use white wine to achieve the same effect.
My own trick is to use lard instead of butter. Lard works miracles in baking. Mostly because it has no water content, while butter is 80% fat and 20% water.
The main thing to know is that kroštule are a variation of the classic pasta dough. So the main ingredients are flour and eggs.
There is little sugar in the dough. The sweetness mainly comes the dusting.
The dough needs to be rolled as thinly as possible. Some people use a pasta machine but it’s perfectly possible to roll the dough by hand.
Just be patient and take your time. You don’t want kroštule to be thick. They won’t look light and elegant and they’ll be too hard.
Most recipes for kroštule don’t use any flavouring. I love to add classical Dalmatian scents to mine. So I use Maraschino for alcohol, and I add orange juice and zest.
Sweet fritters around the world
Kroštule are one of the most traditional Croatian pastry. But this doesn’t mean they are enjoyed only in Croatia.
All around the world people feast on sweet fried cookies, especially during Lent and for Christmas.
Fried sweets are a very common indulgence in the time leading up to Lent. This is why crostoli are often called carnival sweets.
In Croatia, kroštule must be crispy and light and should not be confused with yeasted fried dough. They are not leavened, as opposed to fritule, poderane gaće or uštipci.
You can cut different shapes but the most common are the twisted ribbons. It's easy: just make a slit in the middle and thread one end through it.
You can even fry just strips of dough. Pinch them in the middle and you’ll get a tiny butterfly. And if you need to use a long strip, make a bow tie!
- 300 g flour (2 ⅓ cup)
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 50 ml Maraschino or other clear spirit (¼ cup)
- 30 ml freshly squeezed orange juice (2 tbsp)
- 30 g melted lard or butter (⅛ cup)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 500 ml sunflower or canola oil
- 40 g powdered sugar (⅓ cup)
- Combine salt and sugar with flour.
- Whisk eggs and mix in Maraschino, orange juice and zest. Melt lard/butter.
- Make a well in the middle and pour in the wet ingredients. Start combining the dough with the fork.
- Add lard/butter and finish the dough by kneading it into a smooth ball. Wrap in plastic foil and leave in the fridge for 1 hour.
- Divide the ball of dough into 4 parts. While you work on one, leave the others covered with foil. Roll it out very thinly, thinner than 1 mm. The thinner the dough, the crispier krostule will be.
- Using a decorative dough wheel, cut strips roughly the width of a finger. Cut those strips slightly longer than your index finger.
- Make a small cut with a knife in the middle of a krostula and run one end through the slit so you end up with a twisted ribbon.
- Heat oil to medium high. Check if the oil is ready by inserting a wooden spoon in. If you see bubbles forming around the spoon, you are good to go. Fry each piece for about 15 seconds. The moment you see them change colour, turn on the other side, fry for a few more seconds and take them out. Fry 4-5 pieces at the time.
- Drain them on a paper towel. Dust generously with powdered sugar and serve warm.
- Keep them for a few days at room temperature. Covered by not air-tight.
Tips for making perfect krostule
Here are some tips and tricks how to make these crispy and crumbly sweets perfect.
1. Roll the dough very thin. It should almost be see-through.
2. Have your oil hot. If you can take the temperature, it should be 180 C/350 F
3. Fry 4-5 pieces at once and don’t overcrowd the pan.
4. Fry the pastry quick. When you see them turning gold, this is already too long. 15 seconds is enough. By the time you turn every piece to the other side, it’s time to get them out.
5. Don’t skip the alcohol in the dough, this is what creates those lovely bubbles in the pastry.
6. If you’re making different shapes, fry together the ones of the same size.
7. Feel free to make kroštule all year round, not only for Christmas. In fact, this dessert is very common in Dalmatia at weddings, christenings, birthdays and all types of family gatherings. You have plenty of opportunities to practice.
Foolproof baking experience
If you're looking to recreate the wonderful festive desserts typical for our Croatian cuisine, let me tempt you to try with my cookbook. It gives you a detailed step-by-step method, with lots of images. And I promise, all your favourite sweets are in there!