Uštipci (Serbian Cyrillic: Уштипци, pronounced [uʃtɪpt͡sɪ]) are doughnut-like fried dough balls popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, especially in Vojvodina, Srem district and Slovenia where they are known as miške.
This Croatian fritule called uštipci, is a festive pastry resembling little doughnuts, made particularly for Christmas.
What are uštipci?
Uštipci (ush-tip-tsee), also called uštipke, are basically balls of fried dough. Whether savory or sweet, they are popular throughout the Western Balkans in many different varieties. Beignets are the closest comparison, but even they don’t do justice to the huge variety of uštipci that exists.
They can be served alongside a soup or meat dish. However, uštipci are also popular as a sweet treat served with powdered sugar on top. They are quite popular throughout the Western Balkans, especially Slovenia and Croatia. Nonetheless, whether savory or sweet, all uštipci pair well with a side of honey or jam.
Uštipci can vary dramatically, not only by country, but by community and family. There are dozens of different recipes, and with family recipes passed down through generations, there are strong opinions about the “best” and “right” way to make uštipci.
What is the origin of uštipci?
Croatia, located on the coast of the Adriatic in the Mediterranean, brings together a cuisine influenced by many interesting regional variations. Local diets inland are colored by the Slavic traditions and the neighboring central European cuisines, while Croatian coastal food and drink is heavily influenced by the countries Croatia trades with, as well as Mediterranean cuisines such as Italian food.
Croatian doughnuts, called fritule or uštipci, originate from the historic Croatian coastal region of Dalmatia. Fritule are traditionally served at Christmas time, but some find it really hard to stick to such rules, so you will find these little morsels of fried dough especially ones as tempting as these throughout the year.
Some fundamental uštipci criteria to create a platform for a somewhat objective judgment of this timeless treat:
Uštipci should have a thin crisp around their exterior, giving each bite a joyously satisfying, warm, and slightly greasy crunch. The interior should be fluffy, but not too dense. The consistency should be on the lighter side with regular air pockets.
Sometimes uštipci becomes rubbery after sitting out for a while, caused by steam from the moist dough inside softening the outside crisp. Other times, uštipci are served with salad and/or cheese, whose oils and juices have seeped into the uštipci causing soggy bottoms. However, it’s also entirely possible to have too much crunch. It is therefore imperative that the crisp be delicate and proper.
A perfect interior will be warm, soft, and chewy, and will almost melt in your mouth, sort of like a croissant but less delicate. When the inside is dense like an American bagel or Bosnian djevrek, it detracts from the delicate crunch that you get from proper crispiness.
Two types of flour are commonly used to bake uštipci: bread flour and buckwheat flour (heljda). Buckwheat has a richer, heartier flavor than the traditional bread flour.
Uštipci are fried, so there is inevitably a lot of oil involved. Vegetable oil is what is recommended but using other oils would certainly create a different taste. Uštipci are usually removed from the pan and set on paper to absorb some of their oils. But when this process is rushed or skipped entirely, uštipci can be unappealingly greasy. It is also possible to overdo the absorption, making them dry.
Ustipci are similar to fritule, and also to krofne but with more of a soft, bread-like feel to them. They are easier to make than krofne, and they do not necessarily have to be sweet.
In restaurants, they might come with jam, kajmak or with cheese thus fulfilling the role of breakfast staple or dessert or even a main course. They can also have other ingredients in them, which most commonly are apple, pumpkin, but even meat and cheese are possibilities. They are eaten with tea or coffee and also as a dessert. They are also often served with powdered sugar sprinkled on top of them to make them more aesthetically pleasing. They can go well with jams, Nutella, and Eurocrem.
Crunchy crust on the outside and a soft dense bread on the inside, what’s not to love? The best part about this recipe is that it provides you with bread and a dessert. Uštipci mean different things to different people, so while these criteria may not be entirely universal, we can agree on one thing, it is amazingly delicious. Make yourself a perfect bite with these savory pastries very popular throughout the Balkans. They are best when they are warm to hot. They are usually eaten for breakfast but can also be a bread substitute.
- 3 cups flour , sifted
- 2 eggs , slightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cup warm milk
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Vegetable oil (for frying)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix half of the milk, with the yeast and sugar.
- Let it rise for 15 minutes at room temperature and away from drafts.
- Add the eggs.
- Add the flour and mix with the flat beater for 1 minute.
- Add the salt and mix until the dough is homogeneous. The dough should be slightly runny but have a denser texture than a pancake batter.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise for 30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes.
- In a deep skillet, heat a large amount of oil over high heat until it reaches a temperature of 350 F.
- Reduce heat to medium, take tablespoons of dough and immerse in hot oil.
- Fry a few minutes on each side until golden brown.
- The temperature of the oil must be maintained at 350 F during the frying.
- Place the donuts on paper towels.
- Serve hot with cottage cheese, sour cream or jam or simply sprinkle with sugar.