Custard fans will be delighted as rožata is a dessert halfway between creme brulee and flan that comes straight from Croatia, and more precisely from the city of Dubrovnik. This dessert of medieval origin is the pride of locals and is a must for tourists in the summer.
What is rožata?
Rožata, rozata, rožada or rozada is a traditional medieval dessert that is widespread around the Adriatic Sea and comes from the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. Its main ingredients are large quantities of eggs, sugar and milk. It is slowly baked in a bain-marie. Then, it is topped with caramel sauce before being served. Sometimes, it is also accompanied by fruits.
Although often associated with pudding or custard, rožata differs significantly from these desserts both in the preparation and in its texture.
Rožata is as unique as the city of Dubrovnik itself. It is more than a delicious dessert: rožata is the very symbol of the political and cultural stability of the region on the Dalmatian coast.
What is the origin of rožata?
The recipe for this delicious caramel custard dates back to the end of the 15th century. Rožata crowned the end of the conflicts between Venice and the Hungarians, and then between Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Local restaurants in Dubrovnik proudly serve the dessert to curious tourists throughout the year.
The local rožata has a very particular taste because it contains a sweet liquor made from brandy (or another strong alcohol) and rose petals called rozulin (or rozalin). According to the grandmothers of the region, it is necessary to leave bottles of rozalin 40 days on the windowsill in the sun before consuming the liquor.
What are the variants of rožata?
According to different sources, some recipes add a zest of lemon or rose water, failing to find rozalin liquor. But the authentic version appears to be the one we are featuring here. The recipes give between 12 and 14 individual servings. It may seem like a lot, but the dessert can be kept for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Also, the preparation of a caramel sauce is optional because there should be enough caramel in the bottom of the ramekins.
Unmolding tip: let the rožata cool completely before unmolding on a plate, otherwise the caramel custard will collapse. Also, pass the blade of a sharp knife around the edge to facilitate the unmolding process and obtain a beautiful final result.
Tourism in Croatia
The city of Dubrovnik is a city located in the south of Croatia on the Dalmatian coast, at the edge of the Adriatic Sea. It is also called the “Pearl of the Adriatic”.
It attracts a lot of tourists every year: it is a small paradise on the shore because it offers the opportunity to swim at the bottom of the fortifications. Tourism is crucial for Croatia as it currently accounts for a quarter of its GDP. Also, the municipality tries to limit the visits to 5000 visitors per day during high season. Since 1979 Dubrovnik has been part of UNESCO World Heritage.
History of Dubrovnik
Called Ragusa until 1918, the city of Dubrovnik was once the capital of a maritime republic known as the Republic of Ragusa. It had the monopoly of the salt trade. Until that date, Dubrovnik was part of the Austrian monarchy (Austrian Empire). It changed its name with the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918.
A true jewel, Dubrovnik has been coveted, besieged, and even attacked many times throughout history by the Ottoman Empire, Italy, Russia, and even the Napoleonic army.
Another period of history left a bitter taste on the city: on 1 October 1991 the Yugoslav People’s Army besieged Dubrovnik during the Croatian War of Independence. The casualties were numerous. According to the Red Cross, 114 civilians were killed.
The reconstruction of the city took place with respect of traditional techniques in mind. However, the restoration of roofs was particularly problematic because traditional materials were no longer available in sufficient quantities: the old tiles were replaced by new ones from the city of Toulouse in France.
Dubrovnik is still a center of attraction for both tourism and the film industry. Indeed, the city is known to be one of the main sets of the TV series Games of Thrones. Since the second season, the scenes taking place in King’s landing are shot in Dubrovnik.
Custard recipes around the world
Caramel custard, egg custard or flan are other possible names for rozata. The recipe is similar, both in the composition of the ingredients and in the bain-marie (water bath) cooking technique.
In Venezuela, you will find a creamy custard called quesillo. Quesillo is prepared from sweetened condensed milk, milk and eggs. This custard is widespread throughout Latin America and more particularly in Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay. Very often, it is accompanied by dulce de leche.
In the Philippines, people enjoy leche flan. This local term of Spanish origin means “milk flan”.
Unlike the traditional custard, it consists of sweetened condensed milk. Also, unlike rozata, this dessert is not cooked in a bain-marie but steamed. The leche flan is a variant of the Spanish flan (flan de huevo). A more compact and sweeter variant of leche flan is found under the name of tocino although this dessert contains way more egg yolks and sugar than the leche flan.
In Brazil, you will find pudim de leite. Its name comes directly from the English word pudding. Traditional pudim is often presented as a caramelized custard that is cooked in a large mold with a hole in the middle rather than in individual ramekins.
In Vietnam, creme caramel was introduced by the French. It is found under the name of bánh caramel in the north of the country and bánh flan further south.
A distant cousin of the rozata is crème brûlée. This dessert, halfway between creme caramel and custard, is made up of egg yolks, sugar, vanilla cream and caramel. Once cooled, the top of the creme brulee is caramelized with a torch or under a grill. It is served warm or cold.
Crema catalana is another distant cousin of rozata. Its recipe dates back to the 12th century. The recipe includes corn flour. Also, it is often prepared to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day.
An even more distant recipe is custard pastry. It is found all over the world under various names: pastel de nata in Portugal, custard tart in Great Britain and tarte au flan or flan pâtissier in France.
Hoping that you will be seduced by this rožata recipe!
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1½ cup caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
- Zest of one lemon
- 7 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- Butter (for the ramekins)
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ cup water
- Heat milk, sugar, vanilla sugar and lemon zest. Let cool.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolks and mix with the milk.
Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
- In a saucepan, add the sugar and water and cook on low to medium heat until the caramel turns amber.
- Grease ramekins or a large baking dish with butter.
- Pour 1 teaspoon of caramel in the bottom of each ramekin or 4 tablespoons in the bottom of a large pan and pour over the preparation.
- Place the ramekins or the mold in a bain-marie (water bath), and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes if they are individual ramekins or 40 minutes if it is a single large mold.
- Cool the cream in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
- Shortly before serving, make the caramel sauce. In a saucepan, add ½ cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and cook on low to medium heat until the caramel becomes amber.
Add the ½ cup (100 ml) of water over the caramel. Cook on low to medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Let cool.
- Unmold the creams on a plate and serve with whipped cream and caramel sauce.