The simple foods that sustained many poorer families across Croatia are the perfect example of the ingenuity and thriftiness of hardworking homemakers. Every region has its own specific dishes, made from locally grown ingredients that are always available. Although money was often tight, and there was very little rest from hard work, the resourceful homemakers would always find a way to do a little kitchen magic and bring joy to their families. Their skilful hands would turn basic ingredients, such as flour, milk and lard, into delicious meals that satisfied the sweet and “salt tooth” of every family member.
One such dish is pispalj, known colloquially as picipaj, plaska or just “scone” (pogača in Croatian), still eaten with pleasure in the greater coastal area of the Adriatic. It is a dish that resembles a scone, but is actually made from bread dough full of yeast. Pispalj used to be made by kneading the soft flour with yeast dough, which was always on hand at a time when bread was frequently made on the household fireplace. Today, it is made with dry or fresh yeast, dissolved in a little warm water and left to sit before being mixed with flour and more water, and turned into a smooth dough. The dough is then coated with oil to prevent it from drying out, and left to rise for about an hour at room temperature. After the dough has risen, it is shaped into tiny scones that are fried in hot olive oil.
The freshly fried and golden yellow pispalj can be eaten covered with sugar or home-made jam, but those with more of a “salt tooth” can also sprinkle it with grated cheese that melts from the warmth of the fried dough. These scones are perfect for a tasty breakfast or casual dinner, and its sweet version makes for a filling dessert that everyone will surely enjoy.