Bryndza (pronounced as brinsa) is a soft variety of sheep’s milk cheese that our Slovak ancestors developed at the end of the 18th century. Although the cheese had existed under different names and in varied forms from the 14th century, the first bryndza-making factory in Slovakia, which was set up in 1787, is seen by many as the beginning of traditional Slovak bryndza production.
As far as I know, Slovak bryndza is very difficult to get outside Slovakia. When craving their national dish of Halušky s bryndzou (Halushki with Bryndza Cheese), some Slovaks living abroad resort to other similar cheeses like Greek Feta, Italian Ricotta or French Roquefort. They do not taste the same, but are similar in texture to Slovenská bryndza (Slovak Bryndza), a trademark protected within the EU since 2008.
The recipe below is just one of dozens developed by my people over the centuries. Bryndza Cheese Sticks have been adapted from a tiny little recipe book I got from Slovak shepherds at one of our salashes.
Bryndza Cheese Sticks
- 250 g fine wheat flour
- 150 g bryndza cheese (or soft cheese of your choice)
- 150 g butter or pork lard
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 2 sprigs dill
- a pinch of salt
- Put the butter in a large mixing bowl and let it soften at room temperature for about 30 minutes. I could omit this step, as the pork lard I used is easily workable straight from the fridge.
- Rinse and chop the dill. Line a baking tray with a piece of parchment paper.
- Rub the flour in the butter with your fingers. Throw in the egg and the chopped dill. Add the baking powder and the bryndza cheese or a soft cheese of your choice. Knead all the ingredients well until you achieve a smooth, medium-thick dough. Cover and leave to rest in a cold place for an hour.
- Transfer the dough onto a rolling board dusted with flour. Divide into eight balls and roll each ball out into a long strip. Cut into equal parts and lay on a baking tray. Remember to dust your hands and the board whenever the dough gets sticky.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC and bake for about 15 minutes or until the sticks turn golden brown. Serve either warm or cold with a cup of tea or milk for snack. The crisp bryndza cheese sticks are also tasty appetizers for dinner parties. They nicely complement red wine.