Many of those who know a thing or two about Slovak cuisine have been asking for bryndza cheese recipes. Although I have collected and tested quite a few, they won’t be published online for the time being. The reason is quite simple – most of these recipes are featured in the book on Slovak cooking that I have finished recently and am now looking to publish. Until that happens, I want to introduce you to this versatile ingredient, which has been proven to have quite a few health benefits.
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 slightly varying forms since 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. I have put the family story of the first bryndza producers in the proposed book, as well as a few legends linked to this part of our history.
As far as I know, Slovak bryndza is very difficult to get outside Slovakia. When craving their national dish of Halušky s bryndzou (Potato Dumplings 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 though, which is quite understandable, as Slovak sheep and pastures are different, not to mention the unique formula and method we use to make Slovenská bryndza (Slovak Bryndza). Yes, it’s a trademark protected within the EU, so if you’re curious and looking for authenticity, why not come to taste the real thing in Slovakia?
To tempt you even more, I’m bringing a quick-and-easy recipe with bryndza cheese, 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
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, plus it’s a very Slovak non-dairy fat that we prefer in this kind of bakery.
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 own choice. Knead all the ingredients well until you achieve a smooth, medium-thick dough. Cover and leave to rest in a cold place for 2 hours.
Dust a rolling board and your hands well, then transfer the dough onto the board. Divide into eight balls and roll each ball into a long strip. Cut into equal parts and lay on a baking tray as seen in the pictures below:
Remember to dust your hands and the board each time the dough starts sticking.
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. These crisp cheese sticks are also tasty appetizers for dinner parties, plus they nicely complement red wine.