For the spring semester of my junior year at Boston College, I decided to study abroad in Zagreb, Croatia. Before arriving in late February, I knew very little about Croatian culture, including its cuisine. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and explore a country that I had never been to before, as I felt that doing so would broaden my horizons. Although I have been in Zagreb for a very short amount of time, I can already say that the city is invigatoring. As trams zoom through the central square of Zagreb, Croatia, you can see people reuniting, restaurants standing at every corner, and multicolored buildings towering over you. Complementing glorious sightseeing, the most impactful culinary moment I have had during my stay at Zagreb so far was trying kremšnite for the first time, a classic Croatian dessert.
After having lunch with my peers at the European Center for the Study of War and Peace, the location where I take my classes, we were offered a piece of kremšnite for dessert. This dish is best described as a slice of custard with two layers of puff pastry: one layer on top that is delicately sprinkled with powdered sugar and another layer below the custard. I eagerly took the opportunity to eat a piece of kremšnite because it simply looked delicious, with the custard in particular sporting an inviting soft yellow color.
Every aspect of the kremšnite I tasted was outstanding. The custard was simultaneously rich and light textured, melting in my mouth. It had a wonderful vanilla flavor that invoked a great amount of comfort, without being overbearing. Mimicking the vanilla custard’s light texture, the layers of puff pastry introduced a buttery element to the dessert. The subtle hints of butter from the puff pastry contrasted enough with the custard so that the pastry was skillfully balanced in flavor. Finally, the powdered sugar on top tied the whole dessert together, ensuring that every bite was graced by finely-distributed sweetness.
I appreciated how this dessert deviated from the ones I usually eat, like cake or pie. Kind of resembling a thick pudding, the custard was the dessert’s foundation and it held up quite nicely. It was sturdy enough to support the puff pastry, giving each slice a uniform cubic shape. The creaminess of the custard provided the satisfaction that dense desserts like cheesecake give me. Yet, its texture also possessed the airiness of whipped cream. I ended up finishing my piece of kremšnite within minutes, as I was so impressed by its clever use of texture and careful use of flavor.
Studying abroad was something I always wanted to do, but I never knew exactly how it would turn out for me. Since I had never traveled to the Balkans before, Croatia was a country I did not even consider going to before stumbling across the BC in Croatia: War, Peace & Reconciliation program online. Due to my lack of prior familiarity with Croatian culture, I tried to not set too many expectations for my semester abroad. Although far away from home, I have felt safe and fulfilled in Zagreb so far. While being intellectually challenged by my classes, my mind has also opened up to an entirely new set of customs and practices in this eastern European country. I am learning something new about Croatia every day, and enjoying every second of it. What better way to kick off my semester than trying a tasty dessert like kremšnite? Living in a foreign country for over three months is certainly intimidating, but being received by the splendor of your host country’s cuisine is a great feeling. I will always remember kremšnite as a staple among Croatian sweets and as a dessert that broadened my culinary horizons. I am ready to undertake the inevitable ups and downs of the remainder of my stay here in Zagreb, as I know that moments like the one in which I first tried kremšnite are forthcoming.
Cover photo courtesy of KitchenNostalgia