Paškinjice are the perfect marriage of candy and an iconic Pag island delicacy
On a barren Croatian island with more sheep than people, Paški sir (“Pag cheese”) reigns. The cherished Manchego-like cheese is steeped in terroir—it’s only made on Pag, an arid, finger-shaped strip of land roughly the size of Queens, N.Y., with the herbaceous milk of Paške ovce.
These hardy autochthonous sheep brave sweltering summers and harsh winters that bring the bura, an icy northern wind, which deposits salt from the Adriatic Sea on the island’s endemic herbs and limestone terrain. Paška Sirana, the island’s oldest creamery, celebrated its 70th anniversary last year.
And what a banner year it was: At the 2016 World Cheese Awards its Paški sir won a Super Gold medal and was named “Best Central and Eastern European Cheese.”
Cheesemaking on the island dates back centuries, and the current generation is finding new ways to enjoy Pag’s culinary pride. Ana Fabijanić, an assistant manager at Paška Sirana and self-proclaimed chocoholic, developed the first recipe for Paškinjice—chocolates with Pag cheese—in her kitchen. She strives to capture the essence of Pag in the food she cooks for her family.
“When our daughter, Paola, was born, the decision was made: We are staying on our island because our roots are set too deep into the ground,” Fabijanić says. Post-maternity leave, she resumed work at Paška Sirana and convinced the company to invest in her cheese chocolates.
“We named them Paškinjice, which means ‘little girls from Pag.’ In a way they are celebrating Paški sir—they are its granddaughters.”
When Paška Sirana began producing the chocolates commercially, they enlisted master Croatian chocolatier Dubravko Vitlov of Vitlov Čokolade. Paškinjice have hard, oval, chocolate shells that coat cheese-ganache interiors. The confections pack a savory-sweet punch, and Vitlov handcrafts each batch.
“You cannot force the chocolate,” Vitlov says. “You need to show your love.”
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup finely grated Pag cheese (or Manchego aged 6 months or more)
- 500 grams 70 percent dark chocolate, divided
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 200 grams dark chocolate cacao powder (or cocoa powder without added sugar, milk fat, or oil)
- In a heavy saucepan set over medium heat, bring cream to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low or low until only a few small bubbles break through the surface every 2 to 3 seconds.
- Remove pan from burner. Stir in grated cheese until melted.
- Slice 300 grams dark chocolate into narrow strips. Add sliced chocolate to cream-cheese mixture and stir gently until melted. Stir in butter until melted.
- Pour mixture into a shallow baking pan (about 2 inches deep). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 45 minutes. Check the consistency of the mixture: if it is similar to soft fudge, it’s ready for rolling. If not, continue refrigerating and check every 10 minutes until the correct consistency is reached.
- Scoop 1 teaspoon of cheese-chocolate mixture out and shape quickly into a ball with cold palms. Repeat with remaining mixture. Place balls on a tray and chill in the refrigerator a few minutes.
- Finely slice remaining dark chocolate and melt it in a double boiler.
- Dip each ball in the melted chocolate and, when drips stop, roll in or dust with cacao powder.
- (Tip: A toothpick inserted halfway into each ball provides a handle for dipping and dusting.)
- Chill chocolates in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving.