This dish has a very special meaning to me, it brings back memories, and it is very, very old…Only few women I have ever known have made this, and I myself don’t know the true recipe, but have recreated it to the best of my ability.
I grew up in Dalmatia (yes, I’m a Dalmatian, but not one of the 101 or 102 : ) in a little village nested at the feet of mount Velebit, the largest mountain range in Croatia.
Growing up there, it was just a blast, and I am so proud of my memories, and my enchanted childhood. People were so hardworking, honest, and although seemingly poor, really and truly, they were very, very rich, because they were happy with what they had, and happy with simpler things life had to offer. A word and a firm handshake was still the best form of contract, homes were never locked, and crime was read about in newspapers from elsewhere…
Women were strong, hard working as well, blessed with new age technology, but still each house had their own smokehouse, and bread was still made old world style. One of the treasured dishes made was this “sort of cheese cornbread in fillo sort of dough”, we called it presnac. I can only remember few women ever made it, and one of them was my dad’s cousin, who sadly died last year, so I can’t get the right recipe, but I have recreated it to the best of my taste memory, and ability. It sure turned out delicious, and almost exactly how she used to make it. The only ingredient I didn’t have was good Kačkavalj cheese, which is aged semi-hard cheese, that wouldn’t lose it’s shape when baked in the dish. I know she used to layer slices of it in between fillo, and the cheese/cornmeal filling.
I can find it here in the USA, only it’s a 40 minute ride, one way. Marija, you probably have it sitting in the fridge right now : ) It’s very popular in Serbia, as well as all of the Balkans.
So, here is how I have made Presnac( and cheese pita or burek with cheese as well)
For fillo dough:
500 g AP flour(a bit more than a lb)
Salt to taste, small handful
Enough hot water(as much as you can handle hot)to make the dough, not to hard but not soft
For the filling:
1 lb cream cheese (I make my own, you can use Farmers cheese)
Salt, to taste
Mix all well, divide into two bowls, and add 6 Tbsp of cornmeal into one of them ---that’s for Presnac.
½ Tsp of baking powder to add later.
Make fillo dough, knead it well, transfer to a floured work surface, and divide into two balls. Now place the dough balls onto a clean kitchen towel, flatten them with your hands, put a Tbsp of oil on each and flatten them again to spread the oil all over the dough.
Now, mix ½ Tsp of baking powder into the cheese mixture with cornbread.
Take one dough like a pizza dough, and work the middle a bit, then place it on a clean table linen (I have one just for these dishes), and from the middle stretch it with your hands gently, and keep stretching away until it’s all done. If it starts ripping you stop.
Cut off the edges, and put about a third of cheese/cornmeal filling down the middle of fillo dough.
This is when you would be layering slices of hard cheese. Cover with one side of fillo, put another third of filling, cover again with other side of fillo.
Put some more filling, and then sort of make an envelope to close it all up and form it into a baking dish shape, and transfer to an oiled baking dish, and brush with egg yolk. Bake @ 405 F for about 25mintues, then you raise the temperature to about 450 F, and bake until golden brown.
Other fillo you use to make cheese pita, or burek with cheese. You stretch the dough, cut the edges off, sprinkle with oil, and cut into three (look at the 3rd picture, cut into 3), spread each third carefully with cheese filling and then just roll it up by lifting the table linen. Didn’t take pictures of that, I was all alone, really needed help : )
It’s simple, just lift the one edge of the table linen, and let the dough start rolling itself, you might need to start with hands if it’s stuck to the linen, then you just roll away. Once rolled up, you connect the edges towards the middle, like in the picture, and transfer to an oiled dish, repeat with other two thirds, and then sprinkle all with some more oil, very lightly. Bake @450Funtil golden brown. Fillo can be filled with many different fillings, like ground meat, potatoes, apples, and much more.
Cheese pita- burek with cheese