Dessert Version 2.0

Going out for a dessert, whether to eat it in or take away, has always been a big deal in Zagreb, part of our rituals.

There is quite a number of patisseries and pastry shops catering for the local sweet tooth needs, and many have long tradition. Sweets, cookies, biscuits, creams, cakes of all kinds that you can find vary from the old-school style (Jakšić), reliable crowd pleasers (Vincek) or modern manufactures with an international flair (Amelie). There are those who like to stick to classics (Princess) and traditionalists who also like to experiment (Orijent). Pastry cooks usually try not to wander too far from the average consumer's comfort zone and range of expectations. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want creativity and extravaganza when it comes to desserts, you can get it at top-notch fine dining restaurants, where pastry chefs like Robert Bašić in Dubravkin put or the team at Noel work wonders.

“Dessert as a work of art of at fine dining level at Dubravkin put.” Image credit: Dubravkin put FB

However, if we stay in the realm of ordinary pastry shop, or slastičarna, somebody had to step outside the box and shake things up a little bit. The first design pastry shop in Zagreb, something really different at the time, was Mak na konac, run by one of our most famous pastry chefs, the young, enthusiastic and ambitious Petra Jelenić. Uncompromisingly using only first-class ingredients and French-school skills and techniques, most of the time she actually just tried to re-interpret the tastes of her childhood. The concept was maybe too much for such a small market, so the most innovative patisserie in Zagreb eventually closed down. Petra’s work was definitely ground-breaking and she inspired some new pastry magicians to come. Meet Mia in Vlaška Street is also trying to raise the bar and offer somewhat more creative and unusual desserts, but on a smaller scale. Along with a line of classic treats like irresistible macrons, cupcakes, pies and croissants, some of the cakes are little works of modern art, with unexpected flavour combinations.

“An original cake designed by Petra Jelenić, probably the best known pastry chef in Zagreb.” Image credit: Petra Jelenić

Still, the patisserie that really changed everything we knew about confectionery in Zagreb opened quite recently, in 2017. It’s a spin-off project of the successful Time restaurant in downtown Zagreb – Time Pastry Shop. The pastry mastermind behind it is young Robert Hromalić, whose signature is literally on all desserts, as if they were the work of a renowned artist. The shop itself is more like a glamorous showroom, so it’s primarily a take-away concept. Unprecedented, the prices of Robert’s desserts are significantly higher than the average. This policy has left many people wondering are Time’s cakes really worth it. Still, something must be right, because they often sell everything by the closing time. So, what’s it all about? Only the best ingredients, less sugar and original design, looking more like an avant-garde sculpture than a cake. The best and boldest move is to take some of the best known national desserts and reconstruct them, but still creating that well-familiar mouthfeel. For example, Time’s međimurska gibanica looks nothing like the traditional original, but after you put the combination of Bavarian cream, poppy seed biscuit, caramelised walnuts, roasted apples and puff pastry chunks in your mouth, it hits the right button, bringing back the memory of that perfect gibanica you carry somewhere deep in your brain. The same was done to kremšnita and čupavci, and we’re looking forward to new versions of some other popular treats.

“Traditional međimurska gibanica as they see it in Time artisan pastry shop.” Image credit: Time FB

The sweet scene of Zagreb has never been more exciting. Stepping outside your usual dessert path once in a while can bring you some really interesting and memorable sensations, even if you are a sceptic and conservative eater. Don’t worry, you can always go back to your family recipes or mainstream favourites of Zagreb’s pastry shops.

“The mouth-watering display window at Time in Teslina Street.” Image credit: Time FB

Header image credit: Meet Mia FB

Author: Taste of Croatia / Morana Zibar