Heirloom Recipes

A Decadent No-Bake Praline I Grew to Love After Leaving My Home Country

December 14, 2017

I arrived to the States two decades ago from a tiny country called Yugoslavia, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to be precise. I bet many have never heard of it—no worries, nothing to be embarrassed about, because knowing about the SFRY was not exactly a part of general education.

Those who go back long enough to remember might recall a couple of facts about good old Yuga, as we now call it with nostalgia. We were good at basketball. We were ruled by Josip Broz—a quirky dictator nicknamed Marshal Tito—who liked white gloves, black limousines, and mangoes. We gave birth to Tesla, not the car, but the scientist. And most importantly, somehow, someway, we created bajadera (bah-ya-deh-ra) one of the yummiest chocolate pralines in the entire world.

No-bake beauties. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Sadly, I never fully came to appreciate it until I left my country. It was totally my fault, because we take some things for granted. Somehow I expected the trophy to go to a Swiss, Belgian, or French chocolate, because let's face it, one would have never thought that the richest, the most decadent, the nuttiest, and the creamiest praline of all would come from Yugoslavia. As I said, sometimes we take things for granted. But I should have known better, because growing up it was a staple. A symbol. A legend. People graduated with it. It was a guest of honor at countless birthdays and celebrations. It was a companion to all the Turkish coffees my girlfriends and I sipped together, and all the gossip we shared. Yes, I should have know better, because when two decades ago I left my country, on the way to the airport my mom stashed a small box of Bajadera into my backpack. It was her way of saying "I love you," her way of saying "goodbye".

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Yugoslavia did not survive as a country, but a recipe for homemade Bajadera is still widely popular across the ex-Yugoslavian territories—Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Macedonia. Making Bajadera at home is a lot of fun. It's a relatively simple no-bake dessert, based on a nougat paste from ground hazelnuts, chocolate, cookies, sugar syrup, and butter. And just in case you are wondering, the real thing can be nowadays purchased on Amazon. But I rarely do it. Because it never quite tastes the same.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ada.tm
  • Greenstuff
  • Alice
  • QueenSashy
Aleksandra aka QueenSashy is a scientist by day, and cook, photographer and doodler by night. When she is not writing code and formulas, she blogs about food, life and everything in between on her blog, Three Little Halves. Three Little Halves was nominated for 2015 James Beard Awards and the finalist for 2014 Saveur Best Food Blog Awards. Aleksandra lives in New York City with her other two halves, Miss Pain and Dr. V.


Ada.tm January 5, 2018
I am joining the ranks of those who know about Yugoslavia . I grew up a stone throw away, just a few kilometers from the border. We call my city Timisoara and my grandfather comes from what we call Serbski Banat. :) I can’t wait to make your recipe. Thank you!
QueenSashy January 5, 2018
And I've been to Timisoara! But I was very little, 5 or 6 years old and unfortunately do not remember much :) Thank you for letting me know!
Greenstuff December 15, 2017
They look exquisite! And are leaving me hungry for more info--like what kind of cookies would you have used before immigrating?

And just for the record, not to dredge up any sad memories, the former Yugoslavia is much better known than you think. We all hope for continued peace and continuing renewed prosperity for your diverse homeland.

Thanks for sharing this bit of your past.
QueenSashy December 15, 2017
Greenstuff, thank you! With respect to more info -- these two cookies are my all time favorites: https://food52.com/blog/15000-an-heirloom-cookie-essential-on-the-serbian-holiday-table and https://food52.com/recipes/19499-ischler-the-emperor-of-cookies
Greenstuff December 15, 2017
Aha! I’d already saved both those recipes. I’m getting close to needing a Serbian cookie folder! Thanks.
Alice December 15, 2017
I love Bajadera!
And you should really include Slovenia in that sentence about former Yugoslavian countries. Not just because it's a fact, but because we really love Bajadera too. You can still get it everywhere all these years later.
QueenSashy December 15, 2017
Alice, you are absolutely right. It's my omission, and it happened by accident. I meant to include all six republics, but got into something else in the middle of writing... Sorry about it.
Alice December 15, 2017
That's okay, hope my comment didn't sound too serious! :)
QueenSashy December 15, 2017