These Romanian pretzels or covrigei are one of the most popular Romanian snacks. Cheesy, crunchy, and addictive pastry.
The covrigei or saratele were some of my favorite treats during my childhood. Well, they still are, I just don't get them that often anymore. My grandmother used to make them every year for Christmas and Easter and I remember helping her cut the dough and placing the pretzels on the baking sheet, brushing them with egg and sprinkling them with the caraway seeds.
She stopped as she got older and for a while we used to get some from her sister, but that stopped as well at one point. Luckily we were able to buy them at the baker's as well. They were never as good as the homemade ones, but still delicious.
What are covrigei?
These Romanian snacks, called either covrigei (small pretzels) or saratele (“salties”) are pretty much the same thing: cheesy, salty pastry made with butter and cheese, and sprinkled with caraway seeds. What sets them apart is the form of the pastry.
The Romanian pretzels are the original, I suppose, but you will need a special form to cut them. Saratele are cut into sticks, they are just as delicious as the pretzels, they only look different. And they are much quicker to make, just roll the dough and cut it into regular strips.
What do you need?
If you are making covrigei, the first thing you will need is a small pretzel cutter (Amazon affiliate link).
- I've already posted a recipe for the Romanian Saratele a couple of years ago, a beautiful recipe that I've been making repeatedly for many years now.
- It uses Gouda or Cheddar cheese.
- Recently, I found another recipe using feta cheese or the Romanian salty telemea cheese.
- I wanted to try that as well and I liked it so much, I decided to make a new post out of it and use the covrigei cutter as well this time.
- For an even cheesier version, you could sprinkle the pastry shapes with some Parmesan as well.
- Traditionally, the covrigei or saratele are sprinkled with caraway seeds. For me, there is no better option.
- However, my kids don't feel the same, so I started using other seeds as well, seeds like sesame or nigella seeds. (All Amazon affiliate links)
- My daughter is crazy about the sesame seed version, my son doesn't care so much as long as they're not caraway seeds. 🙂
- In Romania, we would always use smetana, which is the Eastern European version of sour cream.
- However, if you cannot find it, you can replace it with crème fraiche or sour cream.
Other ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, unsalted butter, eggs.
How to cut?
- Divide the cheese pastry into several portion and keep the ones you are not using wrapped in cling film and refrigerated.
- Roll the dough about 3 or 4 mm/ 0.12 – 0.15 inches thick on a lightly floured surface.
- Cut with a pretzel cutter or into strips.
- Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with caraway or other seeds. Optionally, sprinkle with a little Parmesan.
- Best tip: use two baking trays, it makes the workflow quicker and easier. While the first batch of pastry is in the oven, use the time to cut the second batch and place the covrigei on a second baking tray.
- Leave the freshly baked pastry rest on the baking tray for 5-10 minutes before transferring to wire racks. The snacks are still very fragile, and they might break if you try to move them too soon.
- Use unsalted butter, as it will be easier to control the salt amount you are using. If using salted butter, add less salt at first, taste the pastry and add more if necessary. Do that after adding the feta cheese, which is quite salty as well.
- Use a block of feta cheese and crumble it yourself. It is easily done in one minute and tastes much much better than already crumbled feta.
- Before rolling the pastry, divide it into several portions. Keep one portion for rolling, but wrap the remaining ones with cling film/plastic wrap and refrigerate them. If they are left on the counter they might get too soft by the time you roll them and that will make the rolling process more difficult.
- As mentioned above, if you don't have a small pretzel cutter, roll the dough into a rectangle and cut regular stripes with a knife. They should be about as long and thick as your finger.
- Don't over bake the pastry. Check repeatedly, they should get only slightly golden.
How to keep?
These Romanian snacks keep well in airtight containers for about 1 week, probably a little longer.
However, we never ever managed to keep them for more than 2 days, not even when I made the double batch... they are really that good!
More pastry snacks:
Romanian Pretzel – Covrigei
- 450 g/ 15.9 oz/ 3 ¾ cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 250 g/ 8.8 oz/ 1 cup unsalted butter very cold
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon sour cream/smetana
- 200 g/ 7 oz feta cheese
- 1 egg for brushing
- caraway seeds
- sesame seeds
- nigella seeds
- Parmesan optional
- Place the flour, baking powder, and salt into the food processor. Pulse to mix. Cut the butter into small cubes and add them to the flour. Mix until the mixture resembles streusel. Add the egg yolks, sour cream, and crumbled feta and mix to incorporate well.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Divide the dough into 2 or 3 parts and keep the rest of the dough wrapped in cling film in the fridge, while you cut the first batch of pretzels or sticks.
- Roll the dough about 3 or 4 mm/ 0.12 – 0.15 inches thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut with the pretzel cutter if you have one. Remove the pastry bits inside the holes of the pretzels. You will roll them again with the next batch of pastry.
- If you don't want to use a cutter, cut the dough into strips, about as long and thick as a finger.
- Place the pastry onto baking trays lined with baking paper. Brush them with the lightly beaten egg and sprinkle them with the seeds of your choice. For an even cheesier version, you could sprinkle some of them with some Parmesan as well.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until nicely golden. Check the first batch repeatedly to make sure you get the baking time right, ovens are different and you don't want to overbake the pretzels.
- While one batch is in the oven, cut the second batch, and so on. You should have at least 2 baking trays/ cookie sheets, it makes the baking process quicker and easier.
- Leave the pretzels or sticks to cool slightly before you transfer them to wire racks to cool completely. If you try to move them immediately after baking, they might break, so better leave them on the tray for about 5 to 10 minutes or so.
- They will keep for at least one week in an airtight container (probably longer, if you manage).