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What is Gibanica?

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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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Gibanica is a very popular Balkan pie-like dish often made of pastry dough and cheese. Depending upon the region and personal preference of the cook, this pastry may be either savory or sweet, a dessert or a side dish. The dough is often made with yeast or filo dough, while the filling is usually made with white cheeses. Some recipes may also call for honey or sugar, dried fruits or fresh vegetables, and nuts or seeds.

In Serbia, where gibanica is a traditional and festive dish, this pastry is made in sweet and savory forms. The basis of Serbian gibanica usually consists of thin layers of filo dough coated and layered in a salty feta or ricotta cheese filling. Sweet varieties often incorporate sugar, raspberry preserves, or dried apricots in the filling. Savory types are typically made with saltier forms of cheese but may also include spinach, ground beef, or mushrooms.

Slovenian prekmurska gibanica may also be either sweet or savory. As with other regions, these pastries are often cheese based but may include a number of other items. Dessert versions are very popular in Slovenia and usually involve a filling made of dry-curd cottage cheese, poppy seeds or walnuts, fresh apples, or raisins. Some dessert recipes call for a yeast base in the dough, and honey or sugar to help sweeten the filling. Savory dishes often contain salty cheese, cabbage, or potatoes.

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There are many forms of gibanica that can be found in several different regions, and there are also a number of dishes that are very similar. Certain areas of Croatia make sweet and savory varieties that closely resemble the gibanica made in Slovenia. In Macedonia, as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, these pastries are often made with full-fat or dry-curd cottage cheese, as well as with feta cheese. Often referred to as banitsa, Bulgarian gibanica is often filled with sweetened pumpkin or apples.

Similar dishes include burek, guzvara, and pita zeljanica. Serbian burek is considered nearly identical in structure, but is usually made with sharper-tasting cheeses. Guzvara, popular in Croatia and Serbia, is similar, but differs in that the dough is often soaked in the filling, giving it a wavy, crumpled appearance. Pita zeljanica is a savory dish that has a filling made almost exclusively with white cheese and spinach.

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