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All About Gibanica

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Slovenian Prekmurska Gibanica

Slovenian Prekmurska Gibanica

© 2009 Barbara Rolek licensed to About.com, Inc.

So What IS Gibanica?

Gibanica (GEE-bah-neet-sah) is one of those dishes that means different things to different people. For some it's a dessert, for others it's a savory side dish or main course. What remains constant is layers of dough and filling. Sometimes the dough is made with yeast, at other times, it's a pastry crust, and yet at other times it's made with strudel dough also known as pita or filo dough. The sweetener can be sugar or honey and raisins or other dried fruits are sometimes added.

Here are different gibanica-type recipes:

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For Slovenians, it's a multilayered confection made with apples, walnuts, poppyseeds and cheese, and known as prekmurska gibanica made famous in the town of Murska Sobota in the Prekmurje region. Croatians in the Medimurje region make a similar dessert and call it medimurska gibanica, but gibanica is virtually unknown to Croatians along the Dalmatian coast where Mediterranean cuisine holds sway.

In southern Hungary near Serbia, it's made in both sweet and savory versions and is a riff on Hungarian vargabeles, a sweet pot cheese (dry curd cheese) strudel. In Serbia and parts of Croatia and Bulgaria, it's made both sweet and salty, which means savory, and is rolled like a strudel or layered in a dish and cut into squares.

Forms of Gibanica can be found in other Balkan countries, including Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bulgaria, where it is usually called banitsa. The cheese varies from dry curd cheese, to full-fat cottage cheese, to feta cheese and others. Serbian burek is similar to gibanica and, for some, is indistinguishable. Relatives of gibanica include guzvara and pita zeljanica.

While sturdy cooks still make their own pita or strudel leaves, purchased filo dough is a good substitute, but filo #7 is the thickness to use, not #4, which is for finer desserts like baklava.

As Vesna Vuynovich says in her Vesna's Fun World blog, "Guzvara literally means 'to crumple together something that's drenched.' This refers to the practice of dunking the dough sheets into the filling, and placing them, soggy and loosely crumpled, into the pan, The pan is first lined with flat sheets of pastry. The creation is covered with flat sheets cut to fit the pan. The overhang from the bottom sheets is folded over the top. Then it's baked. Traditionally, it's round in shape and served upside-down."

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