Join twowildtides on the country challenge. Each week, we’re going to be heading to a new country (in spirit). Primarily, we’ll be cooking a meal from each country; but we’ll also be watching travel documentaries, reading travel blogs, and listening to music. During the global pandemic, travel was largely inaccessible. We want to reignite our wanderlust, satisfy our travel bug as much as we can, and learn some new things along the way. I have a feeling our bucket list will have a number of items added to it through this experience as well. We created a simple alphabetical spreadsheet with all the countries of the world, and each week we will draw a random number that corresponds with a country on the spreadsheet.
Serbia is a landlocked Balkan country and it is the focus of this week’s cooking challenge. Its capital city is Belgrade, which is known as a fun and exciting city. Famous for fortresses, palaces, barges, beer, and baked goods, Serbia is quickly growing as a tourist destination. Check out this travel blog about Serbia (I feel that wanderlust creeping up!):
This week, I opted to try some baking, given Serbia’s reputation for incredible baked goods, even though baking is definitely not my strong suit. Gibanica stood out in my research as an interesting and authentic Serbian dish to try. Gibanica was highlighted in this article by Serbia.com, this list by TravelFoodAtlas, this list by NomadParadise, this list by wanderlust.co.uk, this list by In Your Pocket, and this list by Will Fly For Food. Similar in texture to a strudel, gibanica is made with phyllo dough and lots of dairy products.
We used this recipe from 196Flavors:
My gibanica experience took a sharp turn right away when I realized that I had forgotten to pick up plain Greek yogurt. I briefly weighed my options and because I was too lazy to go to the store and did not want to jeopardize the texture of the dish, I impulsively decided to make a dessert version of gibanica (which is a thing in Serbia) and added vanilla Greek yogurt. I also threw in a cup of white sugar and topped the whole thing with cinnamon sugar to further ‘dessertify’ it.
Because of my sudden change in approach and the mess I made during the assembly of the dish, I was pretty skeptical about this turning out any good. I was already kicking myself for wasting so much food before I even put it in the oven.
Thankfully, that attitude was uncalled for. The gibanica looked fantastic after about 45 minutes in the oven and 10 minutes of cooling. The edges were crisp and brown, the dough looked puffy, and the liquid had all been absorbed.
My gibanica tasted about as good as it looked. The texture was good and the taste was good. I suspect everything was as it was supposed to be (mediocre by Serbian standards, I’m sure). I enjoyed my slice with a little butterscotch topping, to add to the sweetness.
I probably won’t make gibanica again, just because it is not a style of dish that I prefer. From a dessert perspective, it’s not as good as other desserts I enjoy, such as brownies and cakes. From a savoury perspective, the way the dish was meant to be, I don’t usually opt for pastries and casseroles. That said, I’m really glad I tried it and it was fun to make.