Gibanica of Međimurje
Gibanica of Međimurje
As Croatia’s northernmost region, Međimurje borders Hungary and Slovenia, so it is not unusual to see the influences of the surrounding cuisines in its gastronomic tradition. Bordered on one side by the river Drava, and on the other by the river Mura, Međimurje has many things in common with the neighbouring regions, some of which can be found in the rich spreads of food at holiday times.
An especially luxurious cake which falls into this category is, of course, the Međimurje gibanica, a tasty sweet which instead of just one flavour can have as many as four fillings. Walnuts, poppy seeds, apples and cheese are joined in a layered cake which delights with its juiciness, and a taste that is reminiscent of orchards and fields and represents a mandatory sweet morsel for every celebration. The basic element of this interesting cake is the thinly stretched puff pastry, specially prepared just for the gibanica, whilst in between the pastry, the rich layers of fillings provide various textures and tastes which complement each other perfectly. The poppy seeds are traditionally the first layer poured over with hot and sugared milk, the second layer is made of fresh cheese, then followed by ground walnuts, and the last layer is grated apples whose juice seeps through the whole cake when it is being baked. Before it is baked many people pour sweet or sour cream over the gibanica which helps to create its recognisable full taste.
This cake used to be baked in clay pots, which in modern times have turned into metal trays, and the ingredients used to make it have been preserved over the centuries in the pantries of diligent housewives for the holidays and folk and family celebrations. In the Međimurje region there are still lively discussions about the order of the fillings of the gibanica, and it is often compared with the gibanica of neighbouring Slovenia, which differs from the Croatian by the type of pastry used as the basis of the cake, as well as by the number of layers and sequence of fillings which make this cake a sweet, filling and high-calorie dessert.