At work, they announced a baking competition. There would be four categories: cakes; biscuits; Christmas; and savoury. Home made baked goodies would be displayed and people would pay for those most enticing. All proceeds to charity, of course.
I am not a competitive person but as soon as I read the announcement email, a fire was lit inside me. BAKE OFF! I must win!
Strategy was important. I quickly decided that I would enter a savoury dish. It would surely be a less crowded category than cakes, biscuits and Christmas.
What to cook?Â Damjan, I knew, had a crowd-pleasing recipe. I called him in Melbourne to get tips on baking gibanica.
Gibanica (Cheese Pie, Serbian recipe)
500g Â fillo pastry
5 Â eggs
600mL Â cream
~150g Â fetta cheese
1 Â tub of cottage cheese
100-150g Â grated cheddar cheese
Mix the eggs, cheeses and cream in a big bowl. Â Reserve 4-6 sheets of fillo pastry for the top and bottom layers. Â Add the remaining sheets of fillo pastry into the mixture one by one, ensuring that each one is thoroughly covered (wetted) with the mixture. Â If your mixture becomes too dry, add some milk and/or water.
You’ll need a large baking tray. Â Grease the tray with a little oil or butter. Â Place 2-3 sheets of fillo pastry (depending on thickness) on the bottom. Â Pour the mixture into the try, on top of the bottom layers of fillo pastry, and spread evently. Â Place the remaining 2-3 sheets of fillo pastry on top of the mixture, this is the top layer. Pour and spread a little water over this top layer until it is thoroughly wet — this is very important! Â If the top layer of pastry is dry, it will burn in the oven. Â Don’t worry if it seems too wet, just make sure every millimetre is wet.
Bake in the oven on high heat (I think this means 190-200 C, I think I always use something around there). Â Baking can take up to an hour, but check it regularly to make sure it doesn’t burn.
I made the pie in time for my weekend dinner party guests to try some for entrÃ©e. My efforts had not turned out as nicely as Damjan’s pies. The layers were packed too densely and there was distinct pastry taste. Perhaps it was undercooked?
My guests loved it, though. ‘You’re going to win, we know it!’ They were emphatic.
After they left, I put the rest of the pie back in the oven for another 15 minutes. Better safe than sorry.
On the day of judgement, all the closet cooks came out. We were astounded by how many entries there were. Orange cakes, cup cakes, rocky road, Olly’s hangover recovery chocolate slice, mince pies, German cookies, chocolate chip cookies, dark chocolate brownies, white chocolate brownies, truffles, ginger biscuits, Christmas tree cookies… The long bench full of baked goods was beautiful to behold.
In the savoury category, I was up against sausage rolls and steak-and-ale pasties.
In the end, my strategy worked. I was declared the winner of the savouries!
Paul won the Grand Baker of them All. He must have spent all weekend cooking because he arrived on the scene with five dishes, including the most impressive iced cupcakes I have ever seen. A worthy winner!