Cicmara or Sweet Corn Bread is light in texture, rich on flavour and as perfect for breakfast as it is a dessert.
So I thought it was about time I let you in on my whole vision for this blog, why I chose the name and what kind of recipes, information and conversations you shall expect to find here at The Suburban Peasant. I’ve always had an affinity for authentic, home cooked, simple meals. Authentic, in the sense that there are no short cuts taken. The recipes are prepared in the way they were intended to, with time, care and lots of love. Why love? Well have you ever found a recipe that you nail each time you prepare it in the kitchen? Or how about one that people raved about for days? Or one that your husband, boyfriend, kids, friends and family members request over and over again? Do you know what these have in common? They were all cooked with love! A passion for what you’re cooking. Self-confidence in yourself, your techniques and the final product; and best of all an excitement to share your labour of love with those people whom you love.
A lot of people don’t feel this way about cooking. It’s often perceived as a chore, a time-consuming means to an end. But it doesn’t have to be like that. With a few simple recipes you’ll begin to feel the passion and love for cooking, your self-confidence will increase and you’ll try new things, more difficult things and before you know it, you’ll be a whiz in the kitchen. That’s why I love to cook recipes that embrace the la cucina poveramovement- cooking of the poor, or peasant cooking - because they’re delicious, satisfying, comforting and simple. Simple enough for anyone to do! So that’s what you’ll find here; recipes that are inspired by the old European traditions that embrace simple, time-honoured techniques, wholesome ingredients and represent the local, seasonal cooking employed by our grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond.
Which brings me to the name, The Suburban Peasant (not to be confused with the Urban Peasant, which was one of the first cooking shows I watched growing up; that and Wok with Yan - classssic!!) I chose this name because I think it encapsulates my lifestyle. I’m the old world villager that lives in a modern-day suburb. I hang my clothes outside to dry in the summer sun. I plant a garden and preserve its bounty to be enjoyed during the winter months. I reuse, repurpose and recycle whatever possible. Above all, I try to keep myself grounded and aware of where I came from in a world that is very quick to forget. For these reasons, I’ve become an apprentice to the masters in the kitchens, my grandmothers; learning recipes that cannot be learned from cookbooks, but only from the masters themselves, so I can share it with you!
So what better recipe to highlight old world cooking then the one that I have posted today, Cicmara (pronounced tsits-marra – roll that ‘r’, rrrrrrroll it!) Depedning on where you’re from, it can also be known as Zlevanka, Bazlamača or Cic Marica. It’s a common dessert from northern Croatia. Actually, I probably shouldn’t call it a dessert. I was sternly corrected by my dad when I called it a dessert. He said it’s not a dessert but a hearty mid-morning or mid-day snack people would fill themselves with after working in the fields. It was often enjoyed before the major meal of the day, lunch, as a means to hold the farmers over.
It’s an example of classic peasant food. Corn flour, a staple, especially during the winter months when the previous seasons’ potatoes were by then, long gone. Milk and sour cream (I use yogurt for a bit more lightness), along with apples for moistness (here’s a great place to use those apples that have been sitting at the back of your fridge for weeks). All baked together with a light drizzling of sour cream, laced across the top. The result, a satisfyingly simple recipe for the winter months to be enjoyed as a desert, a snack or a quick breakfast throughout the week.
Cicmara (Sweet Corn Bread)
I cut back the amount of sugar and oil from the original recipe of 1 cup of each to 3/4 cup and 1/2 cup, respectively. I know what you’re thinking, “Why do you even need any oil with all the buttermilk, yogurt and apples?” Well, there is a lot of corn flour that goes into this recipe, and if you’ve ever made polenta, you know how much liquid it absorbs. The oil is necessary to keep the cake moist. The recipe normally calls for regular milk, but I prefer the tangy richness buttermilk gives. There’s just no comparison. Finally, if you’re counting calories, you can omit the sour cream topping totally, or use yogurt instead. Decrease the amount of milk you add from 1/4 cup to about 3 tablespoons, to compensate for the extra moisture you get from plain yogurt, or you can use Greek yogurt and leave the milk at its original measurement.
Adapted from my gradmother’s recipe, as well as from my husband’s aunt’s recipe.
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsps vanilla
2 cups coarse corn flour (preferrably not instant)
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 pkg baking powder (3 tsps)
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter milk
1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt
4 medium apples, peeled and grated
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
Pre heat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9″x13″ baking dish.
In a mixing bowl, with the whisk attachment on, combine eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until light and creamy. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: corn flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. In a measuring cup, or small bowl, measure one cup each of butter milk and yogourt and stir thoroughly to combine.
Set your mixer on medium and then, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, add approximately 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl. Mix until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated, then add half of the butter milk and yogurt mixture. Repeat this process until you have added all of your wet and dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly, scraping down bowl to ensure all of the ingredients have been incorporated. Fold in the peeled and grated apples, stir to combine and pour batter into the prepared baking dish.
In a small bowl combine the sour creammilk. The mixture should be smooth and runny. Pour a thin stream, evenly over the batter.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove to a wire rack to cool slightly. Slice while still warm and serve.