The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat! Prior to this month’s challenge I had never heard of Povitica, but I certainly liked the sound of a “sweet dessert bread” so I was excited to give it a try. Povitica is known by other names, such as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi and Studia, but it’s essentially just a sweet yeast dough with a rich and nutty filling rolled into it. The end result is something as stunning as it is delicious, and it’s secretly not as difficult to make as it may seem.
Upon first glance, the recipe seemed completely do-able to me, though I was a bit apprehensive about the step that has you rolling the dough almost as thing as paper. One of the most important parts of this recipe is that you have to roll the dough extremely thin – so thin you can actually see through it, but not thin enough that it starts to rip. This helps create the signature layers of this bread, but it seemed a bit tricky to accomplish. I went ahead with making the dough and preparing the filling, and once my dough had about doubled in size, I started rolling it out. I was happy to find that this dough is extremely pliable but also relatively sturdy, so I had no trouble at all rolling it out very thin, and still feeling like I could maneuver it across my counter-top without making holes in it. I actually thought I could’ve rolled it thinner, but the dough was larger than the chef’s table I was working on, so it had nowhere else to go! I made a disaster of the kitchen, with flour flying everywhere, and dough hanging over the edges of counter-tops, but it all worked out in the end.
Once you roll out the dough, it gets slathered with the filling, which I found really hard to spread with a spatula, so I just used my hands instead. I got extremely messy (must’ve been trying to match the kitchen!) but it worked really well. After the filling is smeared across the dough, it’s rolled up jelly-roll style, and you’re left with a long rope of filled dough. At this point, you have to arrange the dough in such a way as to replicate the traditional method, which I did with one loaf, but I did my own thing with the other loaf. I decided to cut up my second dough rope into four equal pieces, and then I arranged those in muffin tins (as you can see above – awful photo, but you can see those pretty swirls!). The last step before the loaves rest and then head into the over is to brush them with a sweetened strong coffee or an egg wash. I chose the coffee, and the loaf browned up beautifully.
Both the bread and the “muffins” came out as I’d hoped – golden brown and smelling so sweetly of cinnamon and sugar, my kitchen smelled divine. Somehow I neglected to butter my pans, so I had a heck of a time removing the bread once it was finished, but Kevin helped me eat the scrapes straight out of the pans and all was well there. I’ve been bringing a big slice of this stuff with me to work as a snack every day since I made it, and I just can’t get enough! My hips and waist, however, have probably had it with me. This stuff is not light, but it’s a delight to make, and a masterpiece to serve!
If I were to make this again, I’d add probably another tablespoon of cocoa powder to the filling, and make sure my walnuts are ground up more. I left large chunks of them in there this time, which added great texture to the bread, but I would’ve liked my filling mixture to create more of a color contrast with the white bread. Overall though, I was so pleased with this recipe, and would love to make it again and play around with the filling flavors.
Dough Ingredients (Makes two loaves)
To activate the Yeast:
1 Teaspoon Sugar
½ Teaspoon All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
¼ Cup Warm Water
1 packet Dry Yeast
1 Cup Whole Milk
6 Tablespoons Sugar
1½ Teaspoons Table Salt
2 Large Eggs
¼ Cup Unsalted Butter, melted
4 cups All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided
¼ Cup Cold STRONG Coffee
1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
Half Batch Filling Ingredients (enough filling for the two loaves(
3½ Cups Ground English Walnuts
½ Cup Whole Milk
½ Cup Unsalted Butter
1 Whole Egg, Beaten
½ Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Sugar
½ Teaspoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
½ Teaspoon Cinnamon
To Activate Yeast:
1. In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes
To Make the Dough:
3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F/43°C.
4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.
5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.
6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Note: I did not use all 8 cups of flour
8. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
9. Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.
To Make the Filling
10. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
11. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
12. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
13. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
14. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
15. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.
To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
16. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
17. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)
18. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches (25½ cm by 30½ cm) in diameter.
19. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
20. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer.
21. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.
22. When you think it the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the sheet underneath.
23. Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered.
24. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.
25. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.
26. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
27. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of ½ cup (120 ml) of cold STRONG coffee and 2 tablespoons (30ml/28 gm/1 oz) of sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of this.
28. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
29. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
30. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
31. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
32. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
33. Check the bread at 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil if you need to.
34. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, still in the bread pan. Remember, the bread weighs about 2.5 and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when still warm and fresh out of the oven. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape.
35. It is recommended that the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.