When was the last time you found yourself wondering, “What have I gotten myself into?” For me, it was this past Tuesday evening while taking a crack at my first Daring Bakers’ challenge.
The Daring Bakers’ 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!
Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-sa) is an Eastern European dessert bread. Povitica also masquerades as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi, and Strudia. The recipe involves four main components:
1) a yeast dough
2) rolling the dough so thin you could read a newspaper thorough it
3) a filling
4) more rolling
After mixing the dough and giving it time to rise, I got to rolling. I really, really, really do not like to use my rolling pin. I mentally prepared for this step while the dough was rising. When I started, the dough stuck, but I used a little love and flour (seriously, I sent loving thoughts to the dough and floured my work surface) to lift it. The dough tore, but I used a lot more love and a little more flour to pinch it back together. I was eventually able to roll the dough to a satisfactorily thin sheet that tore only at the edges.
Then I cheated on the filling. The traditional filling for Povitica is an English walnut filling. The challenge instructions specifically requested the bakers make at least one loaf with a traditional walnut filling, but I substituted Nutella for the ground walnuts. I plead my case by saying I did not want to buy a nut grinder. I am not a fan of one-trick ponies. And given my baking habits, I saw no immediate need to purchase a nut grinder.
Why not use a food processor? Because I do not own one. I wasn’t about to grind the amount of required walnuts in my coffee bean grinder, which is what I typically do when I need to create a fine crumb of something. So I
cheated did what I needed to do to survive the Daring Bakers’ challenge, and I used Nutella.
To avoid burning the bottom of the loaf, which I find is a common problem for my little oven, I placed the loaf pan on a baking sheet to give the bread a chance to bake evenly. I was cautiously optimistic when I took the loaf out of the oven.
When cool, I turned the Povitica upside down, as is the recommended way to slice, and I held my breath. Lo and behold, it looked loopy and swirly and pretty, just like I had hoped.
I made only one Povitica loaf, but the recipe posted below is for two loaves. I hesitated to make more than one loaf because I was uncertain of the process, but I highly recommend baking two loaves as the recipe and process provides very little difficulty. Other common filling ideas for an additional loaf include apple-cinnamon, apricot preserves and cream cheese.
Like any bread, the Povitica tasted best fresh out of the oven. However, I enjoyed a slice for breakfast yesterday and today too. With this particular filling, the Povitica tastes very similar to a cinnamon roll.
As much as a I loathe using a rolling pin, I will make this again. Povitica is traditionally served during the holiday season, and with the holidays coming up, I think it would make a wonderful gift for a hostess. Challenge yourself to bake this lovely bread for someone!
- To activate the Yeast:
- 1 Teaspoon (5 ml/4 ½ gm) Sugar
- Teaspoon (2½ ml/1½ gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
- Cup (60 ml) Warm Water
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml/7 gm/¼ oz/1 sachet) Dry Yeast
- 1 Cup (240 ml) Whole Milk
- 6 Tablespoons (90 ml/85 gm/3 oz) Sugar
- 1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/9 gm/1/3 oz) Table Salt
- 2 Large Eggs
- Cup (60 ml/60 gm/½ stick/2 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
- 4 cups (960 ml/560 gm/19¾ oz/1¼ lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided
- Cup (60 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml/14 gm/½ oz) Granulated Sugar
- Melted Butter
- Half Batch Filling Ingredients (enough filling for the two loaves(
- 3½ Cups (840 ml/560 gm/1¼ lb/20 oz) Ground English Walnuts
- Cup (120 ml) Whole Milk
- Cup (120 ml/115 gm/1 stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter
- 1 Whole Egg, Beaten
- Teaspoon (2½ ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cup (240 ml/225 gm/8 oz) Sugar
- Teaspoon (2½ ml/2 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- Teaspoon (2½ ml/1½ gm) Cinnamon
- To Activate Yeast: In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.
- Allow to stand for 5 minutes
- To Make the Dough: 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.
- In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.
- Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.
- Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
- 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
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
- 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: In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
- Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
- Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
- Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
- If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.
- To Roll and Assemble the Dough: Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
- Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)
- 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.
- Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered.
- Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.
- 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.
- Repeat with remaining loaf, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
- 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.
- Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
- Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
- Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
- Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.