October Daring Baker’s Challenge: Povitica

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!

Of course, this being my first attempt, I think it was better to taste than to look at but maybe that’s just me. My first try (see image below) didn’t set up as well as it should have, I think partially because I didn’t grind the walnuts small enough, so this should look more solid than gooey. However, it still tasted great!

If any of you were brave enough to try last month’s croissant challenge, I have good news for you…this is 100 times easier and takes much less time. Really.

I loved this challenge. Povitica dough is extremely easy to roll out, none of that rebound curling that we had with the croissant dough. And, to make it even better, I thought this entire process was fun. It is a different way of making bread that is intriguing throughout the entire process.

I made one loaf the normal way, with walnuts and what not, two with a pumpkin filling and one with feta, cheddar cheese, and herbs. All of them tasted great. So, although this is meant to be a dessert bread, feel free to substitute the filling with whatever warms the cockles of your heart.

A few tips:

1.) When the directions say to roll out the dough super thin, DO IT! It really isn’t difficult and it makes the inside look fantastic. You can see in my pumpkin bread especially, I didn’t roll it out as much and the filling wasn’t as thick, making the design harder to appreciate.

2.) Make sure you grind up the walnuts well. I simply crushed them haphazardly and the edges of the large chunks made rolling a tedious process as I attempted not to poke a hole in my dough.

3.) When you roll the dough, don’t try to pick it up as you go, simply push little bits at a time, separating it from your workspace by gently rolling it over the filling mixture.

4.) This bread really is beautiful when done right, thicker less liquidy filling works best. Wrap a 3-in. wide piece of burlap around the middle of the bread with a thinner piece of ribbon, and give away as Christmas gifts.

Recipe: Courtesy of Jenni

To activate the Yeast:
2 Teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
½ Cup (120ml) Warm Water
2 Tablespoons (30ml/14 gm/½ oz/2 sachets) Dry Yeast

2 Cups (480ml) Whole Milk
¾ Cup (180 ml/170gm/6 oz) Sugar
3 Teaspoons (15 ml/18 gm/2/3 oz) Table Salt
4 Large Eggs
½ Cup (120ml/115 gm/one stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
8 cups (1.92 l/1.12 kg/39½ oz/2½ lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Walnut Filling:
7 Cups (1.68 l/1.12 kg/2.5 lbs) Ground English Walnuts
1 Cup (240ml) Whole Milk
1 Cup (240ml/225 gm/2 sticks/8 oz) Unsalted Butter
2 Whole Eggs, Beaten
1 Teaspoon (5ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
2 Cups (480ml/450 gm/16 oz) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/4 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) Cinnamon

½ Cup (120 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
2 Tablespoons (30 ml/28 gm/1 oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter


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:

1. 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.
2. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.
3. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.
4. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
5. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Note: You may not use all 8 c. of flour
6. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
7. 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:

1. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
2. Heat the milk and butter to boiling. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
3. 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:

1. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered. (I didn’t use a sheet or cloth) Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly).
2. 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
3. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
4. 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.

Tip: 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.

5. When you think 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 or counter underneath.
6. Spoon filling evenly over dough until covered. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.
7. 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.
8. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.

Finishing Touches:

1. 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.
2. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
3. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
4. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
5. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
6. 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.
7. 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.

Tip: 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.