Friday, October 28, 2011

Daring Baker Challenge October 2011: 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!

I once again somehow managed to wait until the very last minute to complete this month's challenge, but it worked out well since my Parents were coming down for a visit. I pulled it out of the oven just as they were pulling into the driveway on Wednesday - and it seemed like a long few hours for it to cool completely so we could cut in and see what it looked like.

When I saw the title of the challenge reveal, I immediately wondered if it was of Croatian desent. One of my best friends is from Croatia, and what little world travel I have done has actually taken me there firsthand. While Saša had never heard of Povitica, which is actually a Serbian word, her Grandmother made a similar rolled bread called Orehnjača. She typically rolled it with walnut or carob filling, and she made it throughout the year, not just for Christmas or other holidays.

I can see why a bread of this type could be enjoyed only for special occasions, but it actually wasn't too difficult. It is maybe a more tedious endeavor since the dough needs to be rolled so thinly, but it is such a nice dough, this isn't a nerve-wracking accomplishment. Since I enjoy making yeast breads anyway, I can see making this elegant bread throughout the colder weather seasons to enjoy with coffee or tea. It's a soft, moist loaf that I almost wanted to be sweeter (maybe because of it's similarity to a cinnamon roll in appearance), and everyone liked it, including my Husband. It's certainly a bread to make if you are looking to impress!

This is the first time I made such a rolled dough bread, but I have made similar others that weren't nearly as layered as this one. Though complex in appearance, the dough is actually a simple enriched egg and milk bread, silky and strong enough to roll nearly paper thin before spreading with a walnut filling. The instructions said to roll it as thin as possible, and when you think it has been rolled thin enough, to roll a bit thinner. I did this, surprised that the dough was strong enough to resist tearing. It felt like fabric, gently wrinkled from my floured muslin beneath it.

I ground my walnuts fairly fine, but after I added the butter, milk, and egg yolk to turn it into a paste, it wasn't nearly fine enough. I decided last minute to puree it in the Vitamix, and I was happy then with the texture. I added quite a bit more milk (and a little extra cinnamon and cocoa powder for personal preference) to get it to a spreadable consistency too. It took just a little bit of time to get it to spread out on the rolled dough. The dough was so thin that it wanted to buckle, but when I gingerly made use of an offset spatula, I had good luck.

As I did in last month's challenge, I watched a video showing the procedure before beginning. This was very helpful, since I pretty much absorbed that technique of rolling and panning the bread. It also gave me an idea of the consistency of the filling. Had I left my filling more textured, I think I'd have had trouble with the bread maintaining its shape after baking.

The recipe we were provided yielded 4 loaves, but I only made one loaf. The amounts listed below are the amounts I used for one loaf. Find the original recipe here at the Daring Kitchen.

To activate the yeast:
  • 1/2 t. sugar
  • 1/4 t. AP flour
  • 2 T. warm water
  • 1½ t. active dry yeast

  • ½ Cup (120 ml) Whole Milk
  • 3 T. (43 gm) Sugar
  • ¾ t. salt
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 T. (30 gm/1 oz) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups (280 gm) AP flour, measure first then sift, divided
Filling Ingredients:
  • 1¾ c. (280 gm/10 oz.) ground walnuts (I measured first, then ground in the Vitamix)
  • ¼ c. (60 ml) milk (I used 2%)
  • ¼ c. (60 ml/58 gm/½ stick/2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten
  • ¼ t. vanilla extract
  • ½ c. (115 gm/4 oz) sugar
  • 1 t. cocoa powder (I increased to taste, probably more like 2 t.)
  • 1 t. cinnamon (I increased to taste, also about 2 t.)
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 2 T. sugar
  • melted butter, for brushing on the top after baking
Activate the yeast by mixing the ingredients in a small dish, let stand 10 minutes.

To make the dough, heat the milk up to just below boiling in a medium sized saucepan, 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, sugar, and the salt until combined. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups of flour. Blend thoroughly, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, gradually adding a bit of additional flour a little at a time, until the dough is smooth and does not stick. The dough should feel soft, and not sticky at all.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, 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.

Meanwhile, make the nut 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 egg yolk and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough. (If the mixture thickens, add more milk - enough so that the dough is easily spreadable on the dough.)

After the dough has completed the first rise, spread a clean sheet or cloth (non-pilling) over your entire table so that it is covered. I used a large piece of unbleached muslin. Sprinkle it with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly), and rub into fabric to prevent the dough from sticking. Place the dough on the fabric and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it is very thin. Aim for as thin as you can roll it, and try to keep the shape as rectangular as possible. (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 evenly over dough and spread in a thin layer. Leave a 1/4 to 1/2 inch border around the edges. Using the fabric to help, roll up the dough like a jelly roll into a long rope. Place the rope in a well buttered pan using the method described in the video as I did, or in a modified "U" shape as the challenge host did. Brush the top of the coiled loaf with the egg white, and sprinkle the 2 T. of sugar on in a uniform manner. Let rest, lightly covered with plastic wrap, for 30 minutes when the oven preheats to 350.

Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the oven temperature to 300, and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done. (Tapping on the top of the bread should sound hollow, crust should be nicely browned.) (Check the bread at 30 minutes to be sure it's not getting too brown. You may cover it with foil if you need to.)

Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter. Allow to cool completely in the pan before trying to remove. Remember the bread is very heavy, and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when it's warm and fresh from 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.

During last month's challenge, I lamented that the only rolling pin I had was the one that Julia Child had casually tossed over her shoulder and discounted as useless. Between then and now, I inherited my great grandmothers full size, heavy maple pin, and it did work wonders with this project. I'm lucky to inherit such things with meaning and usefulness, the best kind of inheritance in my opinion...

When time is marked in Daring Baker Challenges, the months seem to fly by. This was a great choice for a challenge, maybe one of my favorites since I had never heard of it, and the results are so unique. I hope you will all pay Jenni a visit at The Gingered Whisk, as well as check out many more amazing adaptations of Povitica on the Daring Blogroll.


  1. Your povitica looks great! I agree, I sort of expected it to be a little sweeter but in saying that I don't think I would change the amount of sugar! I too, have just inherited a massive rolling pin from my husbands grandmother who used it to roll out pasta. It is such a treasure!

  2. I'm hoping I have walnuts in my freezer because I have the need to bake today (still no baby!) and this sounds FAB!! I do think I have pecans which would be suitable as an exchange.

  3. Beautiful job on your povitica! The acquisition of your great grandmother's rolling pin is very special, and I am sure you loved using it!


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