Friday, 28 October 2011

October 2011 Daring Bakers 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!

When I discovered that this months challenge entailed rolling out dough on a cloth to be tissue-thin before rolling it, I was filled with utter dread. Memories of the strudel challenge came flooding back. Uh oh. But this is what being a Daring Baker is all about, right? I can't just wimp out because I failed in the past, I've got to at least give it a try! It sounded so delicious, I resolved to give it a go.

I set aside Sunday afternoon to get working. I decided to make just one loaf, as walnuts are very expensive here and the recipe called for a lot. In fact, I thought I'd bought more than plenty for my loaf but, when I delved into the cupboard for the filling ingredients whilst the dough was rising, I realised that I only had half the amount called for. Ooops. I did, however, find a bag of poppy seeds that needed using up (I read that traditional povitica is often made with poppy seeds), so I decided to go half and half and hope for the best.

The next hurdle I faced was rolling the dough out. My previous experience using a cloth resulted in in a serious mess, lots of angry muttering, and a strudel impatiently scraped off the cloth and messily plonked together on the baking tray. Rather than risk a similar episode, I decided to split the dough and make two rolls, using a silicon mat instead of my bed sheet.

Success! It was far easier to manipulate, and didn't stick at all - hurrah!

I was itching to try a slice, but this isn't a throw-it-together-and-bake affair and I was obliged to wait just a little longer...

Tadaa! Perfectly bronzed and an aroma making me drool, I still couldn't tuck in as it needed to cool before I could get it out of the tin... arghh!

But the wait was worth it - look who I found tucked inside! Or is it just me who can see the cute raccoon...

I think this was one of my favourite challenges so far. It was very interesting to learn about this bread and to search old recipes for advice and inspiration. I'd never heard of Povitica before, but I can certainly see myself making this again. Not too soon, though, as it is super-calorific and I had to give my bread to a friend to save me from myself! A big thank you to Jenni for such a great challenge - more like this please!


Preparation time:

To make Dough: 40 minutes
Rising: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Rolling and Assembly: 20 minutes
Baking: 1 hour
Cooling: 30 minutes
To Make the Filling: 15 minutes, including the grinding of the nuts

Dough Ingredients (Makes one loaf 1.25 lbs/565 grams)

To activate the Yeast:

½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/2¼ gm) Sugar
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Warm Water
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/3½ gm/0.125 oz/½ sachet) Dry Yeast


½ Cup (120 ml) Whole Milk
3 Tablespoons (45 ml/43 gm/1½ oz) Sugar
¾ Teaspoon (3¾ ml/9 gm/0.17 oz) Table Salt
1 Large Egg
1 tablespoon (30 ml/30 gm/¼ stick/1 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz/0.62 lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Filling Ingredients

1¾ Cups (420 ml/280 gm/10 oz) Ground English Walnuts
¼ Cup (60 ml) Whole Milk
¼ Cup (60 ml/58 gm/½ stick/2 oz) Unsalted Butter
1 Egg Yolk From A Large Egg, Beaten
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
½ Cup (120 ml/115 gm/4 oz) Sugar
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/1 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) Cinnamon


2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/7 gm/¼ oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter

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 egg, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 1 1/2 cups 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.

9. 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.

To Make the Filling

10. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts (and poppy seeds!), sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.

11. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.

12. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.

13. Add the egg 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.


  1. You have some of the prettiest swirls in your bread that I have seen so far!

  2. Wow, where did that month go. Here I was thinking I still might try the croissants! Your bread looks great. I thought it was chocolate filling from first glance at the photo - until I read your post. Glad you now have a successful experience with the dough.

  3. The smell was amazing while it was baking I agree! Yours looks wonderful and I love the deep curves of your scrolls!

  4. It took me a second, but I can totally see the raccoon, too! I'm always seeing things where they shouldn't be. I swear there is a llama in my kitchen cabinet. LOL.
    Lovely job on your povitica, I think it turned out great! You did a great job of rolling it out and got some beautiful swirls!