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Povitica…Daring Bakers’ Challenge

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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! Povitca (po-va-teet-sa) is usually made for the holidays; the dough is rolled paper thin, then spread with an English walnut filling and rolled before baking in a loaf pan.

I made a half batch: one with the traditional filling and a second with a butter, brown sugar and cinnamon filling.  The aroma in the house was incredible while this tender bread was baking.  We all dived in when it was cool enough to slice…and in a rare consensus, all 5 of us declared this a fabulous success.  I used two different rolling techniques. First was a traditional jelly roll method; the long snake of dough was then folded and fit into the pan.  The second option was to roll the dough inward from each side, meeting in the middle (see diagram below). This double roll was then folded up from each side into the middle of the roll, making two double rolls stacked on top of each other…this technique resulted in a pretty loaf with 4 clear spirals as shown in the top photo. I brushed each loaf with an egg white wash and sprinkled with sugar before baking.

Thanks, Jenni, for a spectacular challenge!  These loaves would make beautiful holiday gifts or a Christmas morning treat.

Povitica (makes 4 loaves)

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:
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 ofthe 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

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 every 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.

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.

Half Batch Dough Ingredients (Makes two loaves each 1.25 lbs/565 grams)
To activate the Yeast:
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/4 ½ gm) Sugar
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/1½ gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour 
¼ 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
¼ 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
¼ 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
½ Cup (120 ml) Whole Milk
½ Cup (120 ml/115 gm/1 stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter
1 Whole Egg, Beaten
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml) Pure Vanilla  Extract
1 Cup (240 ml/225 gm/8 oz) Sugar
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/2 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/1½ gm) Cinnamon

One of our most helpful members, Audax, shared these helpful diagrams for the second rolling method (my favorite):

The stretched out dough layer covered with filling
Then roll each long edge to the center thus forming two swirls
Then take each end and fold them towards the middle of the roll (the brown line is where the ends finish up when folded) thus forming a double height roll
Then turn the loaf over and place into the pan so the seam ends are at the bottom of the pan which means the top is smooth and has no cut seams or edges


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82 comments on “Povitica…Daring Bakers’ Challenge”

  1. Holy wow! This is so pretty… I’m speechless! Great post Lizzy!

  2. Wow! That is a beautiful loaf!! Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

  3. What pretty, pretty swirls!

  4. This is gorgeous! Love the swirly whirlies 🙂

  5. Just beautiful Liz, a masterpiece. I’m sure it tasted heavenly.

  6. Looks delicious, and the presentation is very appetizing!

    Have a great weekend 🙂

  7. Lizzy, fantastic post!!!

  8. Liz, this post is so fetish-worthy, I’ve been inspired to include it in my Friday Food Fetish blog. If you have any objections, please let me know

  9. This diagram is amazingly helpful. I was wondering how the swirls are made and now my questions are answered. It’ll be years when I can make this kind of nice bread… one day… So beautiful!!

  10. Wow, your bread turned out amazing! I wish I would have thought about rolling it like that when I was making mine. It’s truely stunning.

  11. These are so beautiful and I’ll bet fun to make. Thank you for all the detailed instructions. It certainly takes the guess work out of everything. I’d like to try these but may hold off a bit since I’ve been overdosing already on candy and bread!

    Great post!!!

  12. Your hand should be tired from patting yourself on the back!

  13. Holey Moley, Lizzy! That is indeed daring! And gorgeous! You could go into business making that. I’d be the first in line to order.

  14. Oh, thank you so much, everyone, for your sweet, sweet comments! I’m truly touched by all your lovely thoughts.

  15. WOWWWW! Liz, that loaf is gorgeous!!

  16. so beautiful and amaizing job!! I love your povitica !

  17. Wow, your bread looks very flavorful! I love the diagram, too!

  18. That would make such a love holiday gift, wrapped in a pretty kitchen towel and tied with ribbon! Love the 4 swirls myself…

  19. Gosh, that looks complicated. What an achievement!! Beautiful.

  20. Absolutely gorgeous. It’s worth all of the hard work.

  21. Ohhh..I am so sorry I had to miss this challenge. Your bread looks just beautiful Liz! You really seem to have such a natural talent for baking! And those last set of diagrams are so helpful! Gorgeous bread!

  22. What a post!! Very well written and explained! This recipe looks fantastic! I can smell it and almost taste it 🙂

  23. Wow this looks complicated but so worth the effort! So pretty and sounds delicious.

  24. Lizzy, your both poviticas are spectacular! They truly do look fantastic and I bet they taste even better than they look (if that’s even possible :D). I agree with you – the second technique gives beautifull results and is my favorite, too 🙂 Now I just wonder – which one of your two fillings tastes better in your opinion?

  25. I saw your bread few days ago and knew I had to come back and leave a comment.
    This is a traditional Christmas and Easter bread in my home country and yours turned out so beautiful! LOVE the way you rolled it and can’t wait to try this technique.
    I usually make mine filled with walnuts and chocolate or with some small pieces or Turkish delight and walnuts. YUMMY!

  26. Your loaves look incredible and sounds like they tasted great too. Perfect post!

  27. Sooooo delicious. 😀

  28. it looks gorgeous, and the name sounds like something from my part of the world. I admire your effort in making this one.

  29. The swirls are so lovely!! Thanks for sharing the steps on how to fold the bread!

  30. I think Xmas will be returning very very beginning with this magnificent lf, Lizzy. LOVE it! Excellent blueprints too. I think I need a healing mid-day in the cooking area generating Povitica.

  31. Almost people like to write what he said,But I like to listen what they said,Your post is very good.Thanks!
    Personalised mugs

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