Thursday, October 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Povitica

Povitica, pronounced po-va-teet-sa, is a popular holiday dessert bread, much like a nut roll, served in Eastern Europe. Depending on what country you are in, the name and filling will vary; however, they all share the common thread of tradition and familial pride. Secret family recipes and techniques have been passed down through generations. Epic battles have been waged over proper rolling techniques (okay, not really). How have I never heard of this sweet and swirly bread?

I had a visit yesterday from a friend who was born and raised in the Ukraine. She has not been in this country for very long, and her broken English can be difficult to understand at times. Yet, her visits are always enjoyable, and I was thrilled to share this bread with her. I was hoping it might remind her of a home I think she misses more than she is willing to admit, and I am not going to lie, I wanted to show it off to someone was going to appreciate its intricate layers.

We shared a cup of coffee and a slice of the Povitica, which she liked very much, and in return she shared with me a memory of her days back home. With much excitement and many hand gestures, she lovingly explained how her family recipe called for ground walnuts AND poppy seeds. She further explained that they would heat their pan in the open flame of the fireplace until it was good and hot and then place the dough (unfolded) into the pan to bake. I am guessing, based on her facial expressions, that it smelled pretty darn good as the aroma of the nutty, sweet bread wafted through the air of her childhood home. 

As much as I loved my friend's memory, I too loved this month's challenge. The experience  was reminiscent of my Baklava trials and tribulations, but with much less stress. Perhaps it had something to do with that second cup of coffee or that the kids allowed me enough time to get in a morning shower (a rare occurrence). Whatever the reason, I was feeling good, the dough was rolling out with ease, and I was feeling like an seasoned pro.
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 did opt to omit the coffee topping and instead wash it with sweetened egg whites. I also sprinkled the loaf with some turbanido sugar for a little crunch. The bread came out of the oven with a golden, flaky top and a warm, sweet aroma... and that first slice, my goodness, it sure was pretty!

From a flavor perspective, it was light and nutty without being overly sweet. Now, I admit that I am probably not the best person to judge this recipe since I have never been one to be blown away by nut pastries. However, I am going to assume that this one hit the mark since I was asked to wrap up a generous portion of the loaf for my friend to take home to share with her family.

Have a Sweet Day!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company 


Recipe adapted from The Gingered Whisk  
Makes One 9-inch by 5-inch Loaf

To activate the yeast: 
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1/4 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast

To make the dough:
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour, measured then sifted

In a small bowl, stir sugar, flour and yeast into warm water. Cover with plastic wrap, and allow it to stand for 5 minutes. It will form bubbles in the bowl.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so a film does not form on the top. 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 egg, yeast mixture, melted butter and a 1/4 cup of the flour. Stir until combined. Slowly add small amounts of the flour, mixing well after each addition, until the dough starts to clean the bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding additional flour a little at a time until dough is smooth and no longer sticky. You may not need all of the flour. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel. Let it rise for 1.5 hours in a warm place, or until doubled in size.

1 3/4 cups walnuts, ground
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

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 mixture. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Allow filling to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on dough.

2 tablespoons strong coffee, hot
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar (my addition to original to recipe)
melted butter

In a small bowl, mix together coffee and sugar until dissolved. Allow to cool.

Generously grease a 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan with butter.

Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and place dough in the center. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, begin rolling dough into a rectangle, starting in the middle and working your way out. Continue to roll until it roughly measures 10-inch by 12-inches. Lightly brush with melted butter.

Continue to roll dough from the center out until it is thin and uniformly opaque. As you work, pick up the dough from your work surface and flour underneath to prevent sticking. When finished, your dough should measure about 24 by 26-inches and thin enough that it can almost be seen through.

Stir your filling. If it has thickened, add warmed milk a tablespoon at a time until it is of a spreadable consistency. Spread the filling evenly over the dough up to 1 inch from the edge.

Starting at one end of the rectangle, use your fingers to gently and tightly roll the length of the edge of the dough in on itself, and stop. Align a long straight edge, such as a yard stick, along the length of the rolled edge. With even pressure, push the dough so it rolls over itself and begins to roll up like a jellyroll (see frame 3 in above photo). Continue the rolling process until the dough is rolled up into a rope. Gently lift up the rope at one end and run your hand under the length of it to ever so slightly stretch it out. Place your baking dish next to the rope. Using it as a guide for length, fold the first third of the dough in on the second third. Fold the last third back onto the second third to form an "S" shape. (see frame 4 in above photo). Gently pick up the dough and place it into a greased loaf pan. Cover pan lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes (mine rested for 2 hours).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove plastic wrap and brush top with coffee and sugar mixture (you can use an egg white in place of the coffee). Sprinkle with turbinado sugar, and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Turn down the oven temperature to 300°F and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.  Check the bread at 30 minutes to ensure it is not getting too brown, cover with aluminum foil if necessary.

Remove from oven. Cool for 20-30 minutes on a wire rack before removing from pan. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape. Cool completely.

Serve Povitica by turning upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.

Povitica will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature (wrapped in an airtight container) or 2 weeks refrigerated. It can be frozen for up to three months when wrapped in a layer of wax paper followed by a layer of aluminum foil.


  1. After checking out some of the results from my fellow Daring Bakers, I for sure want to make this again with both an apple cinnamon and a cream cheese filling... yum!

  2. I love this post and your blog! Your povitica is beautiful - and your photos are amazing. How lovely that you were able to share this with your friend, and that she, in turn was able to share with you some of her fond memories! It sounds like a truly lovely day. And, as the mom of two small kids, I totally understand the value of that morning coffee and shower! :) Really great job.

  3. Aw, thanks so much Shelly!

    I also wanted to note that I stole another piece today, and it tastes even better on day two. Really moist and all the flavors have melded together wonderfully!

  4. Wonderful job! I love that you were able to share this with someone who really appreciated it! Your friends's stories about her family's recipe are great! That is also exciting that you got a morning shower! That almost never happens at my house! :) Your povitica looks fantastic!!

  5. Gorgeous!!!!Great job on the challenge.

  6. I think your povitica might be the most beautiful one I've seen so far. Just gorgeous! I love how it looks all coiled up in the pan. Well done!

  7. Wow - this is stunning. You are so talented. I love the pattern inside the bread, it's so unique. Well done

  8. What an awesome recipe - worthy of a very special occasion!!!

  9. 3 perfect swirls! You made this beautifully~

  10. Beautiful loaves! Nice job on the challenge!

  11. I am always so impressed when I see this bread. You've done a great job. This is my first visit to your blog, so I took some time to browse through your earlier entries. I'm so glad I did that. You've created a great spot for your readers to visit and I really enjoyed the time I spent here. I'll definitely be back. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  12. beautiful post jamie! great job on the challenge!


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