Daring Bakers October 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!

Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-sa) is traditional Eastern European dessert bread that is traditionally served during the holiday season. It is also known as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi, Strudia, just to name a few. Family recipes, and the secrets on how to roll the bread so thin, was passed down through generations of families.The traditional filling for this bread is an English walnut filling, but other typical fillings also include apple/cinnamon, apricot preserves, and a sweet cheese (like cream cheese).

Spontaneously I remembered a bread I baked long time ago, during my study time, for a 'Polish evening' with some Polish students. It was a recipe from a Polish cookbook and called "poppy seeds strudel". I guess it was one of the traditional recipes mentioned above - and I liked it a lot. So I started this challenge enthusiasticly - and I went nuts (a little bit). 
I used the half batch recipe and made the first two small loaves for a birthday brunch we had, and filled one with butter, sugar and sinnamon and the other with my favourite selfmade strawberry & lime jam (with a whole glas of the asset of my last ressorts). The second batch I made for a family get-together with coffee and cake, and the fillings were the traditional nut filling (which was prefered by ma sister-in-law) and a poppy seed & curd cheese filling (which was prefered by my brother and my parents). 
I found out that the leftovers were the right thing for my sweet tooth. Slice for slice was wandering into my lunchbox every day ... I think I got addicted and have to make a bunch every week, so thanks for this great recipe!

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
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:

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.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 (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick.
Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams). Place dough in 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 Roll and Assemble the Dough:

Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly). 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. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
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. 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 (see below for recipes evenly over dough until covered. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll. 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. Repeat with remaining  loav, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan. 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.Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter. 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.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes. 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.

Traditional Nut Filling
enough for filling 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
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 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.

Poppy Seed & curd cheese fillling
enough for one loav
  • 250 g (store-bought) poppy seed filling
  • 200g curd cheese 
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated zest of a lemon
Mix curd cheese, cornstarch, zest and sugar together. When spreading the filling, make 'stripes' about one sixth of the whole dough. Start with curd cheese, then poppy seed filling - repeat two times and end with the poppy seed filling.

fillings from left to right: jam, cinnamon & sugar, poppy seed & custard, traditional nut filling
For the jam filling you'll need about 150 g jam, for the cinnamon & sugar filling brush the dough with some melted butter and cover with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar in a proportion of your choice.

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