This months Bakers Challenge was hosted by Jenni from The Gingered Whisk. She chose a fabulous eastern european holiday bread called Povitica. I was really excited for this challenge since I attempted it last Christmas and wasn’t that excited over the results. I now know why.
The secret to this amazing bread is in the final rolling and assembly of the bread. It must be stretched paper thin and then you can roll it any number of ways to get exciting patterns on the inside when you slice it. I loved it so much I made it three different ways. The first go was filled with cream cheese and raspberries. It was like a yummy danish. The 2nd go was a savory version filled with carmelized onion, cheddar cheese and bacon. The entire loaf was devoured in one sitting by my husband and his friend! The 3rd go around was filled with a black cocoa paste, dark and chocolately without being sweet. All were divine and I will definitely be making this again (and again).
The recipe provided makes a staggering amount of dough, providing you with 4 loaves. I made the 1/2 and 1/4 versions, much more manageable for me (otherwise I would eat all four!). To get the full recipe please go to Jenni’s site to retrieve it. The traditional filling is made with ground walnuts so be sure to try that as well. The method to make the half and quarter batches are the same, just measure out your ingredients accordingly. This looks long and complicated but I promise, it really isn’t complicated at all. Just read through everything before making it. Bake On!…
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
Quarter Batch 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
To Activate Yeast:
In a small bowl, stir together the specified amounts above 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 half of the 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 if you are making the half portion.
Place into an oiled bowl (s) , cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Raspberry Cream Cheese Filling
1 1/2 Cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch mixed with 4 teaspoons cool water
juice of 1 lemon
Bring the raspberries and sugar to a boil over medium heat; let gently boil for 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch water mixture and stir continuously for another 2 minutes. It will thicken slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Strain through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside.
8 oz block Cream Cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
Blend all together until smooth. When ready to assemble, spread the cream cheese mixture gently over the dough with an offset spatula. Repeat with the raspberry filling.
3 Tablespoons black cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons dutch process cocoa powder (if you can’t get black cocoa just use all dutch process)
1/2 Cup (4 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 Cup (4 oz) heavy cream
1/4 Cup (4 oz) butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar and cream. Make sure to get out any lumps. Add the melted butter, espresso powder, and salt. Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally. Let this cook for 2-3 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool completely.
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.I did not do this step as instructed. I own a very large plastic cutting board (20 x 26 inches) which worked perfectly for this and the dough did not stick to it at all.
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. This is actually pretty easy to do
Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered
Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll, or the way I prefer, rolling in at each end until they meet in the middle. Experiment to your heart’s content! 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. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark.
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. ( I did not do this for the savory version)
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. 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. 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
• You do not need to use an electric mixer for this recipe, but you can prepare the dough in one in you prefer.
• Scalded milk is an important step. It used to be used to pasteurize milk, so if your milk is raw, please make sure you do this step. If your milk has been pasteurized, scalding the milk will help to make the bread tender.
• The recipe calls for using a sheet on top of your workspace. This is not necessary, but you will find that it was easier to roll out the dough with one. The dough is very sticky, and using the lightly floured sheet helps to keep the dough from sticking too badly. It also helps that you can move the sheet around as you work, and you can also move to a clean area of the sheet for each loaf that you roll out. You will also find that you will be able to roll the dough out thinner with the use of a sheet. The sheet is also used for rolling the Povitica up, but again, it is not necessary. And all the dough and filling goo washes out perfectly, so no problems there! If you decide not to use a sheet, a pastry scraper will come in very handy when you roll up your dough.
• There are two ways that you can roll the dough up. If you watch this video , you can see that the sheet is lifted and used as momentum for rolling the dough up. This technique takes a bit of finesse, but I encourage you to try it out. However, the dough can be rolled up by hand, like you would if you were making cinnamon rolls.
• There are several different ways that you can finish off your loaves before baking it. You can use either egg whites or melted butter, or brush it with strong coffee and sugar like in the original recipe.