I hope you will forgive me for two breads in a row. After you've seen this recipe, I am sure you will see why I just had to do it. After I posting the Pilgrim's Bread post I took a few minutes break (before jumping into book-land) and checked up on what Daring Bakers was up to this month. I have flopped the last few months and keep assuming I will be deleted as a member but ah, I logged in just fine again. To my delight I found this month's challenge was a version of the Eastern European nut bread, which I love. So I put Cedar down, worked on the book, and planned my grocery get-away for the moment he woke up.
Things like this must be acted upon. 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! It is all swirls and spirals. It the Slovenian name for the layered, usually sweet, filled bread known to Eastern Europeans as bejgli (Hungary) makowiek (Poland), and Mohnstrizel (Austria), to name a few. Each language has its name, and each house has its recipe. The rich, brioche-style dough is rolled thin and spread with a milky mixture of walnuts or poppyseeds, apricot preserves, or sweetened ricotta-type cheese. It is traditionally made around Christmas and Thanksgiving and given away as gifts to the lucky and loved.
My first encounter with the nut bread was when my friend and Vancouver native, Melanie brought a halved roll of her mother's much-valued hungarian walnut strudel (bejgli) to one of our breakfast club meetings. Melanie's mother had a tradition, not of making the loaves, but buying multiples from a woman at the church next door Church's Christmas Bazaar every year. She would take them home, wrap them tightly, and freeze them, trickling out portions of the sweet bread as time passed.
Actually, I don't know how fast the loaves went. I only know that I could hardly believe how tasty they were. The milk-bath does something wonderful to those walnuts--mellows them, tames any perceivable bitterness, and leaves you with creamy, sweet, fragrant nuttiness.
I tried to make my one one year, when I couldn't seem to coordinate my efforts to get to the Bazaar myself. I found, at the time, maybe three recipes online. I tried one, and though the filling was exactly what it should be, the bread was otherwise dry, bland, and too thick for what I was looking for. The nut loaf I had was dense and moist, the filling prominent. I made a note to try again someday.
Last fall I found myself with seven freezer bags full of walnuts. I thought of the loaves. But I did not make them. Now this Daring Bakers Challenge comes up and I still have two bags of those walnuts in my freezer. It's time to get new walnuts; it is time to make nut roll!
This recipe has you bake them in the traditional Slovenian loaf shape. However, if you like to nibble at your rich desserts, you may ponder cutting the strudel once they are rolled and baking them like that. I will probably try that next time.
The Povitica is best, in my humble opinion, on the same day it is made, while the crust still has a caramelized, crisp quality. After that, I recommend toasting.
Povitica (recipe and photos from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk)
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
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
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 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 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.
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.
The Povitica will last 1 week at room temperature, 2 weeks refrigerated, 3 months wrapped well and frozen. Happy baking, and enjoy!