I love making yeasted enriched breads. Even though most enriched breads are more bread than pastry, the fact that they are enriched with milk, eggs and butter makes them seem more like dessert. For this month's Daring Bakers' challenge hostess Jenni asked us to make povitica, an Eastern European dessert bread. It can also be known as potica, nutroll, kolachi, or strudia.
I went old school and put away my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. The dough came together quickly and easily using a wooden spoon and a big mixing bowl. It was a sticky dough so I had to knead it for some time before it came together for the initial rise.
Then came the fun part - rolling and stretching. I covered my work surface with a large sheet of cheesecloth and started rolling out the dough with a rolling pin. The dough was really easy to work with and never stuck to the cheesecloth. When it got to about 18 x 18-inches, I lifted the dough off the cloth and started stretching it using the back of my hands and arms. The goal was to get it thin enough that I could read through it.
Jenni suggested that we try the traditional walnut filling, but I wanted to use poppy seeds. I used a poppy seed honey filling recipe that I normally use for filling hamentaschen. As you can see I didn't have enough filling to spread over all the edges, but it still turned out just fine. (In hindsight I should have spread the poppy seed filling thinner so that it covered more of the dough. The sliced loaf would have been prettier with evenly spaced layers of dough-filling-dough-filling. Oh well! Live and learn. )
Then I folded the rolled up poppy seed filled dough like a snake into my prepared loaf pan. For my other loaf, I spread the stretched dough with some apricot jam, a light sprinkle of finely ground almonds and some dried cranberries. I rolled it and then twisted the roll into the pan.
When the loaves came out of the oven I couldn't wait to slice into them. The smell was amazing. There really is nothing quite like the scent of freshly baked bread still hot from the oven. After patiently letting it cool in the pan for 30 minutes, I turned them out onto a wire rack.
They tasted as good as they looked. The dough had a hint of sweetness and was very moist. Both flavors were delicious, but my favorite one was the cranberry. Even though I am on a self-imposed low-carb diet, I had a slice a day until the cranberry loaf was all gone!
Who knew something so pretty would be so easy to make? A big thanks to Jenni for the recipe and please visit the Daring Kitchen for a slideshow of other bakers' poviticas.
The fine print:
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!
Makes two loaves (baked in two 9x5-inch bread pans)
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, lightly beaten
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
Poppy seed filling:
3 Cups poppy seeds
3/4 Cup whole milk
3/4 cup honey
To Activate Yeast:
1. In a small bowl, stir 1 teaspoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon flour, and 1 tablespoon yeast into 1/4 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, sugar, and the salt until combined.
5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 1 cup 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: You may or may not use all 4 cups of flour.)
8. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
9. Place dough in 2 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. Put poppy seeds through coffee grinder. This is to crush them up a bit. They should not turn into a powder.
11. Put poppy seed in a pot. Stir in the milk and honey.
12. Stir in the milk and honey.
13. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until thick about 15 minutes.
14. Allow to cool completely before using.
15. Thin with a few drops of milk if it's too thick to spread.
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 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 loaf, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
27. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of 1/4 cup of cold coffee and 1 tablespoon 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. 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.
33. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
34. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, still in the bread pan. Remember, the bread is quite heavy 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.