October 27, 2011

Povitica/ Potica (Croatian Yeasted Walnut Bread) : Daring Bakers Challenge October 2011

I
have missed quite a few Daring Baker challenges recently including last month when they revisited the croissant. I couldn’t find the time to do that and plan to try it sometime next month and just managed to finish making this month’s challenge, the 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!
To explain further, Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-za) is a popular festive strudel-like bread typically served at special occasions like birthdays and weddings. It is also known as Orehnjača in Croatia, Potica in Slovenia, Orechovnik in Slovakia and Štrudla in Serbia.




Yeasted somewhat sweet dough is rolled out, stretched and slathered with a sweet walnut-cinnamon filling and then rolled up, twisted and baked in a bread pan. This produces the typical rolled, layered whorl-like pattern when the bread is sliced. You should see this video to get an idea of how this bread is made on a large scale! If only I could roll my povitica like that…..
Traditionally the nut used in the filling for Povitica was walnuts and sometimes a poppy seed filling, but one can use any filling of choice including savoury fillings.
I’ll keep this post short mainly because I don’t have the time to go on if I have to meet the 27th of the month deadline and post this today!
The original recipe was for 4 loaves but I chose to make the quartered recipe. Walnuts are not a favourite with us and my daughter will not eat anything with them in it so I chose to use hazelnuts. You need to run the nuts in a mixer/ blender to get a coarse powder if you want a filling that will spread nicely. I also added chocolate chips to the filling and forgot to add the coffee to my butter-sugar glaze.





My bread looks far from perfect because I didn’t have the right sized loaf pan (I have 2 small ones!)You can see how beautifully the rolled pattern shows when one uses the right sized pan as many of my friends have done.
One really nice thing about this bread is that keeps. It keeps fresh for 1 week at room temperature, for 2 weeks if refrigerated and can be frozen for up to three months when wrapped a layer of wax paper followed by a layer of aluminum foil. (It is recommended to not freeze Povitica with cream cheese fillings as it doesn’t hold up to being thawed really well – it crumbles.)

Povitica/ Potica (Croatian Yeasted Walnut Bread)
(Adapted from Daring Bakers November 2011 Challenge)
Recipe for 1 loaf (1/2 kg/ 1 1/4 lbs


Ingredients:


To activate the yeast:
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 tsp dry activated yeast


For the dough:
1/2 cup warm milk (very slightly warm to your finger)
3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
25gm  unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted


For the topping:
2 tbsp cold strong coffee
1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
melted butter for brushing


For the filling:
1 3/4 cups ground hazelnuts (fine to slightly coarse)
1/4 cup milk
50gm butter
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla flavoured custard powder
1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)



Method:

First activate the yeast. Stir together the sugar, flour, yeast and warm water in a small bowl and keep aside for about 5 minutes, till the mixture froths up.
You can do the kneading of the dough by hand but I used my food processor. Put the warm milk, sugar, salt and egg and pulse one or two times. Add the yeasted mixture and melted butter and pulse again. Now add about 1 3/4 cup of flour and knead till you have an elastic but tacky dough. Add just as much more flour as you need, a spoon at a time, till you get the desired elasticity of dough.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and roll it till it is coated. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for about an hour till double in volume.
In the meanwhile make the filling. Put the powdered hazelnuts, sugar, custard powder, cocoa and cinnamon powders in a bowl. Heat the milk and butter till boiling. Add this to the ingredients in the bowl, then the vanilla extract and mix together. Keep aside. If the filling is too thick, add a little milk and mix it to desired consistency (think enough to spread well on the dough.
Now to roll out the dough. Place a clean fine cotton sheet (or parchment paper) over your work surface. It would be a good idea to do this on a table/ large work surface. The sheet/ paper is important to roll the dough after spreading the filling over it.
Roll out the rough into a  rough rectangle as this as possible. When you have done this try stretching the rectangle by hand as much as you can without tearing the dough. This stretching is possible only of the dough has been kneaded really well.


Spread the filling evenly on the dough rectangle right upto the edges. Also sprinkle the chocolate chips, if using. Use the sheet/ parchment to fold, start rolling the dough (like you would for a jelly roll) from one of the longer sides.
Now gently lift and place the roll into a greased loaf pan, in a U shape such the “U” part is at one end of the pan and the two ends are hanging out of the other end. Fold back the ends to the middle, one after the other, so the whole roll is neatly tucked into the loaf pan (Please see the pictures with the original challenge recipe to get a better idea of how to do this). The roll should be coiled on itself to produce the beautiful whorled pattern when sliced.


Brush the top of the loaf with coffee (or melted butter as I did) and sprinkle the sugar over this. Let it rest for about 15 minutes and then bake it at 180C (350F) for about 15 minutes. Then turn down the oven to 160C (320F) and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes. If you tap the loaf on the top it will sound hollow (a “think” sound) when done.
Cool on a rack for at least half an hour. It is difficult to slice this bread when it is warm. To slice the bread, turn it upside down on your board and use a serrated knife. If you try slicing the bread from the top it will flake and you will not get a clean slice.
Verdict:

This is an interesting bread and really not all that difficult to make. What is really important is to knead the dough till really elastic and to a sticky/ tacky consistency. This will make it easy to roll and stretch it out.
It has a wonderful “Wow” appeal when sliced and is quite good on taste too. Since this bread keeps it is a great bread to gift. The original challenge recipe makes 4 loaves. This bread definitely tastes better the next day. One could experiment with different types of filling and make savoury versions which would be good to serve at lunch or brunch.

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