Ever go through those blogging ruts where nothing seems to turn out right, from the dish and the photos to writing the post? You literally stop flowing; herky jerky, forced writing becomes the norm. I’m deep in one of those ruts now, and it’s got a grip on me like quicksand laced with tar. Not to mention, the throes of PMS are pulling at every last nerve.
The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni (my cassoulet comrade) of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!
Throughout the next day or two, as I exorcise the bitch in me, I will start adding text to this post. Nice stuff..I promise. I know, it doesn’t always have to be nice, but the last thing I want to do is type in characters, because the expletives could be rampant. Can a thesaurus give me more suitable words for F%$^&@> S%?&?
The two preparations of povitica you see are the traditional walnut from the challenge, and my creation, a pumpkin cheese pie povitica. Yes, ‘pie’. I mixed ground cinnamon graham crackers into pumpkin, cream cheese, brown sugar, an egg and spices. I did this because he filling needed a sponge of sorts since it would have been too runny by itself to spread on the dough. The graham crackers not only thickened it, but added a ‘graham cracker crust’ flavor to it, like a pumpkin cheese pie filling in a graham cracker crust rolled into a rich, paper-thin, yeast dough.
Povitica (poh-vah-teet-sah) is an Eastern European bread that’s called a dying art, as in not many home bakers make it anymore because it’s a bit labor intensive. Well, a bit is an understatement. The dough has to be rolled super-duper thin..transparency thin -read the paper through it thin, LIKE strudel thin. See the relationship? I cannot do strudel dough either. I’m 90% Eastern European and can’t turn out an aesthetically pleasing Eastern European bread or pastry to save my life. I’ve been asked to make a babka for a friend. Oh, boy. I’m not sure what it will end up looking like, but I’m pretty certain it won’t look like a babka.
My part Russian – Hungarian badge may be revoked soon!
Having said all that, the dough is not even the hardest part; the traditional walnut filling spread on this paper-thin dough IS. This stuff is as thick as old honey. We were told we could add milk to thin it once it cooled.
I added milk, and stirred.
Added more milk, and stirred.
Forget it, it was a sponge, a ravenous brown blob that literally soaked up all the milk with nary a change in viscosity. I gave up and dumped scoops of it all over the delicate dough to cover as much ‘land’ as possible..and then it took me 45 minutes spread. Yes, 45 freakin’ minutes.
To all those who took part in the challenge, how did you spread this stuff without ripping the dough? My dough was elastic and perfectly thin, BUT, it lifted and tore on as I tried to spread the thick walnut filling. By the time I finished and started to roll, the holes were sticking to the floured sheet, so I couldn’t pull up the sheet and roll it using the sheet – like this video shows .
Below is what the ropes of long dough looked like in my bread pans. I used the S-shaped method shown in the video for both povitica, but by the time I finally got them into the pan, they were torn C’s that sunk into each other with a tired moan.
The pumpkin filled ropes tore because I accidentally let go of one end while lifting it, and the heavy filling pulled it open. They look like Elephants after a night out drinking and fighting. Not a pretty sight; look away if you must!
For the walnut loaf, I used Wolf’s rolling method, shown in the collage above. I was desperately hoping to turn out out a loaf just like hers. Isn’t it gorgeous?? Well..that ended up being a joke because I didn’t get even one swirly coil in any of my three loaves. Everyone in the challenge got them. Now I know for sure I’m not destined to have swirly coils in my povitica.
I’ve come to the conclusion that when you bake or cook angry or sad, it translates into the final result, hence why I had so many problems and no swirly coils. I think I should meditate or do yoga before cooking or baking, the next time I’m out of sorts or PMSing. At the very, very least, I’ll be limber. I will try the povitica again. Maybe. One day.
Swirly coils or not, povitica is a delicious and wonderfully delicate, crumbly textured sweet or savory bread, so I implore you to make it. I have no doubt that you will get swirly coils.
How to Make Povitica
Half Batch Dough Ingredients
Recipe by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk
(Makes two loaves each 1.25 lbs/565 grams)
To Activate Yeast:
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 Teaspoon All-Purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
1 tablespoon (15 ml/7 gm/¼ oz/1 sachet) active dry yeast
1 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 large eggs
1/4 Cup unsalted butter, melted
4 cups All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided
Melted butter for brushing the loaves
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
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 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 fill and roll the povitica, use Jenni’s fantastic step-by-step photo directions, HERE.
Recipe by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk
for one loaf povitica
1 3/4 cups ground English walnuts
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 Egg Yolk, beaten
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 reaspoon cinnamon
1. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
2. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
3.. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.4.. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
5. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
6. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.
Pumpkin Cheese Pie Filling
For one loaf povitica
8 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup ground cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
*1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
*1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, dark brown sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg,then the pumpkin puree and spices. Stir in graham cracker crumbs.
* You can substitute the all the spices with 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice.
• The Povitica will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature.
• The Povitica will keep fresh for 2 weeks if refrigerated.
• The Povitica 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.