October Daring Bakers’: Povitica

by Shumaila

The past few weeks have been uber-busy.

Traveling, festivals, dinner parties, marriages and relatives have kept both V and me busy.

V leaves tomorrow for US but I am staying in India for another month and half since lot of my close friends are getting married in November and in December I want to be here in India when a very special guest arrives in our family. 🙂

I have not cooked a bit since I left US for my 3 months vacation in India. I have a feeling by the time I go back I would have forgotten how to cook. We have hardly stayed at home for me to do anything related to cooking. If I have been home, I use that time to catch up on leftover sleep- since everyday we have been sleeping only after 1am and getting up early in the morning and busy with some work or the other the whole day. Yes, things have been that busy!

Luckily, I was able to finish this month’s challenge before leaving US. Its probably the quickest I have done a challenge. Of course later I had to pull a “me” by not drafting the post before leaving. As a result this post comes in a day late, even though the challenge had been completed in the first week of October.

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!

I seriously thought of giving this challenge a miss as things were pretty busy before we left for India as well. Since Povitica is an eastern european bread, I thought of asking my Croatian friend what she thought of it.

After getting her response, there was no doubt left that I had to make it. They call it “orahnjača” = orah=nut in her part of the world and they make it during holiday season.

I made two types- one with poppy seed filling (my Croatian friend’s personal favorite) and one with the original Walnut filling. The poppy seed one was made in mini bundt pans and the walnut filling in a traditional loaf pan.

The walnut filling one was absolutely delicious! With the poppy seed one- as there was some quantity issues with the ingredients, the filling though tasty, wasn’t the right consistency and could have definitely been more. Also since I baked the poppy seed ones in my mini-bundt pan alongside the walnut filled one in a loaf pan together, I slightly over baked the poppy seed ones.  The walnut filling ones were perfectly baked, so I guess if you change the pan do change the baking time, so as to not overbake them. I also did not roll out the poppy seed one that thin as while I was doing it, my friends came over and I wanted to spend time with them before leaving, so I just put it together as quickly as possible.

All that said, both of them still tasted great. The addition of lemon to the poppy seed one reminded me of a lemon poppy seed cake- which I very much love!

The walnut filled one went with my husband to his office and I gave the mini Povitica to my friends before leaving. Loved the challenge, and will definitely be making Povitica again! Thanks Jenni!

By the way my Croatian friend directed me to this site which she refers to for recipes. I used the challenge recipe, but you could use the site for flavor ideas. Its in Croatian and needs to be translated.

Since I was busy packing and was leaving for a 3 month vacation, I could not take step by step pictures of the procedure. Do check the other Daring Bakers for step by step pictures with the directions. You MUST try this recipe once. I am sure you will not regret it.


Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-sa) is traditional Eastern European dessert bread that is traditionally served during the holiday season. It is also known as Nutroll, Potica, Kalachi, Strudia, just to name a few. Family recipes, and the secrets on how to roll the bread so thin, was passed down through generations of families. The traditional filling for this bread is an English walnut filling, but other typical fillings also include apple/cinnamon, apricot preserves, and a sweet cheese (like cream cheese).

Ingredients (I used half the original recipe to yield 2 loaves)

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
  • Melted Butter

Walnut Filling (enough to fill one loaf)

  • 1¾ Cups (420 ml/280 gm/10 oz) Ground English Walnuts
  • ¼ Cup (60 ml) Whole Milk
  • ¼ Cup (60 ml/58 gm/½ stick/2 oz) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Egg Yolk From A Large Egg, Beaten
  • ¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ Cup (120 ml/115 gm/4 oz) Sugar
  • ¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/1 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) Cinnamon


To Activate Yeast:

  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:

  1. 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.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.
  3. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.
  4. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
  5. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick.
  6. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
  7. 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:

  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.

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:

  1. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
  2. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)
  3. 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.
  4. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Spoon filling evenly over dough until covered.
  9. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.
  10. 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.
  11. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
  12. 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.
  13. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
  14. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
  15. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
  16. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
  17. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.

For the Poppy Seed Filling:

source: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/368619

Mix in a blender jar or food processor with steel blade: 3/4 cup poppy seed, 3/4 cup blanched almonds, whole or chopped. Process until the consistency of corn meal.
In a small saucepan, combine the seed/almond mixture, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup milk, 3/4 tsp fresh lemon zest, 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter. Cook over low heat with stirring until the mixture comes to a gentle boil and thickens. Takes about 10 min, and it will be the consistency of peanut butter. Cool and stir in 1/2 teaspoon of good vanilla extract. You can also substitute almond extract, but if you do, use less, about 1/4 teaspoon. Spread the filling same way as described above.

There are several options for storing (and eating) your loaves of Povitica:

• 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.