Povitica (pronounced po-va-teet-sa) is traditional Eastern European dessert bread that is usually 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, were passed down through generations of families. However, the tradition of baking this type of bread has become somewhat of a dying art form. I don't remember having this bread as a child, but we had a similar rolled sweet bread filled with poppy seed called macowiec. This Daring Baker's Challenge was a blast, the thin rolling of the dough was extremely challenging, yet therapeutic, satisfying and destressing, and the finished loaves were beautiful and delicious!
(makes 4 loaves)
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To activate the yeast:
2 t sugar
1 t flour
4 oz warm water
2 T active dry yeast
For the dough:
16 oz milk
6 oz sugar
3 t salt
4 oz butter, melted
Up to 8 c flour, divided
7 c ground walnuts
8 oz milk
8 oz butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 t vanilla
16 oz sugar
1 t unsweetened cocoa
1 t cinnamon
To activate the yeast, stir 2 t sugar, 1 t flour and the yeast into 4 oz warm water (approx 100° F) in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
To make the dough, in a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180° F), 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. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, the 6 oz sugar, and the salt until combined. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups of the flour. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. (I used 40 oz.) Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 lb) and 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.
While the dough is rising, this would be a great time to make your fillings.
In a large bowl, mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa. Heat the milk and butter to boiling. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.
Pumpkin Spice Butter
In a medium saucepan, mix together 2 cups pureed pumpkin, 2 fl oz water or, for extra flavor, apple cider, 3/4 c packed brown sugar, 1 t cinnamon, 3/4 t ground cardamom, 3/4 t ground ginger, 1/4 t ground cloves
and 1/4 t salt. Cook over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil over medium for about 20 minutes, whisking frequently. The mixture should be bubbling with large pockets of steam and will thicken and darken significantly. Once thick, remove from heat, stir in the salt and cool. Can be stored in the fridge for a week or two.
Caramelized onion, garlic and cheddar
Chop 1-2 large onions into small slices and put in a saute pan over medium heat along with 1 T olive oil and about 1 t salt. Stir to combine, but once onions begin to brown, spread them evenly over the pan, turn the heat to medium-low and leave it alone to caramelize for about 25 minutes. Put some minced garlic (I used 3 cloves) into the saucepan during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Set aside to cool. Shred about 16 oz cheddar cheese and set aside.
Shred 16 oz mozzarella cheese and set aside along with 1 small jar of pizza sauce and 1 package pepperoni.
To Roll and Assemble the Dough:
Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered. (I used the fitted sheet and it grabbed itself nicely around my oval dining room table.) Sprinkle with a handful of flour (use flour sparingly).
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 12 inches in diameter. Spoon about 1 t of melted butter on top. Use the tops of your hands to stretch the dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer. I used a combination of both, but mostly my hands once the dough gets thinner. As you work, continue 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. 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.
Spoon filling evenly over dough until covered.
Since the bread weighs over 2 pounds per loaf, allowing it to cool in the pan helps it to hold its shape and weight. Once cooled, the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.
There are several options for storing (and eating) your four 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.