Have you ever made Povitica? If you’ve watched a few episodes of The Great British Baking Show you may have seen it during one of the technical challenges. It’s a “sweet’ (not if your American) dessert bread filled with a boozy, walnut, and cocoa filling.
During a Christmas gingerbread making house party, my MIL’s friend was talking about a recipe her Mom used to make when she was a kid but couldn’t remember the name, so I asked her to tell me how it tasted and the main ingredients she remembered.
It sounded a lot like the Croatian bread, Povitica. Her mother had been long gone and missed the Christmas memory, so I decided to see if this recipe was THE one with a small hope it would give her a little taste of home.
Fair warning, this isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a pain in the ass to make, strictly based off what goes in to stretching the bread, but if you like a challenge…do it.
But first, let’s recap in case you don’t know my rules…
I’m not a food blogger. I share recipes I’ve tried and if I’d make them again. The word foodie and hefty paragraphs filled with adjectives about the recipe annoy me. Oh, and photographs that have dusted flour and cutting boards.
You can expect the recipe I used, helpful tricks or what not to do and a couple (probably one) real shots of what it looked like when my bake came out of the oven.
For the dough:
300g (10½ oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
40g (1½ oz) caster sugar
10g (⅓ oz) fast-action yeast
30g (1oz) unsalted butter, melted
1 large free-range egg, beaten
½ vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
150ml (5½ fl oz) whole milk, warmed
For the filling:
60g (2¼ oz) unsalted butter
4 tbsp whole milk
280g (10 oz) walnut pieces
½ vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out
100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 free-range egg yolk, beaten
15g (½ oz) butter, melted
1 free-range egg white, beaten
100g (3½ oz) icing sugar
- For the dough, tip the flour and sugar into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt into one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the melted butter, egg, vanilla seeds and warm milk and begin mixing on a slow speed. When the dough starts to come together, mix for a further 5-8 minutes on a medium speed until the dough is soft, smooth and stretchy.
- Tip the dough into a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise until at least doubled in size – about one hour. Butter a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin.
- For the filling, place the butter and milk in a small pan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat.
- Place the walnuts, vanilla seeds, sugar and cocoa powder into the bowl of a food processor and blend to a sandy powder. Add the egg yolk, milk and butter mixture and pulse to combine. Set aside.
- To assemble, spread a clean bed sheet over a kitchen table and dust with flour. Turn the risen dough out onto the sheet and roll out the dough into a large 50x30cm (20x12in) rectangle. Brush the surface with 15g (½oz) melted butter.
- Dust your hands with flour and ease them underneath the dough. Using the backs of your hands, stretch the dough out from the centre until very thin and translucent (you should be able to see the sheet through the dough). The rectangle should measure approximately 1metrex60cm (40x24in).
- Taking care not to tear the dough, spread the filling over the dough until evenly covered. If the filling has been standing for a long time and is too thick, add a little warm milk to loosen it.
- Starting at the long edge of the dough, lift the sheet and gently roll the dough up tightly, like a Swiss roll.
- Carefully lift the dough and place one end in the bottom corner of the greased loaf tin. Ease the roll into the base of the tin to form a long ‘U’ shape, then double back laying the roll over the first ‘U’ shape to form a second ‘U’ shape on top.
- Place the loaf tin inside a clean plastic bag and leave to rise for one hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C(fan)/ 350F/Gas 4.
- Brush the dough with beaten egg white and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C/130C(fan)/300F/Gas 3 and bake for a further 45 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil if the top begins to darken too much.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Mix the icing sugar with a few drops of cold water to make a runny icing and drizzle it over the povitica. Slice and enjoy.
- May the odds be ever in your favor when converting from metric to standard. I would give you my exact measurements but the piece of paper I flipping wrote it on disappeared (I’m looking at you, Hubs!).
- ps: Just get a scale to weigh it out on, I had to remake the dough THREE times. Save yourself the hassle (and two or maybe three – dear Zeus – hours) and spend the $10.
- I used the rolling pin as long as I possibly could before I started to stretch with my palms and fingers, not back of the hands as suggested because I’m pretty sure I would still be there trying to stretch it.
- I think adding some cinnamon in the filling and cutting the cocoa in half might be good. Oh! And some chopped walnuts sprinkled throughout, too.
- Needs to be eaten with coffee or tea. It was lighter tasting than I expected which I assume is due to all the layers, but I wouldn’t consider it sweet like a Cinnabon roll. So if you’re worried it is a true (American) dessert bread, it’s not.
Would I Make It Again?
Fuck no. I’d rather make a cinnamon roll, but I would absolutely make it again if my MIL’s friend specifically asked for it next Christmas.
I made four other people taste a slice before giving it away and got no complaints, but all agreed it wasn’t as sweet as they were expecting considering it was iced.