A tale of two povitica loaves
This month's challenge was to make povitica (a type of nut roll.
Blog-checking lines: 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!
This is my first time ever making this sort of recipe so I had absolutely no idea what to expect from the recipe. Well after doing some interesting internet research and ringing a pastry chef mate of mine whose mum is from Croatia and another friend's mum who is from Poland. I have some (little) understanding of the process and what to expect.
When comparing my notes with the information from my friends and their mums I found that povitica (or nut rolls) seems to be made by two slightly different methods that lead to two very dissimilar results; it seems that the “Northern European“ version (my name) is dense and moist like a firm bread-and-butter pudding, while the “Southern European” version is a well risen roll slightly less dense than the Northern version.
One major difference between the two versions is an hour of rising time before the final baking. Our challenge recipe only has ¼ hour of rising time before the final baking like a lot of Northern recipes while a typical Southern recipe has an hour of rising time before the final bake.
During my internet research I found that there are other differences; the Northern version uses a soft dough that is rolled out fairly thickly while the filling has a firmish consistency, while the Southern version uses a firmer dough that is rolled out very thinly while its filling has a consistency of thick honey. Since I was making two loaves (½ batch) anyway I thought I would do one loaf using the challenge instructions (which are very Northern) and do the other loaf using the Southern method. For both versions you make the dough layer as thin as possible.
A (Northern) povitica is meant to be dense and moist, it is important not to let the shaped roll rise too much before baking (in our challenge recipe you only let it rest for 15 minutes) in the other version you let the unbaked roll rise until doubled in volume then bake it.
I found that if you refrigerate the loaf until cold, it will slice thinly and cleanly, remember to serve it at room temperature. Also let the povitica rest for a few hours (a day is better) before cutting it this will help it set better so it can be sliced cleanly.
The biggest tip - If you find the dough is too springy let it rest.
Uhmmm, I don't know why but every stage of this recipe was an uphill battle.I used “00” soft flour (finely milled white flour 8% protein) for the recipe since I had it to hand and I thought it would make the stretching of the dough easier since “lower gluten” means “easier handling”.
For the nut filling I used about 300 grams (10½ ounces) walnuts and 250 grams (9 ounces) of mixed nuts, also I added 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder I wanted a chocolate hit from the Povitica. I used ¾ cup of white sugar and ¼ cup of dark brown sugar in the filling. And I used an unsalted “European” styled butter 87% fat since it had to used.
Dough – Firstly the size of the dough is amazing when you stretch it out, you will need to do it on a large table with a floured tablecloth. I found that the dough was very very hard to stretch it wanted to go back to its original shape that is every time I rolled it or stretched it out it would spring right back. From experience I know what to do in this situation I let the partially stretched out dough rest for about 15 minutes covered in plastic so the gluten strands in the dough would relax so making stretching a lot easier so after resting the dough I then proceeded to make a very thin layer of it … that is … after a lot of time doing guarded stretching and gentle man-handling … finally … I could see magazine print through the dough but this process took about 45 minutes. I think the problem was that I added too much flour while forming the dough, next time I will just have the dough a little tacky which will make it easier to stretch out. Also I will add ½ teaspoon lemon juice (for a ¼ batch) next time since the acidity helps to tenderise the dough so making it easier to stretch out. The second dough was a lot easier to roll out since by this time it had a lot more resting than the first dough it only took 15 minutes to roll out to phyllo (filo) sheet thinness. Looking back I should of added about 3 tablespoons of milk to get the correct consistency.
Filling - Firstly the filling seems like a huge amount but you need it all for the ½ batch its volume is almost 1 litres almost 4 cups. I found that the filling was much too stiff to spread out (I was using very dry nuts that could of been the problem?) on the thin dough layer without tearing it I had to add 4 tablespoons of warm milk and micro-wave to get it to the right consistency (like very thick honey). It is best to place tablespoon dollops of the filling evenly over the dough then spread these dollops evenly across the thin dough. After 20 minutes! of careful and methodical spreading the nut filling it was done. Of course the second version was a breeze to spread again I think resting time really helps the nut filling with spreading it over the thin dough sheet.I trimmed the edges and placed it into the baking pan such that the roll was coiled on itself I egg washed just after forming the unbaked loaf and once again just before baking.
I had given away for the long weekend my baking pans to a friend so I used my high loaf tin.I let one loaf rest for 15 mins then I baked it and the other loaf I let rise until doubled in volume then I bake it both were baked the same way (same temperatures and times). I'm sure that there is nothing wrong with the recipe I think I didn't let the dough rest enough for the first version and I added too much flour at the start.I have to say after all the troubles they both looked good, the loaf using the challenge instructions expanded about x2, the other version expanded about x2½ both had great colour and the crust dough layer for both was very thin so thin you could see the nut filling through it. And the colour was great so brown and shiny. Since the final baked loaf rises so much take this into account when you are shaping the loaf into the baking pan. I had a little trouble getting it out of the pan, so I recommend using parchment paper or butter and flour your baking pan well.
The dough starting to be mixed notice the foamy yeast mixture
How to tell if your dough is kneaded enough if you poke an indentation into the dough it should spring back I realise now that I should of added more liquid it should be tacky
The huge amount of nut filling I used my food processor to make it this is the first time I used the machine since I bought it two years LOL LOL ago in this instance I thought it was worth the effort to clean the machine after the task
Stretching the dough to size … a pain to do in every sense of the word
The baked Northern povitica
The southern povitica
If you want to do the recipe over two days I would do the nut filling and the challenge recipe up to step 7. that is make the dough and let it rise overnight in the refrigerator. Then the next day return the dough to room temperature (a couple of hours) and make the povitica as per the recipe. This sort of recipe freezes very well, freeze the baked loaf and thaw in the fridge overnight loosely covered in paper towels then cover in plastic wrap this stop the povitica from becoming soggy from condensation.
The verdict – the challenge (Northern) povitica is a really delicious nut roll with a very dramatic interior appearance, the texture of it is very similar to bread-and-butter pudding, very moist and 'firm-ish” to the tooth. While the “Southern” had great height it was a lot lighter in texture than the challenge recipe version still good. But I liked the challenge version much more the interior looked better and tasted better also. Overall I was very pleased though it was a frustrating process for the first version, though the second version was a breeze.
Comparison of the two loaves – on the left is the challenge version (which I call Northern) and on the right is the Southern version. As you can see very different looking results.
Tips and hints (some of these are from the other bakers' experiences with this recipe I will add extra tips and hints during the month when others have posted their results)
1. It is very important to get the correct consistency for the dough and the nut filling if you do the process is a breeze. Remember when it comes to making bread -- recipes are guidelines, since flour absorbs moisture from the air so it is not unusual to add extra liquid or flour to get the correct consistency for the dough (in our case it should be slightly sticky) and depending on how old the nuts are and how the nuts are ground (this is highly variable for each baker) determines how the nuts absorb the liquid so again look at the consistency and adjust the liquid for the nut filling you want it to be like thick honey. I think this is the real lesson of this challenge, don't be afraid to adjust the liquid amounts to suit what you find in front of you in the mixing bowl!
2. Use plain (all purpose) flour. Use the flour sparingly when you mix the initial dough, it should be sticky don't be afraid to add liquid to get the correct consistency if you used too much flour. When you start mixing the dough it looks like that there isn't enough flour avoid adding any extra at this stage. It is best to mix the dough up (reserving some of the flour) and really give it a good working over it will be sticky (slap it down on the counter a few times and use a scraper to scoop it off the counter and knead it hard) it will be become less sticky while you knead it, that way you will use the least amount of flour.
3. Let the dough rise then punch it down and let it rest until it's pliable, if it is too springy let it rest longer.
4. Always check if your nuts are fresh and are not bitter tasting, ground nuts in a packet easily can be a year old. Fresh nuts give the best result leading to a lovely moist filling. Grind or process the nuts very finely if the nut pieces are too large they will break and tear the dough layer when you roll it up.
5. The consistency of the nut filling is like thick honey don't be afraid to add some liquid to get the correct consistency, micro-waving really helps make it spreadable.
6. The amount of time you let the roll rise just before baking leads to different results for the final baked povitica.
7. Roll up the povitica fairly tightly (using the floured sheet as your guide) so the final baked loaf will not fall apart and the layers will have a good pattern with no voids between the layers.
8. To check if the loaf is ready lightly knock the top of the roll it should sound hollow, or insert a skewer (or small thin knife) into the loaf for a slow count of three it should come out dryish and feel warmish if the skewer is wet or feels cool bake for a longer time don't over-bake since the filling will dry out making the final loaf dry so making the layers fall apart when the roll is cut into slices.
9. Leave the roll in the tin until it has cooled this helps firm it up so the roll will not collapse when you take it out of the pan recall the loaf weighs over 1 kg (2 lbs).
10. Let the roll rest for a few hours (better for a day) until completely cooled and set before cutting, if you refrigerate the loaf it will cut thinly and cleanly without crumbs, remember to serve the slices at room temperature. Makes great toast or even better French toast yum yum.
11. The loaf gets better and better the longer it matures in the refrigerator.
A few more tips and hints from Wolf who has made povitica every Christmas for many years, I put these here so they can be found easily by the forum members
A. Don't spread the filling right to the edges of the dough. You want to stay within at least 1/2 inch of the sides. This way, you can seal the filling inside and won't have leakage.
B. I use a stoneware bread pan to bake mine in. The one in the photo had the ends tucked underneath to the center, so it presented a smooth top. It was also rolled to the center from BOTH ends. That's how I got 4 distinct swirls. (See her exquisite povitica here)
C. Definitely cool the loaf in whatever you bake it in, until you can handle it with your bare hands, before turning it out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. It slices cleaner when completely cooled or refrigerated.
D. Roll the dough tighter than you think you need to. Yes, some filling will squeeze out the ends, but you'll get a neater swirl in the center, less voids and gaps and it'll stay together better, as well as make it a nicer sliced bread for toasting or even french toast- which is awesome with this type of bread.
E. It will freeze well, especially if well wrapped- I've done one upwards of a month before. It does ship very well- I ship one loaf to my parents every Christmas and one to my In Laws, my recipe makes 3 full sized loaves and will last upwards of a week on the counter at room temp. - if it lasts that long in your house }:P
Wolf graciously included instructions to obtain her exquisite swirl patterned povitica for the method.
I have drawn some diagrams of the method
The stretched out dough layer covered with filling
Then roll each long edge to the center thus forming two swirls
Then take each end and fold them towards the middle of the roll (the brown line is where the ends finish up when folded) thus forming a double height roll
Then turn the loaf over and place into the pan so the seam ends are at the bottom of the pan which means the top is smooth and has no cut seams or edges
Txfarmer a very experienced and superb baker posted some great tips also
1) At first glance, since we need to stretch the dough to very thin, it seems to make sense not to knead the dough too much. Kneading == strong gluten == too elastic == hard to roll out/stretch. However, what we really need is a dough that can be stretched out WITHOUT BREAKING, that actually requires the dough to have strong gluten. I make breads a lot, from my past experience, I think the solution here is to have a wet (as wet as one can handle) dough that's kneaded fairly thoroughly. Wet doughs are more extensible, despite being kneaded very well. I kept the dough so wet that it was sticking to the mixer bowl at the end of kneading, however, a large transparent strong "windowpane" can be stretched out, which is the indication of strong gluten.
2) With the right dough, stretching out was easy, < 10mins of work. The dough was tough enough not to break, yet wet enough to be stretched out. I made quarter-size (i.e. one loaf), but the dough was stretched out to cover almost all of my coffee table. The tip of using a sheet underneath was very good. I used a plastic table cloth (lightly floured). In fact the dough was stretched so large that the filling was barely enough to cover it.
3) I proofed the dough longer than the formula suggests to get more volume, and the loaf less dense. I understand the authentic version is quite dense, but my family tends to like lighter fluffier loaves when it comes to sweet breads.
4) Since the dough was kneaded well, the final loaf had very good volume. Rose well above the rim in my 8.5X4.5inch pan.
Poviticas for morning tea
I needed to make a treat for nibbles at a morning tea. So I decided to make two poviticas – one povitica filled with tea infused figs and almonds and the other filled with coffee infused dates, cocoa and hazelnuts. I wanted a strong contrast in the flavours between the two loaves. The tea/fig/almond filling was a lovely 'camel' colour its flavour was like caramelised fig on the palate each element was present I really liked how the tea melded with the fig and the almond this povitica was additively GOOD with tea. The other loaf had a very strong coffee/date base flavour while the cocoa and hazelnut added a lovely lingering after taste the winner for me. I was very very pleased with the filling flavours and how they tasted with tea or coffee. (Apart from the coffee infused date povitica looking like a baked chicken LOL LOL.) Those loaves were moist, very dense and incredible rich, perfect (when thinly sliced) with a cuppa. Feeds a lot of people! There were like very moist, ultra dense fruit cakes I thought hence the reason for very thin slices to be served with your choice of tea or coffee. Not recommended for children too much caffeine!
For this attempt I was careful about adding the flour and made sure that the finished dough was a little sticky, this time I found it a lot easier to stretch though the consistency wasn't exactly right I felt and I need to better understand how do to the spreading out of the filling and I haven't still mastered how the amount of filling as compared to the amount of stretched out dough needs to be in ratio, and also how to form a good pattern of swirls needs some thought so a lot of little things to practice for me over the next few weeks.
I will give this recipe another go since I want to perfect the process (making pretty interior patterns and getting the texture right) since these loaves would be a great Christmas present.
Tea infused figs with almonds
Coffee infused dates with hazelnuts (the finished loaf looks a little like a roasted chicken LOL)
Tea infused figs with almonds
375 grams (13 ounces) finely chopped dried figs
¾ cup of very very strong tea (I used 4 teabags of Earl Grey tea)
¾ cup of vanilla sugar
1 cup (120 grams) (4¼ ounces) ground almonds
2 large egg
½ cup clotting cream (66% butter fat)
Method – combine all the ingredients (except eggs and cream) in a small saucepan bring to boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Beat eggs and pour slowly into mixture, stirring constantly and simmer gently 5 minutes more. This mixture scorches easily, so heat must not be too high. Cool mixture add clotting cream. Place filling into a container and let rest overnight before using.
Coffee infused dates with hazelnuts
375 grams (13 ounces) of finely chopped dried dates
¼ cup (55 gm) (2 oz) unsalted butter, fried until nut brown
¾ cup of very very strong coffee (I used 1½ tablespoons of instant coffee)
½ cup of dark brown sugar
¼ cup of cocoa powder
1 cup (120 grams) (4¼ ounces) ground hazelnuts
2 large egg
¼ cup clotting cream (66% butter fat)
Method – combine all the ingredients (expect eggs and cream) in a small saucepan bring to boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Beat eggs and pour slowly into mixture, stirring constantly and simmer gently 5 minutes more. This mixture scorches easily, so heat must not be too high. Cool mixture add clotting cream. Place filling into a container and let rest overnight before using.