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 month, for a positive change, I did the challenge early. By early, I don’t mean as early as other more ambitious Daring Bakers, I mean a whole seven days before the challenge was due–which by slacker standards is early. I decided to make the full recipe of dough, but rather than make all four loaves with the same filling, I experimented with a different filling for each. I mixed up the rising times and I mixed up the baking times for each loaf. Some were more successful than others, but all were absolutely delicious. I feel absolutely positive that I will be making this beautifully swirlicious bread many times in the future. You might notice that the fourth loaf is missing? Well, I turned it into manakish for dinner that night.
In making the dough, I used all purpose flour and kneaded it for a good 30 minutes. I found the dough to be quite sticky, and I had to use extra flour…which I didn’t measure, I just scooped in by the handful. If I had to estimate, I’d guess that I used about 1 1/2 cup extra flour. I know that this is not due to any flaw in the recipe proportions–it’s just part of bread-making. Sometimes you use more flour, sometimes you use less–humidity plays a big role in how that goes. I stopped adding flour when the dough was just sticky enough, before it lost all semblance of sticky. The first loaf I made, I did by the book. By this, I mean I followed the directions for rolling the dough to the point of transparency, I made the filling precisely as directed, proofed the filled and rolled bread for no more than 25 minutes (it was a cold day), and popped the bread into the oven before any rising was discernible. I baked it as directed for 15 minutes at 350 F, and then at 300 F for the remaining 45 minutes. Oh, there was one thing I forgot until after the bread was in the oven: I forgot to wash it with the cold coffee…so I pulled the bread out after about 10 minutes, glazed it and popped it back in. Obviously, not the ideal way to go…but the bread stood up to the abuse fairly well.
This bread rises tremendously during baking, so rolling it out to the point of transparency was not a good idea: the top-most layer stretched apart, exposing the filling a bit. However, the bread did not fall apart or anything, so it was not a biggie. It was too late for me to roll the second loaf out a bit thicker, but the third loaf was just fine. I sliced the first loaf without chilling it in the refrigerator overnight…and then I sliced it straight out of the fridge. Both ways are fine, but out of the fridge is definitely a smidgen easier, and quite a bit less crumby.
For the second loaf, I made a cheese sauce and spread it onto the rolled out dough, sprinkled on some bell peppers and Italian seasoning (I wanted to use za’tar, but failed to find it in the pantry), and rolled it up. I let this loaf sit for a little longer rising time, about 45 minutes, but as it was a cold day, the loaf didn’t rise all that much. However, once I cut into it, I saw this gigantic air pockets, and am assuming my filling has a lot more to do with that side effect. My cheese sauce was not thick like the walnut filling, but who knows? Hopefully someone out there in DB land can point out to me the error of my ways.
For my last loaf, I went a little crazy. I didn’t know what filling to make, and I have a bit too much sour cream and cream cheese sitting in the refrigerator. So, I used them. I also added some raspberry jam, cocoa (for color more than flavor), and then when the filling was clearly going to be too runny, I added some ground walnuts to thicken it up a bit, and give a bit of texture. I did take care to not roll the dough too thin, and I rose this loaf for a good two hours. It rose, perhaps, a third of it’s size, then went into the oven, where it rose as magnificently as the other two loaves. However, I neglected this loaf, completely forgetting it was in the oven…so it baked for 2 hours, an hour and 45 minutes of that time at 300 F. Surprisingly, it is still edible. As can be seen from the picture above, this loaf is a lot less dense than the first loaf, due to the extended proofing.
Given that half our family is out of state right now, these loaves are not moving as fast as they would have otherwise. So, we’re still on the walnut loaf, enjoying a slice a day, spread with mascarpone cheese, with a morning cup of tea or coffee. There is really no describing how delicious this bread is–the fact that it is relatively easy to make and store in the freezer for the times when you’re in a pinch for something luxurious to serve (and make no mistake–with the amount of nuts in the filling, it is luxurious) is an added bonus.
I, perhaps oddly, find the flavor/texture to be reminiscent of baklava–minus the crisp crunch and the syrup, of course. The next time I make this bread, I will be adding some orange flower water to the filling. It might ruin it, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take!