Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Povitica #BreadBakers

Povitica, pronounced pov-e-tee-za, in its original form, is sweet yeast dough, stretched till it’s very, very thin, then spread with a walnut filling and rolled up, Swiss-roll style and baked in a loaf tin. I won’t kid you; this was a pain in the backside to make. It was also, however, quite delicious.

There’s a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was to sit on the closed toilet lid in a steamy bathroom and watch my father shave. I was fascinated by the canned foam that frothed up around his spreading fingers, covering whiskers and cheeks and chin. And the clean, neat path cut by the razor, snug on his skin, still pink from the hot shower, reflected in a crudely rubbed circle in the foggy mirror.

Best of all were the ditties he sung as he shaved. “’Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey,’ I cry. ‘If whiskey don’t kill me, I’ll live till I die.’” And the seemingly never ending “Hole in the bottom of the sea.” Perhaps you know it.

It starts,
“There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea. There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea. There’s a hole. There’s a hole. There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea.”

“There’s a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. There’s a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. There’s a log. There’s a log. There’s a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea.”

After that “There is a branch on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea” and you can see where this is all going. It’s a long song, people. But I loved it. Because my daddy was singing it.

The Great British Bake Off
Why am I sharing this with you today? It’s only because I wanted to say that unless you’ve been living under a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea, you’ve probably heard of and/or been watching the Great British Bake Off. And I thought that might need some explanation. I’m all about the teaching moments here.

I’ve been glued weekly the GBBO, as we insiders call it. It’s the ultimate competition for home bakers in the UK, starting each season with 12 bakers hand-picked from thousands of applicants. Just normal people like you and me who like to bake at home for friends and family. They are challenged with unknown recipes but hopefully familiar techniques and each week one of the 12 gets sent home, until finally last week, there was a showdown with the last three contestants. And a lovely lady named Nancy was declared the winner and given a cake plate. No kidding. A cake plate and some flowers after countless weeks of toil and worry. The real prize is the eventual cookbook deals. And perhaps they get to keep the apron.

But back to the Bread Bakers post at hand
It was the quarter final in the GBBO and the bakers were faced with a recipe that all but one of them had never heard of, povitica. Eastern European in origin, it is apparently a Christmas treat. Based on the internet chatter, few others, including me, had ever heard of it either.

But with all of the critiques from the judges in mind, and the original Paul Hollywood recipe from BBC Food in hand, I decided to give it a go for this month’s Bread Bakers theme, Touch of the Grape, adding plump raisins to the bread and baking it in my favorite Bundt pan. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of my recipe to see all the other lovely grape-ful breads we have for you this month - some sweet, some savory, all delicious - and to find out how to join us for future editions of Bread Bakers.

For the dough:
3/4 cup or 180ml whole milk
1/4 cup or 50g sugar
About 2 1/3 cups or more accurately 300g bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 oz or 7g fast-acting yeast
1 oz or 30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1/2 vanilla pod

For the filling:
1/4 cup or 60g unsalted butter
4 tablespoons whole milk
10oz  or 280g walnuts
1/2 vanilla pod
1/2 cup or 100g sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk

To assemble:
1 cup or 150g raisins
3-4 tablespoons honey

To make the dough, warm your milk and put it in a large mixing bowl with the sugar and yeast. Leave it to sit for a few minutes to make sure that the yeast is going to foam up, signaling that it is alive and ready for action.

Cut your vanilla bean into halves and split them down one side. Scrape out the seeds from one half and add it to the yeast bowl along with the flour, egg, butter and salt.

Mix thoroughly until all the flour is incorporated.

Now beat vigorously for five to eight minutes. This dough is going to be extremely loose but should get stretchy and smooth as you keep beating.

Grease another large mixing bowl and scrape the soft dough into it. Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until it doubles in size or about one hour.

Liberally butter your Bundt pan, making sure to cover all the nooks and crannies. Pour most of the raisins in the bottom, reserving a generous handful to sprinkle around the sides once you add the dough in, and cover them with the honey.

While the dough rises, we can make the filling.

Measure your milk into a microwaveable container and add in the butter. Microwave for 10-15 seconds at a time until the butter has melted.

Scrape the seeds out of the second half of the vanilla pod and add them to your food processor with the walnuts, sugar and salt. Pulse until you get a sandy powder.

Add in the milk/melted butter and the egg yolk and pulse to combine.

Mr. Hollywood’s recipe calls for a clean bed sheet on which to roll out your dough but I decided to take a page from GBBO contestant Martha’s book and use cling film so I covered my kitchen table almost completely in that stretchy stuff and sprinkled on some flour. By all means, use a clean sheet, if you would prefer.

Once the dough has finished rising, punch it down and turn it out onto your prepared flat surface.

Roll it out as thinly as you possibly can, sprinkling on more flour as need be. The directions call for picking the dough up and stretching it out bigger but that didn’t work so well for me so I just kept rolling gently until it was quite thin.

I managed to get it to about 28x20 inches or 70 x 50cm.

Put blogs of the filling all over the rolled dough and spread it out gently, being very careful not to rip the dough.

Starting on the long side of the dough, pick up your cling film and start rolling the dough up, Swiss-roll style, as tightly as you can manage.

So willing but so little help there under the table.

Just keep rolling, snugly, snugly, until you get to the other side.

Now here comes the trickiest part and, if you have a helper with opposable thumbs in the kitchen, this would be a good time to enlist his or her help. Sadly, my helper, though willing, does not have the necessary appendages.

Starting with one end of the roll, tuck it up against the center of the Bundt pan so that it will not be visible on top when the povitica is turned out.  Wrap the rest of the roll around in the pan. Sprinkle the reserved raisins on the bottom and down the sides of the dough.

Put the Bundt pan in a clean plastic bag in a warm place and leave the povitica to rise for one hour. On the GBBO, they called these proofing bags or some such. I used a new garbage bag and made sure it was puffed up with air so it couldn’t touch the dough.

When your hour is almost up, preheat your oven to 350F° or 180°C.

After rising in a garbage bag

Bake the povitica for 15 minutes and reduce the oven temperature to 300F° or 130C° and bake for a further 45 minutes. If it starts getting too dark, you can cover the top with foil.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool.


Traditional povitica would have been baked in a loaf pan and had a glaze drizzled on top instead of a sticky pile of honeyed raisins. So sue me. I think we all know how I feel about Bundt pans and the Touch of the Grape Bread Bakers theme was my idea so the raisins were essential.

Which reminds me that I have a fabulous bunch of grape-y breads to share with you today!


Want to join our bread baking band?
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme.  Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

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