The Povitica Adventure

I don't normally binge watch shows but I did with The Great British Baking Show.

I got Kristen (and sometimes Popo) to watch it with me and we would talk non-stop during the whole show. There were a lot of "Woahs", "Wows", "I like ____.", "I don't know about that.", "Look at ____'s expression", and "British humor is so weird.". I don't normally approve of talking while watching things but this was an exception because there was so much to talk about. 

In the Advanced Doughs episode, we were particularly impressed with the povitica (po-va-teet-sa), an Eastern European sweet bread, so we decided to try it on our own. 

In the episode, none of the bakers have any idea what the bread is supposed to look like except for one baker who did a riff on the bread in the previous challenge. Re-watching the bakers struggle with this bread was even more hilarious because we had almost the exact same sentiments as the bakers. 

The first challenge comes when you have to roll the dough out into a 40-inch by 24-inch rectangle. There's a lot of stretching by using the back of your knuckles. We sat around our kitchen table and rotated around in a circle to get it stretched paper-thin. There were some panicky moments when small holes would form and giggly moments where we'd shout out "Moisturize me! Moisturize me!". Stretching the dough also reminded me of the birth of Uruk-haiI've always been grossly fascinated with that scene. But for the most part, the dough was pretty cooperative and got to the proper size with a little bit of patience. 

Once the dough was stretched, we had to spread the filling which is a paste of walnuts (we used pecans), cocoa powder, an egg yolk, sugar and butter. It was super thick and had the consistency of extra chunky peanut butter where the oil isn't mixed in properly. Basically, it doesn't like to spread. So 1 hour and two episodes of Spilled Milk later, we tried to evenly spread that filling, hoping that there would be enough to cover all of the dough. The left and right edges were nicely spread but the middle was like an island with a coral reef surrounding it.

Then, we rolled the dough into a log and curled it inside of a loaf pan. Sorry, no photos for this part but it was the ugliest piece of rolled dough I have ever made. After another hour of proofing, it baked for an hour so that the filling had enough time to dry out.  

Imperfections? The icing really helps to hide the weird spots on the top.

As we ate dinner and let the bread cool, Kristen kept making comments about what if it was terrible and dry or raw and not swirled enough.

When we finally cut into it, we were a little disappointed with the lack of definition on the swirl. 

And the taste?

After several moments of silence and chewing, Kristen said, "Well, it's not awful." Considering the amount of work we put into it, it wasn't jaw-dropping amazing. It has a hint of chocolate which makes it difficult to tell that it is actually in there unlike these breads. The texture, though, was pretty good. It's like a bread-y croissant with all of those layers without being overly buttery and stomach ache-inducing. And the bread does keep the moisture sealed inside. 

But let's be real, the pressure is on if the bakers had only 2 1/2 hours to complete this challenge. Considering that spreading that filling took the two of us 1 hour, it must have been pretty stressful! Either we are really, really slow or they were were given a little bit of wiggle room. 

So what would Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry say? Paul, of course, would take charge of the critique. I think he'd say that the icing was nice and that it was a good bake. But, he'd berate us on our uneven filling and comment on how there was more filling in some areas than others. I can't provide any conjecture on the accuracy of the taste having never tried an authentic povitica before. 

I am writing this part the day after to say that I may have a changed opinion about povitica. After having another piece this morning, I couldn't help but marvel at the layers and the variety of textures in this bread. I should appreciate it because it is pretty impressive. It's not as pretty as others I have seen but I do think in the end, the hard work was worth it. So maybe one of these days I'll give it another go or I'll modify it into a more feasible application. Because in all honesty, I'm proud that it didn't sink from being raw, that you can see the swirls for the most part and that this challenge wasn't an overall disaster.  

And if you're wondering, Series 5 of the show is available on good 'ol Netflix.


Povitica

Recipe from The Great British Baking Show, Series 5, Advanced Dough

Yields: 1 loaf // Inactive Time: 3 hours // Active Time: 2 hours