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

Ingredients

Dough

  • 300g (10½ oz) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

  • 40g (1½ oz) granulated sugar

  • 7g salt

  • 10g (⅓ oz) active dry yeast

  • 30g (1oz) unsalted butter, melted

  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • ½ vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 150ml (5½ fl oz) milk, warmed

Filling

  • 60g (2¼ oz) unsalted butter

  • 4 tablespoons milk

  • 280g (10 oz) walnut pieces (we used pecans)

  • ½ vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 100g (3½ oz) granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten

To assemble

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

  • 1 egg white, beaten

  • 100g (3½ oz) powdered sugar

The Steps

For the dough, proof the yeast in the warm milk, about 10 minutes. Mix in the eggs, butter, salt, vanilla seeds or extract until combined. Stir in the flour until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes or until the dough is soft, smooth and stretchy.

Tip the dough into a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until at least doubled in size – about one hour. Butter a 9 in x 5½  in x 3 in (2 lb.) 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 or extract, 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 50 x 30cm (20 x 12 in) rectangle. Brush the surface with 1 tablespoon of 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 1 m x 60 cm (40 x 24 in).

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. Note: To do this, we placed teaspoon-sized spoonfuls over the surface and used our fingertips to spread it out. If it got too sticky, we used a little bit of water as a lubricant.

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.

Cover the loaf tin with a damp towel and let proof for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 160ºC (fan) / 350ºF / Gas 4.

Brush the dough with beaten egg white and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 150ºC / 130ºC (fan) / 300ºF / 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.