A delicious swirled povitica bread from Eastern Europe, filled with sweet coconut and almond filing, and finished with a drizzle of icing. With its crunchy sugary crust and stunning swirls, this gorgeous enriched bread is one defiantly worth taking time to try.
You may have noticed over the past couple of months, but I’m trying to branch out a little bit with my breads. Try new techniques, extend my bread repertoire. Most importantly I’m trying to understand bread. Trying to find out what works (and what doesn’t!) and why that might be. I guess once I really know why certain breads work the way they do, I’ll be able to make my bread better. I want to know how to make a recipe a little more tender, or give a thicker, crunchier crust. If my bread has gone horribly wrong I want to know why, and how I can stop that happening again.
I think a lot of people are a little bit afraid of bread, and I’m going to include myself in this. Although my bread is defiantly getting better, I still find the thought of more complex bread recipes a little daunting. Yeast can be a cruel, unpredictable mistress. Sometimes everything goes to plan, sometimes it doesn’t and I have no idea why. It can be hard to know how long to leave bread to rise. Not long enough and the bread is heavy and doughy, too long and it over proves and you’re left with something hard and tough.
Bread really is worth it though. The feeling you get when you’ve made a good bread is like no other. There’s something magical about it. Baking bread itself is incredibly therapeutic. You can’t rush it. You need to give it time, let it develop at its own pace. I know some people prefer machines with dough hooks, but I always make my bread by hand. It might sound a little hippie-like, but getting your hands in and getting a feel for the dough really makes you make better bread. The more you bake, the more you can tell if a dough has been kneaded enough, you can feel it going from shaggy and rough, to smooth and elastic beneath your fingers.
This povitica bread is one such bread that looks daunting, but actually isn’t so hard. It takes a little time and a little patience, but the techniques aren’t that tricky. I can promise you that if you take a little time to give it a go, you’ll be so proud of yourself when its finished. The feeling of cutting into the bread is wonderful. The anticipation of not knowing whats inside, then the relief of seeing those beautiful swirls. Defiantly a proud baking moment!
Povitica bread is a bread from Eastern Europe. Its a sweet bread, with an enriched, brioche-like dough. Traditionally its filled with walnuts, and served at celebrations and festivals. The dough is rolled out, covered in the filling, rolled into a sausage, then twisted into the tin. When you cut into it you are rewarded with four beautiful swirls, and a delicious tender, nutty bread.
I decided not to go with the traditional povitica bread filling, but instead used a delicious fruity, nutty filling. The flavour inspiration comes from a completely different kind of bread, a peshwari naan. (Yes, I decided on the filling choice whilst mopping up a bit of left over curry, with a hunk of left of naan…. don’t judge me!). Coconut and almond, whizzed up with raisins, makes a delicious, slightly sticky, slightly crunchy filling.
I love the sweet, nutty, sticky flavours alongside the delicious soft bread. You finish the bread off with a drizzle of simple water icing. Icing might seem like a strange thing to top bread with, but think of this as being in the same family as cinnamon rolls, and suddenly the icing makes a lot of sense.
The key to this bread turning out beautifully is the bake time. Because of all those swirls and filling, it needs a long slow bake time to bake right through. The bread goes into the oven at 180C, but after 15 minutes is turned down to 150C for at least another 45 minutes. Mine was in the oven for about an hour and15 minutes in total. Don’t whatever you do be tempted to turn the oven up to speed things along. It won’t work – the outside will be baked way before the inside, you and you’ll be left with a sad, doughy under-baked povitica bread. If you’ve gone to trouble of rising and rolling and shaping don’t waste your hard work trying to rush it in the oven!
Sometimes the old cliche is true, and the best things in life really are the ones worth waiting for!
-Recipe adapted, heavily, from www.notquitenigella.com
– If you’re unsure how to roll your dough, there is a fantastic tutorial, with step by step pictures to walk you through it, here.
– You can swap the raisins for sultanas if you’d prefer.
– I’ve added raspberry coulis to my filling. It might seem like an odd ingredient, but it adds a little sweetness, and helps bind the filling. You can’t taste the raspberry in the finished bread, and its not an essential ingredient. If you’d prefer, add a splash more milk and leave out the coulis.
– As stated before, the slow bake time is crucial. Make sure your oven temperature is correctly set, and don’t forget to turn it down after 15 minutes!
- - to activate the yeast
- ½ teaspoon tablespoon dried yeast / 4½g / ½ of a 7g packet instant dried yeast
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon plain flour
- 30ml hand warm water
- - for the dough
- 120ml milk
- 56g sugar
- 5g table salt
- 1 medium egg, beaten
- 30g unsalted butter, melted
- 250g strong white bread flour
- - for the filling
- 35g flaked almonds
- 100g desiccated coconut
- 70g caster sugar
- 70g raisins
- 110g unsalted butter, melted
- 50ml milk
- 4 tablespoons raspberry coulis (optional, see note above)
- - to finish
- 1 beaten egg, to glaze
- 40g icing sugar
- Begin by activating your yeast.
- In a small bowl, mix together your yeast, sugar, flour and water. Cover with cling film, and leave in a warm place for about 5 minutes. When the yeast has activated, you'll have a frothy, bubbly mixture.
- Once the yeast is activated, begin making the dough. Start by scalding your milk. To do this, bring the milk up to just below boiling temperature. Take it off the heat, and let it cool for a few minutes until it is about 103F/ 43C. If you don't have a thermometer, this will be about a hand-hot temperature.
- Pour the warm milk into a large bowl, and add the sugar and salt. Whisk together until combined. Next, add the beaten egg, melted butter, activated yeast, and a couple of spoons of flour. Mix all the ingredients together, until well combined, and keep adding flour, a little at a time, until the dough is shaggy and starts to come away from the bowl.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead the dough, adding in the rest of the flour as you go. You're aiming for a smooth dough that doesn't stick to the surface. If you reach this stage before your use all the flour, stop adding it. You may not need to use all your flour. Continue to knead for about another 5 minutes, until the dough is very smooth and pliable.
- Put into a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film, and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half until the dough has doubled in size.
- While the dough rises, make the filling.Put the almonds, coconut, sugar, and raisins into a blender, and blend until the almonds are finely ground.
- In a small pan, melt together 70g of the butter, with the milk.
- With the blender still running, pour in the hot butter and milk, and raspberry coulis.
- You should be left with a sticky, nutty paste.
- Melt the remainder of the butter
- Grease and line a 2 lb loaf tin.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the dough back down, and turn out onto a large floured sheet or table cloth. This helps prevent the dough from sticking as you roll it out, and you can also use the sheet to help you roll up the dough.
- Before you start to roll out the dough, read through the instructions, and make sure you're familiar with the steps. There's a link to a fantastic tutorial in the notes if you need some visuals to help you through it.
- Start to roll the dough out into a rectangle, rolling the dough as thinly as you can. Keep lifting and moving the dough as you roll. This will help to stretch out the dough, and it helps keep it from sticking. You're aiming for a rectangle at least 35cm x 55cm (14in x 22in), and you're looking for a dough so thin you can see the sheet or cloth through it.
- Once you've got the dough as thin as you're able to get it, spread the melted butter across the surface of the dough. Spread the filling carefully across the dough, trying to get it as evenly spread as you can. You may need to use your fingers to help spread out the dough.
- Take the longer side of the dough, and begin to tightly roll the dough up. You can use the sheet beneath the dough to help roll if you like.
- Once the dough is rolled entirely in a long sausage, wrap it into the tin. You are aiming for 4 lengths of dough in your tin. Lay one end of the dough down one side of the tin. Turn it around in the tin in a U shape, then repeat at the other end of the tin, laying the second layer of the tin over the top.
- Cover the tin with cling film, and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Don't rush this stage, the enriched dough, and the amount of filling, means that it can take a while to rise. It took my dough about 4 hours in a fairly cool house.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 160C fan / 350F.
- Once the dough is risen, brush with a beaten egg.
- Put into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Turn the oven down to 150C/ 130C F/ 300F, and continue to bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the bread is cooked through.
- Remove from the oven, and leave to cool completely in the tin.
- Once cooled, turn out of the tin. Mix up the icing sugar with a little water, and drizzle the icing across the top of the cake.
- Slice into thick, generous slices to serve.