Breads Breakfast Recipes

Povitica, Your New Holiday Baking Tradition

November 23, 2019
Povitica Nut Bread

Povitica is a Croatian sweet bread traditionally made during the holidays. I learned about it from my cousin Andrea who is an extraordinary baker and cook. Nothing is too big a challenge for her to tackle. Can you say three tier wedding cake? Anyway, the last time we visited, we made this Croatian sweet nut bread together. And while it has a lot of steps and takes all afternoon, it is so worth it. It is the perfect family or team project for the holidays. I don’t know about you but I love holiday baking with family. Great memories, something to keep everybody busy and the bonus of a sweet outcome.

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Now this Povitica or Swirl Bread recipe makes a ton. Five good sized loaves of bread, more if you make smaller loaves. So with all the time you invest, you have a couple for yourself and several to give as gifts. If you do this with a small group, everyone takes home a loaf. Did I mention that if you buy Povitica from a bakery you can expect to pay about $35 a loaf?

So, there are several steps to making this nut bread. Making the bread dough. Then while the dough is rising, making the filling, which in this version is a nut paste. And then, the best part, rolling out the dough, spreading on the filling, and shaping the loaves (and that my friends is why, there is a must watch video to accompany this post) and lastly, baking them.

Now don’t be scared, I know this is Holiday bread recipe is a big departure from my easy, simple philosophy but sometimes you gotta stretch your skills. Just take things one step at a time and do this with a some folks you love working with. Make an afternoon of it and enjoy the ride. There is nothing like baking bonding!

Make The Dough

Povitica Dough Ingredients
Povitica Dough Ingredients

This is basically a brioche dough. A sweet yeast bread made with eggs and milk. It is a very soft, stretchy, forgiving dough. I like the forgiving part.

Start out by scalding the milk. This means gently heating milk until it is just below a boil. Do this over medium heat. You will see bubbles around the edge of the pan and steam. Once you are here, add the sugar and salt and stir until they are dissolved. Now remove the milk from the heat and let it cool.

Get you a 2 cup measuring cup and add one cup lukewarm water to it. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the water. Sprinkle 2 packets of yeast over the top. Give it a gentle stir. Set that aside to let the yeast do its magic. Bloom away baby! Give ‘er about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the softened butter and the eggs. Add a bit of the warm milk to the butter and eggs to temper them. Now, slowly add the eggs and butter to the rest of the scalded milk mixture. Whisk this all together.

Place these liquids to a large mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook. It’s time to start adding those 8 cups of flour. Take your time. Spoon in the flour a bit at a time. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a clump around the dough hook. You may need to add a bit more flour here. The dough should be soft and silky and a just a bit sticky.

Ok, so if you do not have a mixer with a dough hook, after this, I bet you add that request to your Christmas list. This dough can be made by hand. Use a very large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon. Poor your liquids into the bowl and add the 8 cups of flour about 1 cup at a time. At some point the dough will get too stiff to stir. Thats when you start kneading it in by hand. Do what you can in the bowl and then turn it out onto a floured board to finish. This is when a team effort will be really handy. Knead this until it becomes soft and silky but still a bit sticky. You may use a bit more than 8 cups of flour.

At this point, form the dough into a nice round ball. Place it in a large, oiled bowl. Turn it once or twice so the whole ball is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to proof. You want it to double in size. This will probably take about and hour but it could be a bit more. That’s ok, this is the time the bread develops that yummy, yeasty flavor. So don’t rush it. While the dough is rising, get started on the nut paste. Have a chat with your baking buds while you’re at it.

Povitica Nut Filling Ingredients

Make the Nut Paste Filling

Again, this is where if you don’t have a nice big food processor, add it to that Christmas list. You want the nuts ground so that they are about the texture of coarse sand. Normally Povatica is made with just walnuts but we liked the pecan flavor in there as well. And yes, that is 13 cups of nuts total. So get the nuts processed.

Now in a large skillet, at least 12 inches in diameter, melt the butter over low heat. Add the brown and white sugars and combine everything. Next, add in the milk and then the nuts. Turn the heat up to medium, and take turns stirring until the mixture reduces down by 1/4 to 1/3. You want it thick and rather paste-like. Once you’re there, pull it off the heat. About now your dough should be doubled in size and ready to divide.

Divide the Dough

Once your dough has doubled in size, punch it down and then place it on a floured board. Using your fingers, press out all the air. Form it into a long log. Maybe about 2 to 2 1/2 feet. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, divide the dough log into 5 equal parts. Roll each part into a round ball. Place each ball into a oiled bowl large enough to allow the ball to double in size. I have seen some recipes where they place the individual balls all into one large bowl to proof, but we did not test this. Turn the dough in the bowl to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to proof until double in size. This should take about an hour.

Fill and Shape the Loaves

Now comes the really cool part of this recipe. Once the dough is double in size, you are going to roll each dough ball out into a rectangle about 18×24 inches. (Click here for the how to video). Start out by placing one of the balls of dough on a floured work surface. Ideally this is on a table covered by a cotton cloth. We used a small table cloth. Use your fingers to press the dough into a rectangle. Then use a floured rolling pin to roll out the dough into a large rectangle. The dough should be really thin. Almost to the point that you can see the surface below it.

Ok, it’s time to spread out the filling. In this case it’s our nut paste. Spread out the filling using an offset spatula or spoon. Spread it almost to the edge on 3 sides. However, leave one of the long sides with about an inch border. This is the side that is going to be at the end of the roll. You don’t want the filling to seep out, so leave this bit of open space.

Once you have your filling evenly spread, start on the long end without the border and start rolling. Use your fingers or the edge of the cloth to start the roll. Carefully roll the dough all the way to the other side. Pinch the end a bit so the filling doesn’t seep out. Now, fold the roll into half or thirds and carefully place it into your well oiled, loaf pan. We like placing the folds on top of each other because when you cut the loaves, it’s really pretty. If you go to all this trouble, you deserve pretty, right? Repeat this procedure for the remaining dough balls.

The Final Rise

Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow them one last rise for about an hour. About 45 minutes into this last rise, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Mix up an egg with a bit of water. Take a pairing knife and pierce each loaf five or six times. This is important. Don’t forget this step. This will release steam and allow nice tight loaves. Brush the tops with the egg mixture so you get a beautiful brown, glossy top on your loaves.

Bake!

Povitica Pin

Place the loaves on the middle rack of your oven and bake them for 15 minutes at 350°F (180°C) for 15 minutes. Then turn them down to 300°F (150°C) and bake for another 30 to 45 minutes. Use the convection setting on your oven if you have it. Keep in mind, these settings may vary based on your oven and how many loaves you are baking. Use your sense of smell. When the loaves are golden brown, they should be done. Take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack still in the tins for 30 minutes. Then using a knife, loosen the edges and tip the loaves out. Let them cool completely before slicing. Uh, that’s in theory. Patience is not one of my virtues when it comes to this bread.

Sweet, decadent, a tiny bit of crunch from the nuts. Oh my gosh. A slice with a cup of coffee. It just doesn’t get any better. These loaves will freeze beautifully. Just allow them to come to room temp, slice and voila. They are so pretty. Serve for breakfast, or dessert and of course with afternoon tea or coffee.

Yield: 5 Loaves

Andrea's Povitica

Andrea's Povitica

Povitica is a traditional Croatian nut bread usually made for the holidays. There are many versions based on different fillings. This one features walnuts and pecans.

Prep Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup luke warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 8 to 10 cups flour

For the nut paste filling

  • 12 cups English walnuts
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar packed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For the top of the loaves

  • 1 egg mixed with a little water

Instructions

To make the bread dough:

  1. In medium size sauce pan over medium heat, scald milk
  2. Add sugar and salt to the milk and stir until dissolved
  3. Set aside to cool
  4. Fill a 2 cup measuring cup, with 1 cup of luke warm water (about 105°F, 41°C). Add 1 tsp of sugar to the water and sprinkle in the yeast. Gently stir until combined.
  5. Set aside and allow the yeast to bloom for 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together softened butter and eggs until combined
  7. Add the milk mixture to the butter and eggs. Whisk together until combined
  8. Add the liquids to a large mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook. If you do not have a mixer with a dough hook, this can be done by hand using a large wooden spoon.
  9. Add 8 cups of flour to the liquids slowly, allowing the flour to mix with the liquids to form a soft, sticky dough. If needed add a bit more flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a clump around the dough hook. If doing this by hand, mix using a large wooden spoon until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Finish by kneading in the flour by hand a little bit at a time.
  10. At this point place the dough onto a floured board. Knead a few times until the dough is still a bit sticky but also soft and silky.
  11. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a large, greased bowl, turning once to coat.
  12. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size. This should take anywhere for 1 hour to 90 minutes. Do not rush this process because this when the dough develops the rich, yeasty flavor.

For the nut paste:

  1. While the dough is rising, make the nut paste.
  2. In a food processor, grind the nuts until they have the consistency of very coarse sand.
  3. In a very large, (at least 12 inches) heavy bottomed skillet, over low heat, melt the butter
  4. Add the sugars and combine
  5. Add the milk and nuts and cook over medium heat stirring often until mixture becomes thick and paste like. Reduce down by 1/4 to 1/3 of its original volume
  6. Set aside

To form the bread:

  1. After the dough has doubled in size, punch the dough down and place it onto a floured board.
  2. Press the air evenly out of the dough and shape it into a long log. Using a bench scraper or large knife, divide the dough into five equal parts.
  3. Roll each part of dough into a round ball. Place each ball into a greased bowl, turning once to coat. Each bowl should be large enough to allow it to double in size.
  4. Cover the bowls of dough with plastic wrap and allow them to rise for 1 hour or until double in size.
  5. Form the loaves one at a time by first stretching the dough with your hands into a rectangle. Then, using a rolling pin, roll the dough into an 18X24 inch rectangle for a standard size loaf pan. It is easiest to do this on a board or table covered with a large piece of cotton material (like a table cloth) that has been well floured. You want the dough to be very thin, you will almost be able to see the surface below it.
  6. Divide the nut paste into 5 equal portions.
  7. Spread one portion of the warm nut paste in an even layer over the dough. Spread the paste almost to the edges on 3 sides. Leave about 1 inch of space on one long side. This is the side you will roll towards.
  8. Using your hands or by picking up the edge of the cloth, roll the dough starting from a long side like a jelly roll to form a rope ending on the side with the 1 inch border.
  9. Fold the dough over itself so that it will fit into a loaf pan. I recommend folding it in thirds. This achieves a prettier visual effect when the bread is sliced. Carefully place in a well oiled loaf pan.
  10. Repeat this procedure for the remaining pieces of dough.
  11. Cover loaf pans with plastic wrap and allow to rise about an hour or until doubled.

To Bake

  1. A few minutes before bread has finished its last rise, preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
  2. With a pairing knife, poke 6 to 8 holes into the bread. This is important because it allows steam to escape and keeps the loaf tight.
  3. Mix 1 egg with a little water
  4. Just before baking, brush tops of loaves with egg wash.
  5. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300°F (150°C) and continue to bake for another 30 to 45 minutes. These times could vary depending on your oven and the size of the loaf pans. The loaves should be golden brown.
  6. Allow loaves to cool in the pans for about 30 minutes over a wire rack. Remove from pans and allow to cool completely before slicing.

Notes

This recipe is well worth the time it takes. Making a large batch will get you through the holidays. Povitica freezes very nicely.

Making this recipe with a small group is a great team building experience. If you are looking for a great family baking tradition this is it.

Nutrition Information

Yield

60

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 896 Total Fat 23g Saturated Fat 6g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 16g Cholesterol 30mg Sodium 146mg Carbohydrates 150g Net Carbohydrates 0g Fiber 6g Sugar 19g Sugar Alcohols 0g Protein 22g

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