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Daring Bakers Challenge- Povitica, or Croatian Sweetbread

The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

We love Povitica. I make it every Yule, in fact, and send a loaf to my parents, Mark's parents and sometimes the BiL and SiL will get a fullsized loaf. While it can be time consuming to make- especially if you want to create really neat designs inside- it is quite delicious.

Traditional filling is either ground walnuts or pecans- I use a mix of both, but it is a very versitile sweet dough that allows you to pretty much use any filling you want, including savory fillings like several fellow Daring Bakers did.

I will admit that I did not use the Challenge recipe, I used my own instead. Both are very similar, so either one would be a good recipe to try. I have included my recipe at the end.

Since I was home visiting family when I made this Challenge, I had lots of guinea pigs family to taste test for me.}:P

This Challenge also features a special guest Sous Chef.}:P

The sweet dough itself is fairly simple and isn't really that sweet, which means it's perfect as is for any kind of spreadable filling. Since I was at my parents' house for this Challenge, it took a bit of adjusting to using my mom's kitchen and utensils (or lack thereof) instead of my own. In my head, I was making a list of utensils I think I'll end up getting her for Christmas.}:P

Meet my Sous Chef for tis Challenge- my 2nd oldest niece, Allison (I have 4 nieces and 1 nephew). Apparently she really hates having her photo taken.}:P

Bloom the yeast in the warm water - which basically means add the 2 together, stir and let sit for about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl (or using a stand mixer if you have one, my mom does not, so this entire Challenge was done entirely by hand), beat the eggs. Then add the warm milk, sugar and butter. Add the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Annoy your Sous chef by continuing to make sure she's in the shot.

Gradually add half the flour and continue to stir until smooth. Allison is actually a great baker, even if she does hate having her photo taken.}:P

Continue to add flour until the dough is easily handled. Knead the excess in and turn out onto a well floured surface. The dough will be sticky and soft. Knead until it's as smooth as you can get it. I placed my dough back into the same bowl Allison mixed it in, rather than a lightly oiled one. I made sure it was well floured first, then covered it and set it aside to proof until doubled in size.

Meanwhile, gather the ingredients for the filling. I brough my Black Cocoa up with me to use in the filling, as well as my Hershey's Special Dark. Everything else was my mom's}:P

In a saucepan, add the butter, sugar and condensed milk. Heat until the butter is melted, stirring to thoroughly combine. Gradually add the chopped nuts and bring the mixture to a slow boil.

Now my recipe says to add the beaten eggs to the nut mixture. But if you do that, you run the risk of having white streaks from the eggs through your filling. So I suggest tempering the eggs before adding them. Take the nut mixture and add roughly 1/3 to the eggs, stirring constantly. Then add the egg mixture to the remaining nut mixture and bring back up to a slow boil.

To the again boiling nut/egg mixture, add the salt, and the cocoa. Both, in my case. Allison vastly preferred taking the photos to being in them.}:P Stir until well combined and remove from the heat to cool slightly.

The filling should have the consistancy of thickened honey and will smell absolutely delicious. You want to let it cool slightly, otherwise you'll run the risk of slightly cooking your dough when you go to spread it.

Take your dough, which has now doubled in size and punch it down. Now, you're supposed to let it rise again, but I usually don't. I do, however, proof the loaves in the pans prior to baking. So essentially, it's the same concept.

Turn your dough out on the floured surface again. Shape it into a long log and cut it into 3 more or less equal pieces. Set 2 aside and cover with a towel. The 3rd piece roll out into a rectangle, approx. 12" wide by 24" long and about as thing as say, a birth day card, or cardstock. This is the most tedious aspect of the whole thing, honestly.

Take your filling and pour roughly 1/3 of it down the center of the flattened dough. Carefully spread it thin, within 1/2" of the edge of the dough. It may take a bit of doing, but it will spread.

Here's where you get the 4 swirl design I make in my loaves.

Starting at one long side of the dough, roll towards the center, making sure to roll as tightly as you can without stretching or tearing the dough. Repeat with the other side.

The dough should resemble a double roll at this point. Take the side closest to you and fold it towards the center. Repeat with the other side. You should have a package of filled dough slightly smaller than your bread pan at this point.

You could, alternatively, lift the rolled dough, before folding in the ends, turning it over so the smooth side is up, and fold the ends under as you place it in the bread pan. Do what's easiest for you.

Allow the dough to proof again, at least 30 minutes. Rinse, repeat with the other 2 pieces of dough. Prior to placing in the oven, brush the top with butter. Bake 30-40 minutes and cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes. While the bread is cooling, brush the top with butter at least 2 more times, allowing the butter to soak in between coats. Turn out and cool completely, or as completely as your guinea pigs taste testers will allow, lol, before slicing.

I sent a loaf home with Allison the next day. She later sent me a text that said, in part, that EVERYONE loved it, that my brother (her father) had asked why we didn't put more stuff in it, lol. The response from my mom and dad was very favorable as well. So I'd say, this is still a rousing success of a sweetbread.}:P And it will continue to be a holiday staple for me.


The Daring Baker's Challenge recipes-

Povitica (makes 4 loaves)


To activate the Yeast:
2 Teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
½ Cup (120ml) Warm Water
2 Tablespoons (30ml/14 gm/½ oz/2 sachets) Dry Yeast

2 Cups (480ml) Whole Milk
¾ Cup (180 ml/170gm/6 oz) Sugar
3 Teaspoons (15 ml/18 gm/2/3 oz) Table Salt
4 Large Eggs
½ Cup (120ml/115 gm/one stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
8 cups (1.92 l/1.12 kg/39½ oz/2½ lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

Walnut Filling:
7 Cups (1.68 l/1.12 kg/2.5 lbs) Ground English Walnuts
1 Cup (240ml) Whole Milk
1 Cup (240ml/225 gm/2 sticks/8 oz) Unsalted Butter
2 Whole Eggs, Beaten
1 Teaspoon (5ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
2 Cups (480ml/450 gm/16 oz) Sugar
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/4 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) Cinnamon

½ Cup (120 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
2 Tablespoons (30 ml/28 gm/1 oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter


To Activate Yeast:
1. In a small bowl, stir 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 teaspoon flour, and the yeast into ½ cup warm water and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Allow to stand for 5 minutes

To Make the Dough:

3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk up to just below boiling (about 180°F/82°C), stirring constantly so that a film does not form on the top of the milk. You want it hot enough to scald you, but not boiling. Allow to cool slightly, until it is about 110°F/43°C.
4. In a large bowl, mix the scalded milk, ¾ cup (180 gm/170 gm/6 oz) sugar, and the salt until combined.
5. Add the beaten eggs, yeast mixture, melted butter, and 2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz) of flour.
6. Blend thoroughly and slowly add remaining flour, mixing well until the dough starts to clean the bowl.
7. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead, gradually adding flour a little at a time, until smooth and does not stick. Note: I did not use all 8 cups of flour
8. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (they will each weight about 1.25 pounds/565 grams)
9. Place dough in 4 lightly oiled bowls, cover loosely with a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and let rise an hour and a half in a warm place, until doubled in size.

To Make the Filling:

10. In a large bowl mix together the ground walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa.
11. Heat the milk and butter to boiling.
12. Pour the liquid over the nut/sugar mixture.
13. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
14. Allow to stand at room temperature until ready to be spread on the dough.
15. If the mixture thickens, add a small amount of warm milk.

To Roll and Assemble the Dough:

16. Spread a clean sheet or cloth over your entire table so that it is covered.
17. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons to a handful of flour (use flour sparingly)
18. Place the dough on the sheet and roll the dough out with a rolling pin, starting in the middle and working your way out, until it measures roughly 10-12 inches (25½ cm by 30½ cm) in diameter.
19. Spoon 1 to 1.5 teaspoons (5ml to 7 ½ ml/4 gm to 7 gm) of melted butter on top.
20. Using the tops of your hands, stretch dough out from the center until the dough is thin and uniformly opaque. You can also use your rolling pin, if you prefer.
21. As you work, continually pick up the dough from the table, not only to help in stretching it out, but also to make sure that it isn’t sticking.
22. When you think it the dough is thin enough, try to get it a little thinner. It should be so thin that you can see the color and perhaps the pattern of the sheet underneath.
23. Spoon filling (see below for recipe) evenly over dough until covered.
24. Lift the edge of the cloth and gently roll the dough like a jelly roll.
25. Once the dough is rolled up into a rope, gently lift it up and place it into a greased loaf pan in the shape of a “U”, with the ends meeting in the middle. You want to coil the dough around itself, as this will give the dough its characteristic look when sliced.
26. Repeat with remaining three loaves, coiling each rope of dough in its own loaf pan.
27. Brush the top of each loaf with a mixture of ½ cup (120 ml) of cold STRONG coffee and 2 tablespoons (30ml/28 gm/1 oz) of sugar. If you prefer, you can also use egg whites in place of this.
28. Cover pans lightly will plastic wrap and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
29. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.
30. Remove plastic wrap from dough and place into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.
31. Turn down the oven temperature to slow 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2 and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until done.
32. Remove bread from oven and brush with melted butter.
33. Check the bread at 30 minutes to ensure that the bread is not getting too brown. You may cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil if you need to.
34. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes, still in the bread pan. Remember, the bread weighs about 2.5 and it needs to be able to hold its own weight, which is difficult when still warm and fresh out of the oven. Allowing it to cool in the pan helps the loaf to hold its shape.
35. It is recommended that the best way to cut Povitica loaves into slices is by turning the loaf upside down and slicing with a serrated knife.

Smaller batch measurements courtesy of Audax

Half Batch Dough Ingredients (Makes two loaves each 1.25 lbs/565 grams)

To activate the Yeast:
1 Teaspoon (5 ml/4 ½ gm) Sugar
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/1½ gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
¼ Cup (60 ml) Warm Water
1 Tablespoon (15 ml/7 gm/¼ oz/1 sachet) Dry Yeast

1 Cup (240 ml) Whole Milk
6 Tablespoons (90 ml/85 gm/3 oz) Sugar
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/9 gm/1/3 oz) Table Salt
2 Large Eggs
¼ Cup (60 ml/60 gm/½ stick/2 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
4 cups (960 ml/560 gm/19¾ oz/1¼ lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

¼ Cup (60 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
1 Tablespoon (15 ml/14 gm/½ oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter

Half Batch Filling Ingredients (enough filling for the two loaves)

3½ Cups (840 ml/560 gm/1¼ lb/20 oz) Ground English Walnuts
½ Cup (120 ml) Whole Milk
½ Cup (120 ml/115 gm/1 stick/4 oz) Unsalted Butter
1 Whole Egg, Beaten
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup (240 ml/225 gm/8 oz) Sugar
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/2 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/1½ gm) Cinnamon

Quarter Batch Dough Ingredients (Makes one loaf 1.25 lbs/565 grams)

To activate the Yeast:
½ Teaspoon (2½ ml/2¼ gm) Sugar
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) All-Purpose (Plain) Flour
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Warm Water
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/3½ gm/0.125 oz/½ sachet) Dry Yeast

½ Cup (120 ml) Whole Milk
3 Tablespoons (45 ml/43 gm/1½ oz) Sugar
¾ Teaspoon (3¾ ml/9 gm/0.17 oz) Table Salt
1 Large Egg
1 tablespoon (30 ml/30 gm/¼ stick/1 oz) Unsalted Butter, melted
2 cups (480 ml/280 gm/10 oz/0.62 lb) All-Purpose Flour, measure first then sift, divided

2 Tablespoons (30 ml) Cold STRONG Coffee
1½ Teaspoons (7½ ml/7 gm/¼ oz) Granulated Sugar
Melted Butter

Quarter Batch Filling Ingredients (enough filling for one loaf)

1¾ Cups (420 ml/280 gm/10 oz) Ground English Walnuts
¼ Cup (60 ml) Whole Milk
¼ Cup (60 ml/58 gm/½ stick/2 oz) Unsalted Butter
1 Egg Yolk From A Large Egg, Beaten
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml) Pure Vanilla Extract
½ Cup (120 ml/115 gm/4 oz) Sugar
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/1 gm) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
¼ Teaspoon (1¼ ml/¾ gm) Cinnamon

There are several options for storing (and eating) your four loaves of Povitica:

• The Povitica will keep fresh for 1 week at room temperature.
• The Povitica will keep fresh for 2 weeks if refrigerated.
• The Povitica can be frozen for up to three months when wrapped a layer of wax paper followed by a layer of aluminum foil. It is recommended to not freeze Povitica with cream cheese fillings as it doesn’t hold up to being thawed really well – it crumbles.

Wolf's Povitica (Croatian Sweetbread)

Sweet Dough:
1-1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup soft butter
2 packages Active Dry Yeast
1/2 cup warm water
7-1/2 to 8 cups flour

1-2 Tbsp melted butter for brushing top of bread

1 can evaporated milk
1 heaping cup sugar
2 sticks margarine
1-1/2 pounds pecans (ground fine)*
4 eggs
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Sweet Dough preparation:

Combine warm milk, sugar, salt, softened butter, and beaten eggs. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add to other ingredients. Add half of flour, mix well until smooth. Add flour to handle easily. Knead dough on lightly floured board. Put dough in greased bowl, cover and place in warm, draft free place until doubled in size.
Punch down and let double again. Divide dough in three parts. Roll each part until very thin in rectangular shape. Roughly 24"-30" in length and 12"-14" wide.
Spread filling evenly over dough, roll and twist in circular shape like a snail or cinnamon roll, or roll up and coil, in 'S' shape for bread pans. Place in greased 8-inch or 9-inch cake pan, or stoneware bread pans. Cover, put in warm place and let rise.
Brush top of bread with butter, and rebrush at end of baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

Filling preparation:

In heavy pan, over medium heat, combine sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Add pecans, then beaten eggs- I temper the eggs before adding, and mix well.
Boil one minutes stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add pinch of salt, cocoa, and cinnamon and mix well. Let cool till just warm enough to spread.

Yield: 3 loaves

* Ground walnuts can also be used. I even made some with strawberry cream cheese filling that was really good as well. so the filling is very versitile. It just needs to be able to withstand baking.

It refrigerates for several weeks, but only lasts a week if left out. Makes great toast, even french toast if you rolled it tightly enough to stay together well.

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Oct. 31st, 2011 12:18 am (UTC)

Gorgeous Work

It is so much fun baking with a sous chef! I love your posting it contains so much information and thank you for posting your technique of forming the pattern and your recipe. I think this recipe will became a family favourite of many of the Daring Bakers'. Wonderful photos of your niece (even if she is camera shy LOL). Your tips and advice were invaluable in this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.
Oct. 31st, 2011 02:08 am (UTC)

Fantastic Povitica!

Amazing! Your Povitica was a huge inspiration for all of us! Absolutely gorgeous! Your Sous chef is adorable and I'm sure she had a great time baking with her aunt. Lots of fun! Thanks for sharing all your experience!
Oct. 31st, 2011 02:10 pm (UTC)
This povitica loaf looks just as beautiful as your 'best' one. Question - in your step-by-step photos, it looks like the filled dough is being rolled from the shorter side to meet in the middle instead of the longer side. I want to try the povitica again, so just curious if I'm seeing things!
Nov. 1st, 2011 06:58 pm (UTC)


Beautiful! Thanks so much for all your help and tips this month, you were great! I love the way you roll your povitica, too!
Nov. 2nd, 2011 08:39 pm (UTC)

Povitica Expert!

How wonderful to have an expert on hand to give all these tips and tricks. The pattern in your loaf is so perfect, next time I will study this post to get mine to look just as good :)