Croatian Festive Sweet Bread: Povatica
For the biga
Flour, 300 g ( 10 + 1/2 oz )
Water, 300 ml ( 10 + 1/5 oz )
Yeast, 2 tsp
The rest of the dough
Butter, 50 g ( 1 + 3/4 oz ) melted
Milk, 150 ml ( 5 oz )
Flour, 300 g ( 10 + 1/2 oz ) might need more
Salt, 2 tsp
Sugar, 1/2 Cup
For the filling
Walnuts, 350 g ( 12 + 1/4 oz )
poppy seeds, 1/2 Cup
Sugar, 1 Cup brown if you have it
Honey, 3 tbsp
Milk, 1/4 Cup
For the eggwash
Eggs, 1 Unit
Water, 2 tbsp
180 °C ( 356 °F )
Materials and Methods
It’s complicated (the situation, not the recipe)
My Croatian grandmother evocative was not Baka, but Nonna.
The thing is: Nonno and Nonna escaped from Croatia into Italy. (Yeah they escaped into an Italy controlled by Mussolini, smart) and they had my father there. So as it happens my father is Italian, my grandparents were Croatian but called nonno and nonna. Nothing more natural.
So, because of this unique Croatian background every single Easter, Christmas and special occasion my nonna would bake a povatica.
Would that be weird enough? Of course not. We didn’t called it povatica then. It was called easter bread (even in Christmas, mind you). The reason for not using the Croatian name was never quite clear. My guess is: it was some kind of those third generation immigrants things: the previous generations do not teach the language to the new one. Anecdotal evidence, I mean proof? I don’t speak Croatian and my wife does not speak Dutch. Q.E.D.
Not speaking the language did not forbade me of naming it. Informally it was: “the sweet bread that I didn’t like”, or more formally: “it’s delicious can I have another piece?”
The reason why I didn’t like was not a mystery:
It had raisins.. Lots of raisins
Povatica is a rich walnut sweet bread with raisins. Although I never new that it had walnuts until I’ve tried to recover some of my cultural heritage. It is one of those third generation immigrant things: the new generation resents the previous ones because they didn’t pass enough language and culture down the line.
Mine povatica will be raisin less. So if you are looking for a more traditional recipe I liked this one
It begins with a biga. Mix all the ingredients and let it rest overnight in a warm place. Use a large bowl because it will grow.
After the biga has grown you add the eggs, sugar, salt, melted butter and milk to the biga and the biga to the rest of the flour. Work the dough to mix but not to strengthen it too much. It should be pliable and not too sticky.
Cover with a wet towel and let it rest until it has doubled and it is very soft.
Lets contemplate the glorious raisin-less filling
At home it used to be walnuts and raisins period. By removing the raisins I had to assure that the filling is not dry in any way. I added more honey and milk than the original recipe and also some poppy seeds to absorb that liquid.
So in a food processor add the nuts and chop, then the poppy seeds, sugar, honey, milk and vanilla extract.
The filling should be spreadable.
This is no strudel
The dough should be thin but not paper thin as a Strudel dough.
It is a balance between dough and filling. So not too thin not to thick.
Flour the surface and your favorite rolling pin. The recipe worked for two loaves of povatica.
So divide the dough in two. Roll it into a thin and stretchy. Make it longer than it is wide, about twice as long as it is wide
Filling with filling
Here is the easy part. Divide also the filling into two (half for each loaf) and spread it over the dough. On one side go all the way to the border, on the other leave a 1 inch of dough without filling.
Begin by rolling the side of the dough that has filling to the border all the one with a margin.
Repeat with the second loaf, place on the baking tray and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise for at least another hour.
While you pre-heat the oven make an eggwash. 1 egg and 2 tbsp of water.
Glaze the loaves with it and bake for about 30 minutes or GBD (golden brown and delicious).
Let cool down a little. It is the hardest part I know.
I did this for Christmas and it was a success.
Alternatively you can do this ahead of time. I guess if served in 4 hours it would still feel fresh.. kept in the fridge I ate the extra loaf for a week.
Extra confusion bonus: A vegetarian asked me if it had any meat in it.
I could not say no.
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