Sometimes you need a real showstopper dessert that tells everyone that today is a special day or a recipe comforting enough to warm your spirits on even the coldest days. Povitica is that dessert.
What Is Povitica?
Povitica is a striking bread spiraled with a walnut and cinnamon filling. It is traditionally served on special occasions like Christmas and Easter, but it’s also cozy enough to be your go-to cold-weather treat.
Povitica begins with a yeast dough enriched with egg, butter, and sugar and is rolled thinly into a long rectangle. Walnuts, cinnamon, and brown sugar are blitzed together into a nutty paste that gets slathered generously over the dough. The whole thing is rolled up into a long, snug rope and it’s folded into an “S” shape in the loaf pan before baking.
The result is a sweet, fluffy loaf patterned with intricate swirls of the walnut spread. Povitica is halfway between cinnamon swirl bread and cinnamon rolls. It looks similar to cinnamon swirl bread but it's sweeter, fluffier, and nuttier; though, still not quite as opulent as cinnamon rolls.
Origins of Povitica
Povitica is a celebratory bread from Croatia. It’s typically served for Christmas or Easter, but it’s likely to show up for weddings and special occasions. In neighboring Slovenia, they make a similar bread called potica, often made with even more butter in the dough and baked in a ring similar to a Bundt or Gugelhupf.
Povitica is also popular in many parts of the United States where Central European immigrants settled toting their trusted family recipes. In these parts of the country, some bakeries still make povitica according to recipes passed down from past generations, like at the famous Strawberry Hill Baking Company in Kansas.
How Does Povitica Differ from Babka?
Povitica may remind you of babka, another filled and twisted bread from Eastern Europe. Babka most likely originates from Ukraine or Poland and modern babkas tend to be richer than povitica. Povitica dough is rolled much thinner than babka, sometimes so thin you can read a piece of paper through the dough. Then it’s folded in the loaf pan in such a way that creates elaborate spirals of fluffy dough and nutty filling.
How to Shape Povitica
The povitica dough will seem sticky when you're mixing it, but after the first rise, it is luxuriously soft and easy to handle. You can be generous with the flour while rolling out the dough. Brush away any excess with a pastry brush or your fingertips when rolling it up though, so the layers stick together better.
The filling should be thick but spreadable, almost like natural chunky peanut butter. Leave a 1/2-inch margin around the edges of the dough, so the filling doesn't squish out when you roll up the dough.
Similar to making cinnamon rolls, roll the dough firmly and tightly into a snug rope. Being firm helps prevent gaps in the spirals in the baked bread. Carefully stretch out the rope, evening out the thickness, until it measures about 20 to 24 inches long. Gently place the rope of dough into the loaf pan, folding it into thirds. The loaf should be three strands wide along the length of the loaf pan, shaped like a wide "S."
Adding Some Sparkle to Povitica
While this bread is certainly rich enough on its own, if you’re looking for a way to make it over the top, why not try a glaze or a simple dusting of powdered sugar?
Whisk together 1/2 cup (57g) powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl to make a thick but pourable glaze. You can adjust with more powdered sugar or water to your taste. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the top of the cooled povitica.
If you prefer a sweet and simple garnish, dust the loaf generously with powdered sugar instead of glazing the top.
Anytime Can Be Povitica Time
Because this bread isn't overly sweet, it's just as tempting for breakfast or brunch as it is for an afternoon treat. Plus, the sweet, toasty cinnamon and walnuts in a slice of povitica pairs perfectly with a hot cup of coffee. While it's lusciously soft and fluffy the day it's baked, I also love to heat leftover slices in the toaster and slather them with a pat of salted butter.
For the dough:
2/3 cup (160ml) whole milk
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups (300g) all purpose flour
3 tablespoons (40g) granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
For the filling:
1/4 cup (60ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (57g) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) walnut
1/2 cup (107g) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the topping:
1 large egg
- Offset spatula
- Rolling pin
- Pastry brush
Make the Dough
Heat the milk and butter:
In a small saucepan over low heat warm the milk and the butter until the butter has melted. Alternatively, add milk and butter into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 15-second bursts until the butter has melted. Try not to boil the milk.
Let the mixture stand until lukewarm while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
Mix the dry ingredients:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.
Knead the dough:
Pour the warm milk mixture and the egg into the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the dough comes together into a rough ball, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. This should take 8 to 10 minutes but keep kneading until the dough gathers around the dough hook and the sides of the bowl are mostly clean.
Let the dough rise at room temperature:
Scrape the dough out onto a clean surface and shape it into a ball. Lightly grease the bowl with butter. Transfer the dough back into the bowl, seam-side down, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Overnight option: At this point, the dough can be stored in the refrigerator, covered, overnight or for up to 2 days.
Make the Filling
Make the walnut filling — heat the milk and butter:
While the dough rises, make the walnut filling.
In a small saucepan over low heat warm the milk and the butter until the butter has melted. Alternatively, add milk and butter into a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 15-second bursts until the butter has melted.
Let the mixture stand until lukewarm while preparing the rest of the filling ingredients.
Process the filling ingredients:
Place the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the walnuts are finely chopped and the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Pour in the milk and butter, jam, and vanilla extract. Process until combined. The filling will have a texture similar to natural chunky peanut butter. Cover and let sit until ready to use.
Shape the Povitica
Prepare the pan:
Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan generously with butter. Line the pan with a piece of parchment paper, leaving a couple of inches of overhang on the long sides. Don’t worry about the short sides, the parchment overhang works like handles to help you easily lift out the loaf later.
Roll out the dough:
Lightly flour a clean work surface and scrape the dough out onto it. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to a long rectangle, about 20 x 12 inches and 1/4-inch thick, with the long edge nearest you.
While rolling, pause to move the dough regularly, lifting it off the work surface and adding a little extra flour if it starts to stick. You can also use your hands to gently stretch the dough to maintain a rectangular shape.
Spread the filling:
Pour the walnut filling onto the dough and use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to spread it evenly over the entire surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch margin around the edges.
Roll up the dough:
Wrap the dough into a snug spiral, starting with the long end closest to you. Use even pressure to form a tight cylinder. Gently stretch the dough if needed to achieve even thickness. It should be about 24 inches long.
Shape the povitica:
Fold the dough rope into thirds, forming a long “S” about the length of the long edge of the pan. Place the loaf in the center of the prepared pan. It’s okay if the dough doesn’t completely fill the pan at this stage. As the dough rises it will expand to fill in the loaf pan.
Proof at room temperature:
Cover the pan with a piece of plastic wrap or a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. The dough should be puffy and will have risen to roughly 1/2-inch below the rim of the pan.
Bake the Povitica
Preheat the oven:
When the loaf is almost ready to bake, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
Egg wash the top of the dough:
Crack an egg into a small bowl and beat with a tablespoon of water using a fork or a small whisk. Use a pastry brush to apply the egg wash over the top of the dough.
Place the povitica in the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F and bake the loaf for 60 to 70 minutes, or until golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted into the loaf should come out without any doughy bits sticking to it. Or you can check with an instant thermometer, which should read 190°F.
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Store the cooled povitica wrapped in plastic or in an airtight container on the counter for up to 3 days.
You can freeze povitica for up to 1 month. Once cooled, wrap the loaf in a couple of layers of plastic wrap, then in foil. Defrost the loaf at room temperature, still wrapped. Before serving, you can reheat it in a 325°F oven for about 10 minutes, until warmed through and the kitchen smells buttery and nutty.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 19g||24%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||32%|
|Total Carbohydrate 43g||16%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||7%|
|Total Sugars 22g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|