Povitica: The October Daring Baker’s Challenge

by piecurious

Autumn.  Early sunsets and the sound of crisp leaves crunching beneath rubber boots.  Scarves and sweaters.  Pumpkin patches brimming with bundled tots and red-nosed mothers and fathers.  White, dewy breath trailing from moist lips.  Cauliflower.  Winter squash.  And apples, apples, apples!

Autumn is settling in and with it a sort of romantic wistfulness washes over us, causing us to reflect back on the recent passing of summer, and to look forward, although perhaps reluctantly, to the coming winter, not yet entirely convinced the lustre of the first snowfall is worth the short days and dreary months.

Autumn is an enchanting season and therefore warrants the attention the food blogging community has bestowed upon it.  Recipes featuring pumpkins, squash and apples abound.  And so I sought not to add to the already overwhelming collection of autumnal entries.  I haven’t even baked a single pumpkin anything.

Hallowe’en has also crept its way into all of my favourite food sites, with recipes for all the scary sweets and spooky treats I could ever hope to want.  So I’ll skip the worms in dirt and brain cupcakes.  Instead, let’s leap ahead two months with the Daring Bakers.  For the month of October the Daring Bakers dared to join the ranks of Walmart, and other bigbox retailers I have heard tale of already displaying their Christmas wares, and took for their next challenge an Eastern European holiday treat.

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!

Of course I jest when I compare the baking of Povitica (POH-VEE-TEET-SA) to bigbox stores hawking Christmas stock in October.  Povitica is so far removed from that class of ‘festivity’, which is what makes it so endearing.  Its consumption is also not limited to Christmas, but other holidays and family gatherings.  A quick search on the Internet will tell you most Eastern European cultures consider some variation of this sweet, yeasted nut-roll (poviti means ‘to bind up’ or ‘wrap in’) to be a time-honoured family tradition.  I cannot help but imagine a small, yellow-lit kitchen filled with twenty or so women of varying ages—all relatives, of course—aprons tied over simple pale pastel knee-length dresses, attending to the povitica, with the intense and fast-paced pitter-patter of familiar and familial female chatter, a mixture of arguments and laughter, rising above the clatter of dishes.

The dough, which is made with scalded milk, butter, eggs and sugar, is rolled out paper-thin, spread with a nut mixture (walnut is common and is what I used), and rolled. While the filling contains sugar and cinnamon and is mixed into a paste, povitica is nothing like the nut-rolls (or cinnamon rolls) you commonly find in Canada and the US. It lacks the doughy and sickly-sweet characteristics that turn my stomach.  Rather, it is a fragrant, and mildly sweet swirled bread, that makes for a comforting breakfast or a satisfying after dinner treat (whether you’re celebrating or not!).

You can find the recipe here.