I guess that makes bread another one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. For real, though, nothing is more comforting than a big slice of freshly baked bread, especially when that bread was baked just for you, bursting with platonic friend-love!
Since November seems to be my month of friend-birthdays, my stand mixer has certainly been getting its exercise of late. The birthday-celebrating friend in question shares my love for a certain television programme: The Great British Bake Off. This show captures everything I love about baking without all of the fluff that our typical U.S.-based food shows add to the mix. No excessive backstories of childhood mistreatment, no on- or off-screen romances, and no malicious sabotage to detract from the main event: the bakes! From the music (which now plays relentlessly in my head when I’m rushing to finish a batch of cookies), to the beautiful English countryside that forms the backdrop, to the hilarious announcers, to the genuflection-worthy judges, to the pristine Kitchen-Aid stand mixers, GBBO has it all. It is a baking contest in its purest form.
I wanted to commemorate my friend’s quarter-century birthday with an authentic GBBO recipe. Since I had recently re-(re-)watched the 2014 season and been inspired by Chetna’s povitica, I decided to give it a try, slightly adulterating the recipe by adding chopped apricots, walnuts, and coconut to the dark chocolate filling (the same chocolate filling that I use for my babkas — decadence in the extreme).
Slightly limited by my minimal counterspace, I can’t roll out my dough quite as thinly as a traditional povitica dough should be rolled, but I’m still able to stretch the pliable, easy-to-handle dough into a sufficiently large rectangle to achieve my purpose. Though this recipe has quite a few steps, the amount of actual hands-on time really isn’t too onerous (especially if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook); just be sure to give it a read-through first to get your bearings!
Though this recipe contains yeast, because this is an enriched dough (i.e. it has butter, eggs, and cream in it), don’t expect the type of rise you would see with a baguette or other simple flour-salt-water yeast dough. As long as you see your yeast get frothy in the first step, you’ll be fine!
The biggest fear associated with baking a loaf for somebody else (either a good friend or Paul Hollywood) is serving an underbaked loaf. The only way to really know if the bread was cooked properly is to wait for it to cool and cut into it; however, it’s generally-considered to be poor practice to gift somebody a loaf of bread that you’ve already butchered. But fear not; there are a few less-invasive ways to tell when your bread is fully cooked! Be warned, however, that having a gooey filling (like, oh, say, chocolate) makes knowing exactly when it’s done a bit trickier. Best to bake a practice loaf first — personally, I see no downside to having a spare povitica on hand to eat yourself 😉
[Photo credit: Satisfied instagram post from the Birthday Girl @klavyusheva]
This bread is best served warm with a hot cup of coffee or English tea 🙂
Fruity, Walnutty, & Chocolatey Povitica
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup whole milk, warm but not hot (Rule of thumb [finger, actually]: You should be able to comfortably dip and hold your finger in the warm milk — if it’s too hot, it’ll kill your yeast)
1 package yeast (~2 1/4 teaspoons)
4 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 egg, room temp
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts (seriously guys, finely chopped — otherwise they’ll ruin the spiral effect)
1/3 cup finely chopped apricots
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 egg, lightly beaten
Granulated sugar for sprinkling
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine yeast, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and half of the milk. Stir, and let sit 10 minutes — mixture should then be bubbly and frothy. Add in remaining sugar, remaining milk, butter, and egg, and combine with mixer on medium until smooth (~2 minutes) — you can do this part with a wooden spoon if you don’t have a stand mixer. Turn mixer — or your arm-speed — to low, and add in flour and salt. Let the dough hook knead for 3 minutes — alternatively, lightly flour your counter and knead gently for 5 minutes — dough will be springy and moist but not sticky. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let sit in a warm location for 1 hour.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, place chocolate, butter, vanilla, salt, and espresso powder, and set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and cream, and heat until sugar is dissolved and you see steam forming (~5 minutes). Turn off burner and carefully pour hot mixture over the butter and chocolate (watch for hot splatter!). Use a heat-safe rubber spatula to gently fold together ingredients, and continue stirring until mixture is uniformly smooth and glossy. Set aside to allow to cool, ~45 minutes.
Generously butter a loaf pan, being careful to adequately lubricate all corners.
Clear off the biggest expanse of counter-top that you have, and lay down a large sheet of wax paper (I’m talking like 3 feet long here). Sift a thin, even layer of flour over the entire surface of the wax paper. Plop the rested dough onto the middle of the floured wax paper, and dust the top with more sifted flour. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into the longest rectangle that your counter can accommodate — this is a very pliable dough, so you should be able to easily roll it pretty thin (~1.5-2 mm thick…sorry for going metric on you, that’s what happens when you measure people’s gums all day). For optimum aesthetics, the length of the rectangle is more important than the width.
Give your cooled chocolate filling a few quick stirs with a rubber spatula, then spread the filling evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a small border around the entire perimeter. I would say to lick the spatula, but there’s raw egg in the dough, so just use all of the filling in the bread #nosalmonella. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts, apricots, and coconut evenly over the chocolate. Run a dampened finger around the naked perimeter to make the dough surface sticky. Starting on the long edge of the rectangle that’s closest to you, tightly roll of the dough, typewriter-style, until you reach the opposite edge. Seal the long edge along the length of the roll by gently pressing the sticky edge along the roll.
Bring your prepared loaf pan onto the counter at which you are working, as close to your roll as possible. Carefully pick up one end of the roll, and place it along the long edge of the pan. Continue draping the roll into the pan, coiling and overlapping it on itself, until the entire length of the roll is in the pan — avoid leaving any open spaces within the coil. I’m going to apologize for this analogy upfront, but it’s the best I can come up with: the way to coil the rolled up log in the pan is very much like the way your small intestine is coiled within your abdomen — closely packed and tightly coiled. Again, sorry, just want to make sure you get the idea.
Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator overnight.
Remove pan from fridge 90 minutes prior to baking and let sit at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Once 90 minutes have elapsed and oven has preheated, remove plastic wrap, and brush top of loaf with an even layer of beaten egg (you won’t use all of the egg, but just save the leftover in a clean jar in the fridge to add to tonight’s frittata). Sprinkle top with sugar, and bake for 75-90 minutes — I know this is a broad range, but everybody’s oven is different — I use a glass pan, so my povitica tend to take 90 minutes; a metal pan should be more like 75-80 minutes. Bread is done baking when: 1. top is golden brown (if you use a glass pan, you should see that the sides are also golden brown), 2. no visible juggling occurs around the middle when pan is gently jostled, and 3. a skewer inserted into the middle comes out free of any goop (if your skewer comes out covered in chocolate, wipe it off and sample a different area) — you should feel resistance from the baked dough as you insert the skewer; if you don’t feel any resistance, the dough isn’t fully cooked.
Once you are satisfied that baking is complete, place loaf (still in pan) on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes (if the middle of the loaf deflates during this time, it means the loaf wasn’t fully cooked and the middle is not cooked…one of those 20:20 hindsight moments). After 20 minutes have elapsed, run a butter knife around the outside of the pan to ensure that it has not stuck to the edges, and turn the pan on its side. Gently remove the loaf from the pan, and allow it to cool completely on its side [see picture below] — if you let the loaf cool completely in the pan, steam trapping underneath the loaf will yield the dreaded “soggy bottom” (any GBBO fan’s biggest nightmare).