povitica on a cutting board

There are a few things I can’t get enough of: Mini pigs, paintings by Van Gogh, brownies with ice cream, intriguing and nail-bitingly dramatic episodes of “Mad Men” (and perhaps moreso, their style) and now, a new addition to the list. Ladies and gentlemen, meet povitica.

When mine eyes were first laid upon this bread (probably on Pinterest, another distraction I never seem to tire of, even many long hours after my droopy eyes have said, “Enough with the DIY hanging plant holders!”), I knew it had to be in my kitchen. Right. Now. There was no time to waste! I was a girl obsessed! This bread was destined to get in my belly! It was admittedly a low point.

rolling povitica dough

And then — oh, and then — I saw the gargantuan list of directions. My heart sank. I was done for. In my Post-Holiday Stupor of Undeterred Laziness, I knew I’d give up as soon as the recipe called for any verb.

povitica bread dough in loaf pan
baked povitica bread in loaf pan

However, after a few hours of wallowing in my self pity of non-povitica-ness, wherein I probably nervously drank copious amounts of hot chocolate, took a nap and looked at photos of mini pigs on Pinterest simultaneously, I decided enough was enough. A new New Year’s resolution was to be had; and thus, so was this povitica.

povitica loaf on cooling rack

Dear Lord. This sweet bread is a gift from above. It is worth every verb in this recipe. I mean, there are chocolate and walnuts and butter and sugar on the line here, people! So take a deep breath, maybe peruse a few photos of mini pigs yourself, and get down to business. You won’t be sorry.

Povitica, Croatian walnut bread
Adapted slightly from Passionate About Baking

Yields: One loaf

For the dough —
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

For the filling —
1 1/2 cups walnuts, ground
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

For the topping —
1 egg white, beaten
1/2 teaspoon sugar crystals (optional)

In a small bowl, stir together sugar, flour, water and yeast and let stand 5 minutes until foamy.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat milk to just below boiling (about 180 degrees F), stirring constantly to avoid that gross film that forms on top. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly to 110 degrees F.
In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix the scalded milk, sugar and salt until just combined. Add eggs, yeast mixture, vanilla extract, melted butter and flour and stir until just combined. Switch to a dough hook and knead in stand mixer for about 5 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon flour at a time until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl and is smooth and elastic; OR, place dough on a lightly floured countertop and knead by hand for about 10 minutes, adding 1 tablespoon of flour as necessary until dough is slightly sticky and smooth and elastic.
Shape dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Grind the walnuts, sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor until finely ground like coarse sand, and transfer to a medium bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring milk and butter to a boil, then pour the liquid over the nut mixture. Add egg yolk and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Set aside until mixture comes to room temperature.
Punch down risen dough and on a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 10-inch square. Brush with 1 teaspoon of melted butter, if desired.
Using your hands or a rolling pin, very carefully spread dough thin; so thin, that you can see through it to the countertop. Spoon filling evenly over dough.
Roll the dough carefully from the long end like a jelly roll, using a bench scraper to scrape any stubborn dough up from the countertop. Carefully place rope into a greased 8-by-4-inch loaf pan into the shape of a U with the ends meeting in the middle (or really, however it ends up in the pan that resembles a uniform loaf shape). Brush the top of the loaf with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Cover pan lightly with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover pan and bake bread for 15 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees F and bake bread for another 30-40 minutes, checking on the loaf after 20 minutes to make sure it’s not too brown (if it is, cover with a dome of aluminum foil to prevent over-browning). Bake until a thermometer inserted in the center of the dough reads 200-210 degrees F. Remove pan from oven and allow bread to cool in pan on a cooling rack for 20-30 minutes, then allow to cool completely outside of pan before slicing and serving.