Wake and Bake: Chocolate Walnut Povitica

Carrie Vasios

As the editor of a sweets blog, I get a lot of sugar shipped to my door. Cakes, cookies, and chocolates are typical, and, generally speaking, I thought I had pretty much seen it all. Then one day my buzzer rang. I opened my door, found nothing, and walked down to the lobby of my building. There sat a giant box that I could barely lift, much less get back up the stairs (thanks UPS guy). I opened it up to find 30 pounds of a babka-looking bread called povitica.

I had never heard of this bread before, but when you suddenly have enough of something to feed a small army, you do a little research. Generically known as a "nut roll," povitica is an Eastern European yeasted bread made from a buttery, brioche-like dough rolled around a sugar and nut filling.

This particular povitica was incredibly rich and dense; each loaf weighed over three pounds and the fillings, in flavors like blueberry, weren't all to my taste. But I can get down with any sweet, dessert-like bread, so I put it on my list of things-to-do-one-day-when-I-have-some-free-time, and eventually, over a year later, it happened.

Here's what I learned: The key to making good povitca happens after the first rise. The dough must be rolled almost paper-thin before being covered with the filling. That way, when the loaf rises again, it gets its tight, trademark spirals. The other thing I learned from the shipment is that I personally find the plain sugar-nut and the chocolate-nut versions to be the best. I decided on a chocolate-walnut version, and using unsweetened cocoa powder adds chocolatey depth while balancing out the sugar. The walnuts are ground fine so that they don't disturb the fluffy crumb. Though this bread takes a fair amount of time to prepare, the result is pretty outstanding. The crumb is soft, sweet, and buttery. There is a high ratio of moist walnut and dark chocolate filling, making it a close cousin to rolled danishes and pastries.