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Even though I am not a big fan of winter, there is one big reason why I do look forward to it. Nuts! Walnuts to be precise. Where I come from the walnut is a staple ingredient in pastry. In Croatia, we use the humble walnut in a lot of things ranging from liqueurs to pastry. Many wonderful desserts can be made with this nut and while I do love cookies, ice cream and pies this simple, sweet bread is my all time favourite. This vegan povitica makes a stunning centrepiece for any party and is so very easily made.
As a child, I used to dip it into hot chocolate, and I could eat it for every meal of the day. Now that I am a grown up I still can not get enough of it! While the traditional version is filled with walnuts, sugar, and butter, you can do whatever you want. There are many variations of this as you can swap around ingredients as much as you like.
There are also different ways of rolling your povitica. While some prefer a perfectly rolled swirl, others like to have more of a random ripple effect. This is the only thing people tend to argue about, and it is hilarious. I guess every country has this one food topic on which people just can not find common ground. I noticed that here in England too – with scones. The debate weather you should use jam or clotted cream first is a never ending one.
I am somewhat stuck in between. I love the loosely rolled swirl. It allows for thick little clusters of nutty, sweet goodness once you cut it into slices. Perfectly and firmly rolled swirls tend to produce a rather dull eating experience in my opinion, while the loosely rolled ripples fall apart too much. As you can see, a lot of time can be spent thinking on how to roll this; it’s serious business! Ha!
In any case, there is one thing you can not argue about. The simplicity of this dish is what makes it so genius. It looks so decadent and tastes wonderfully delicious, but it is so straightforward to make. It needs only a few ingredients that are not hard to come by, and those are inexpensive as well. If you never had a povitica before you should definitely make one. It is one of those dishes that I believe everyone should taste at least once in their life.
Vegan Povitica - Croatian Sweet Walnut Bread
For the dough:
- 175 ml almond milk or any of your choice
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 vanilla pod scraped
- 300 g all purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 tbsp water warm
- 1 1/2 tsp dry yeast
For the filling:
- 300 g walnuts
- 6 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- 125 ml almond milk
- 1 tbsp coconut oil melted
- 2 tsp sugar
- Pour the almond milk, 3 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp coconut oil and the scraped out part of a vanilla pod into a small saucepan. If you want you can put the vanilla pod in there as well for extra flavour. Heat the mixture gently until all is combined evenly, take the vanilla pod out if you added it and let it cool down to room temperature.
- To prepare the yeast, add 4 tbsp of water and 1 tsp sugar. Mix well and let it rest until it's slightly foamy - usually around 5 minutes, it should be ready by the time the milk mixture has cooled down.
- Pour all dough ingredients in to a mixing bowl and knead well, add just enough extra flour until it stops being sticky. The dough should be really soft and bounce back when lightly poked. Form a ball out of the dough, dust it with some flour and cover it with a cloth. Let it rest for 1.5 hours in a warm place. It should at least double in size.
- Place the walnuts, cocoa powder and sugar in, a food processor and pulse for a few seconds until all is evenly combined and resembles fine, dark sand. Pour the mixture into a bowl and add the milk. Mix it in by hand. Resist the urge to pout the milk into the food processor you will end up with a large dough like lump that is impossible to spread.
- Once the dough has risen make sure you have a large surface to work on. I usually use the dining table for rolling out the dough. Dust the table lightly with flour and place the dough into the center. Gently roll it out into a huge circle with about 1m (40inch) in diameter. It should be as thin as possible. Make sure that it does not stick to the table. Add a little bit of flour if necessary but use it sparingly.
- Spread the filling evenly onto the dough and roll it up. Place the dough into a lightly greased baking form and let it rest for another 15 minutes at room temperature. There is no real rule when it comes to placing the dough into a form. You can do that which ever way you like and every time you bake this bread you will, have a different pattern - which can be fun.
- Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and sprinkle 2 tsp of sugar over it. Bake the bread in a preheated oven for 10 minutes at 180°C (350°F). Lower the temperature to 150°C (300°F) and bake for another 40-45 minutes.