Zen Recreations

  Posted Friday, March 24, 2017 at 8:42pm by Zen Recreations

Beba’s Puff-Piece; a Bread Legend you can try Today

Beba’s Puff-Piece; a Bread Legend you can try Today

What’s so interesting about Montenegro? Only everything, even the bread! This scenic little spot on the Mediterranean shares soil types and weather with the middle of Italy, but everything else is clearly Montenegrin, not a bit like other destinations.

Today we’ll share a little taste of local flavor, literally, as we introduce you to our own little puffy piece of paradise: Pogaća (POH-gah-cha). Puff bread is a regional taste treat and staple bread throughout Eastern Europe and Turkey, with each region featuring its own take. Our very own local expert, Beba of Mom’s Kitchen in the city of Nikšić (NEEKshich) will show you how to master this awesome puff bread on your very first try. You’ll knock the socks off anyone who sits at your table!

Puff breads (what you’d think of as focaccia in Italy) come in every conceivable size and type and flavor. Some use yeast; some don’t; some are one inch across, and others are the size of a plate! Beba’s recipe has been handed down from generation to generation, so it’s tested and true, and as much a tradition in this area as coffee and breathing.

Montenegro lies smack in the center of the coastal crossroads between Central Europe on the north and west and Greece and Turkey leading to the east. This pivotal position has flavored the area for millennia, soaking the cuisine in all the traditions of the Mediterranean, the East and all of Europe, blending it all into a special stew of exotic flavors. Italian, Austrian, Greek and Turkish influences surround the Balkans, making for a smorgasbord of awesome food on every hand! Puff bread trace back into the dawn of history so it’s no wonder that, with a little local love and creativity, pogachas have been made into every dessert, treat, scone-like snack and side dish you can imagine.

Naturally, we’d love for you to visit Mom’s Kitchen for yourself and taste Beba’s magic for yourself, first hand, but we want to whet your appetite and get your taste buds ready to travel even if you don’t leave your own kitchen!

You can watch the video and follow the recipe with this link, or we’ve got it spelled out below. Prijatno! (It’s like saying “bon appetite”!)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/pd58x6fnyk2uhn1/Beba%27s%20Traditional%20Puff%20Bread.mp4?dl=0

Beba’s Puff Bread

The biggest trick to Beba’s awesome puff bread is patience! You’ll want leave to the dough alone to rise a few times, so it’s something to start ahead of time. It doesn’t take much time, really, but you have to be able to leave it alone some, too. You can get this done in time for dinner, and it’s easy as can be, so just get started early!

Note: If you use self-rising flour, be sure that it has not expired.

Gather these ingredients:

  • 7 oz.(200 ml) of hot water
  • 7 oz.(200 ml) of yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 serving spoon active yeast
  • 1/3 oz. baking powder (10 grams)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 29 oz. of white flour (900 grams)
  • Margarine or butter - full fat, 16 oz. (500 grams)
  • Sesame seeds

Beba’s Puff Bread Method

Start with 7 oz. (200 ml) of hot water in a bowl.

Add 7 oz. (200 ml) of plain yogurt to make a watery mix.

Add 2 whole eggs plus 1 egg white; set aside the leftover yolk.

Mix well, and add as you mix:

  • 1 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 serving spoon of vinegar (makes the bread crunchy!)

Continue mixing and add:

  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Add 1 serving spoon of active yeast
  • 1/3 oz. of baking flour (10 grams)

Add your 29 oz. of white flour slowly, stirring to prevent it from lumping. (Remember: If you use self-rising flour, make sure it has not expired.)

Mix until you have a soft, even dough.  Leave it at room temperature for at least an hour and a half to rise. (Beba’s secret: If you leave the dough until the next day the flavor is even better!)

Mix it one more time and allow it to rise a second time. (Cover the dough and leave it in a warm place.) Ignoring your bread for a little while is the easiest “work” in the kitchen, but don’t forget to come back!

Take a peek later and when the dough has about doubled in volume, it’s ready to mix again. Put some oil on your hands and very gently mix the dough. Pull the dough from the walls of the bowl towards the middle to mix it and let it rise one more time.

This third rise makes the dough very elastic so it’s easily shaped. You can skip one rising step but your bread just won’t be the same. Take a breath and relax with your wonderful new bread! Cover the dough again and let it rise one last time.

If you’ve had the time to properly ignore your “work”, after about another hour or two the dough is really ready to make great bread.

Put a little dusting flour on your hands to prevent the dough sticking, and pull the dough from the walls of the bowl to the middle. Dust your work surface with  flour put the dough on it and start shaping it.  Divide the dough in half (we will make two shapes of bread).

Use a rolling pin to stretch the dough. Stretch the dough until it’s about the thickness of a finger, using just enough flour to prevent it sticking.

Coat the stretched dough with melted butter (full fat, 8 oz. / 250 g) saving the other half for the second bread.

When the dough is covered, fold in half and slather it again with melted butter/margarine, then again (fold and cover). It will take a few times to get this much butter into your bread!

Get your baking tray ready by pouring some melted margarine on the tray.

Put your dough in the tray and cover the top with butter/margarine, then fold in half and cover it again. Repeat this a few times right in your tray, using up the rest of your butter/margarine, until the dough is completely sodden with it.

If you’re ready to make the second bread, repeat the process with your remaining dough.

When you’re satisfied, you have it well mixed, brush the top of your dough with the leftover egg yolk mixed with 2-3 teaspoons of water. (You should have enough for both pieces of bread.)

If you like, sprinkle the top of the egg yolk coated dough with sesame.

Turn on the oven to 425 Fahrenheit (220 Celsius); cover and allow the dough to rise and absorb the butter until the oven is hot.

Cut your second dough roll into small segments and arrange them in the baking tray.

Once all the segments are arranged in the baking tray put the rest of the margarine on top of the arranged segments, brush it with your egg yolk/water mixture and sprinkle the top of the coated dough with sesame seeds.

Allow the tray of rolled dough segments to rest and absorb the fat.

After 10-15 min place your baking tray(s) in the preheated oven. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

Test and taste your first puff bread! We’re sure you’ll find the crust perfectly crunchy and the middle enticing and soft…! There’s truly nothing like a simple, basic recipe you’ve never tried before to take your meal to a whole new level, and you can take all the credit.

(But if you’re entirely honest, let everyone know that Beba says “Hi!” from Mom’s Kitchen in the heart of Montenegro!)

If food for thought is no substitute for the real thing, you can order a fresh loaf locally from