“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

James Beard (1903-1985)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pogacha - bread from the Balkans

The first time I came across this Balkan bread was in someone else's kitchen. Asija, the Bosnian lady who I knew from work, had made some sarma for me to try and I stopped by her place on the way home to pick it up. Before she handed me the enamel pan, she asked me what kind of bread I was going to eat these stuffed  cabbage rolls with. "It has to be a good bread so you can sop up the sarma sauce. Any other bread will be a catastrophy." Asijah had the most serious look on her face, waiting for me to answer. When I told her I wasn't sure if I had any bread at home at all, she put the pan down, threw her hands up in mock disgust and told me to wait right there.

Asija's sarma
At first, I thought I may have misunderstood her. Wait here? For what? Asija grabbed a small bowl from the counter and reached for the flour container. After putting several cups of flour into the bowl, she walked over to the fridge, bowl in hand, and added a glug of half-and-half and a scoop of sour cream in the bowl. Her hands were moving so fast I had a hard time registering the ingredients, but back at the counter she added yeast, salt and a little bit of oil to the bowl and proceeded to knead. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh her hands rolled the dough, kneading it into a soft, silky matter. Quickly she patted it into an oval, cut three lines across the top, wrapped it in plastic and handed me the whole package. "Proof for one hour, when you get home bake it at 350F until done. Then you can eat the sarma," she grinned. Time past? Not even five minutes!

When I arrived home, I baked the loaf and it was the prettiest, silkiest, loveliest white crumb I'd seen in a long time. What a great bread! It sopped up the sauce very well and held its shape. I jotted down the ingredients as best as I could remember and vowed to soon make this bread again.

The next time I saw pogacha mentioned was when I was researching ajvar for my Ethnic Idaho blog. Ajvar is a lovely vegetable spread made with roasted red peppers, garlic and eggplant. Spread on a slice of pogacha bread, it is a great way to bridge the distance between lunch and dinner. Since I had just tested several recipes for ajvar and was blessed with plenty of it, I decided that this was a great time to bake another pogacha!

Ajvar and cream cheese on pogacha
4 cups of flour
1/2 cup of half-and-half
1/4 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon of yeast
1/2 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Measure the flour out in a bowl. Put the half-and-half in a cup, add the butter and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute: the milk should be warm but not boiling hot. Stir in the sugar and set aside to cool to lukewearm. In the meantime mix the yeast with the flour, then add the half-and-half/butter mixture. Slowly knead four or five times, then mix in the sour cream, the oil and the egg, each one separately until well incorporated into the dough. Finally knead in the salt and continue to knead until the dough comes together and is smooth and silky. Cover in an oiled bowl, and rest until doubled in size. Punch down, shape into a loaf or bake in a loaf pan, slash three times horizontally and bake in an 350F oven until golden brown, approximately 45 minutes.

Pogacha, the Balkan beauty!

Cool on a rack, slice and enjoy with a good stew or something else that requires a good sop-up bread. This bread also toasts nicely.


  1. What a lovely story! Lovely bread too, it seems. And I'm also an Ajvar fan!

  2. We tried making with a bread maker last night another pogacha recipe off the web; disaster except for the interior bits that were cooked through. That recipe had nothing but milk and sour cream...no butter or oil. I will try this one today---and by hand! Wish me luck! I'll report back with results.