If you know a thing or two about Slavic cuisines, you’ll know that the basic staple in most of them is white bread. In this part of the world, people are crazy about bread and you can find a lot of different types of white bread. Today, we’ll share our pogacha recipe; a tasty white bread native that originates from (and is very popular in) most countries on the peninsula. Let’s start from the beginning!
What Is Pogacha?
Pogacha is a traditional pastry that’s very popular in the Balkan and Asia Minor. This bread is made by baking it in the ashes of a fireplace, and later on in the oven, similar to Italian focaccia. The pogacha can be leavened or unleavened but I wouldn’t suggest you try the second option unless you’re very experienced in baking bread.
The traditional pogacha recipe uses wheat flour, but sometimes, barley and rye can also be used. Commonly, it’s made plain but you can also find a lot of different local versions stuffed with potatoes, white cheese, ground beef, or olives. Grains, sesame, and different kinds of herbs can be used for decoration.
As the size goes, pogacha breads can be big or small in size but we prefer the small version because it looks a lot cuter and a lot more appetizing. If you’re too lazy to make your own, when traveling to the Balkan, you can find pogacha in most bakeries or pastry shops.
Etymology & Origin
The word pogacha derives from the Latin expression Panis Focacius which translates to bread baked on a fireplace. In Byzant, the recipe was known as πογάτσα (pogátsa) and this is how the current name became popular in most Balkan countries. Traditionally, the dough used for pogacha was baked under the embers but this changed throughout the years because it’s too time-consuming and there are a lot more efficient ways to prepare it.
The recipe likely became popular in the Balkans as a local version of Roman focaccia and it served as one of the basic staples during the Middle Ages. Today, pogacha is a part of every Christmas Eve/Easter dinner table and it’s also served on slava, during the Great Lent, for Name days, and other festive celebrations.
Are you a fan of baking? Check out some of our other popular bread recipes!
Pogacha Recipe Variations
As the case with many other Balkan recipes (like zelnik or proja) every family has its own, slightly different way of making pogacha. The main differences lie in texture, size, flavor, and height. Some pogachas are more tender, while others have a scone-like texture. In addition to this, every country has its own local variation of the traditional pogacha recipe. The three countries where you can find the best version of pogacha are Macedonia, Serbia, and Bulgaria but there are a lot of other local variations too.
For example, in Turkey, pogacha is more of a puff pastry and it’s often consumed as an appetizer. The local version is filled with either sour cream or curd cheese. In Hungary, the bread is known as pogacsa and is made from short dough or yeast dough and is usually filled with potatoes, fresh cheese, cabbage, paprika, pork cracklings, red onion, or poppy seeds while in Greece, this dish is known as bougatsa and is traditionally filled with cheese, cream, or minced meat. Traditionally, it’s served for breakfast.
However, the Balkan isn’t the only place where you can find pogacha. You can find similar recipes in Spain (hogaza), France (fougasse), Catalonia (fugassa), and Portugal that has a sweet version of pogacha known as fogaca. Some similar but slightly different dishes can also be found in the Constantine region of Algeria that resembles the French version with the main difference being that it’s filled with a sauce similar to taktouka. Finally, you can also find a similar recipe in Brazil. Over there, it’s known as pao sovado.
Tips & Interesting Facts
You can make the dough with or without leaven. However, good unleavened pogacha is becoming harder to find because the recipe is a lot more difficult.
For making delicious pogacha, choosing the right flour is essential. The flour must be fine and rich in gluten. Gluten is the key ingredient for an ideal rise and a soft dough. This will also increase the flavor because strong flour is usually of better quality.
The richer your preparation (butter, eggs, or oil), the more gluten-free flour you’ll need.
When making soft buns like pogacha, keep in mind that everything should be at room temperature. If your ingredients are cold, the buns might not be as soft as desired.
Finally, if you’re thinking you might need a machine for this pogacha recipe, don’t worry- you don’t. You can make pogacha only by using your hands. The most difficult part is the kneading until the dough holds together but this is something anyone could do.
The biggest pogacha was prepared in 2011 in Smederevska Palanka, Serbia. This massive bread had a diameter of 5 meters and a weight of 600 kg.
Pogacha breads are also used in a very popular saying in Macedonia and Serbia. The saying goes “Preku leg pogacha” and refers to greedy people who want to get “pogacha” even when they already have “bread” on the table.
First, let’s distinguish between large pogacha and small pogacha. A large pogacha is traditionally served for holidays or family gatherings alongside other dishes for the main course meal. Traditionally, it can be served with tavce gravce, sarma, ajvar, pindjur, kajmak or many other dishes. The small pogacha can be found in most bakeries and this variation is usually filled with cheese, vegetables, etc. and is always a great choice for a quick breakfast for busy working people or students.
A Few Things You Might Need For This Recipe
- 1 cup milk
- 5 cups all-purpose flour (plus additional for shaping)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
- 1 active dry yeast
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1. Gather all ingredients together.
2. Scald the milk, add the butter, and cool the mix down to 95 F (36 degrees Celsius)
3. Add butter, sugar, and yeast. Stir until everything dissolves.
4. Leave the mixture to rise at a warm place for 15 minutes.
5. Add the flour into a bowl and dig a hole in the middle.
6. Then, proceed to adding the milk mixture, some oil, one lightly beaten egg, and sour cream or tiny pieces of cheese in the hole.
7. Knead at medium speed for 3-4 minutes, add some salt, and keep kneading for another 5 minutes until it’s nice and elastic. When done, cover the dough and let it rise for one hour in a warm, draft-free place.
8. Prepare a lightly floured surface, place the dough there, and divide it into two pieces.
9. Place both pieces of dough in a greased bowl and flip them to grease both sides equally. Using a sharp knife, draw a cross (or X shape) along the two pieces of dough.
10. Let the dough rise for another 15 minutes and pre-heat your oven to 350 F (177 C).
11. Bake the pogacha for 50-60 minutes.
12. Serve it with some ajvar, pindjur, or kajmak, and enjoy.
Serving Size:100 Grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 330Total Fat: 15.7gSaturated Fat: 2.7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 20.8mgSodium: 1048mgCarbohydrates: 43gNet Carbohydrates: 43gFiber: 4.5gSugar: 1.71gProtein: 7.2g
Did you ever try pogacha? Did you like our traditional pogacha recipe? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
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