Belokranjska pogača (Bela Krajina bread)
Belokranjska pogača is round with a diameter of approximately 30 cm. In the centre it is between 3 and 4 cm thick, thinning to 1-2 centimetres at the edges. The surface is incised with a grid of angled lines approximately 4 cm apart, coated with beaten egg and sprinkled with caraway and coarse salt crystals. The bread has a uniform crust without blisters and a characteristically strong smell and taste of caraway and salt. At its best when warm, the bread is broken along the incised, angled lines rather than being cut.
Ingredients: 500 g soft white flour (type 500) 3 dl lukewarm water 2 teaspoons salt 20 g yeast a half spoonful of sugar 1 whole egg 1 pinch of caraway 1 pinch of coarse sea salt
Preparation of the dough:
Beat together 20 g of yeast, 3 spoonfuls of soft white flour, ½ dl lukewarm water and the sugar. Mix them together until a viscous substance is formed and leave until it has more than doubled in volume.
Mixing the dough:
The mix is prepared using soft white flour (type 500), lukewarm water and the rising agent. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes or until it is smooth and not too hard. It should not stick to the hands. The dough is left covered in the mixing bowl to rise until it has doubled in volume.
Shaping the dough:
The risen dough is turned out onto a greased baking tray and shaped by hand so that it is 30 cm in diameter and between 1 and 2 cm thick, becoming thinner towards the edges. The dough must not touch the edges of the baking tray and must be lower at the edges than in the middle.
Coating, sprinkling and cutting the surface:
The dough is sliced through to the base of the baking tray from one side of the loaf to the other, using slanted incisions approximately 4 cm apart. The dough is then coated with beaten egg to which a pinch of caraway has been added and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.
The dough is baked in a preheated oven at 220 °C for between 20 and 25 minutes. Belokranjska pogača must be baked to a light brown colour. The crust must be uniform in colour and crispness and be without blisters. The middle must be uniformly porous, without water rings, lumps of salt or flour and must not be tacky to the touch. The central part should be 3 to 4 centimetres in height, with the edges being 1 to 2 cm high. The caraway and salt must have been sprinkled evenly. There must be the typical caraway and salt smell and taste of Belokranjska pogača.
Belokranjska pogača is classified as a Slovenian culinary specialty. It is most often encountered in the municipality of Metlika. Its particularity lies in its recipe and the manner in which it is prepared and presented. Once baked, Belokranjska pogača is broken along the incised, angled lines, rather than being cut. A further particularity of Belokranjska pogača is that it is coated with beaten egg and sprinkled with caraway and coarse salt so as to give it the traditional strong smell and taste of caraway when baked.
Belokranjska pogača has been handed down from generation to generation, thereby preserving it as a traditional Bela Krajina speciality. It was most probably brought to the region by the Uskoki who settled in the higher-lying areas on the slopes of the Gorjanci mountains on the Bela Krajina side. There is written and oral evidence of the origin of this flat bread but the written sources are rather sketchy.
The Doljenska (Lower Cariola) collector of folk traditions, the noted Slovenian author and traveller Janez Trdina enjoyed travelling through the above area and knew and wrote about the people living on the sunny side of the Gorjanci mountains. Accordingly, Belokranjska pogača is mentioned in his 1882 book ‘Bajke in povesti o Gorjancih’.
There is a folk song that runs ‘give him pogača for a spring in his step …’ when children go from house to house calling for ‘green Yuri’, wrote the Metlika collector of folk traditions and linguist, Ivan Navratil. The latter's 1849 book ‘Kresovanje v Metliki’ tells of a flat white bread that the local people called pogača.
Pogača has a long tradition in Bela Krajina, being handed down from generation to generation, since it is a real specialty of the region. Housewives baking bread in the baker's oven for domestic use would always also bake pogača for the children so that they could eat it warm while the bread underwent the necessary cooling down before it could be eaten. Even nowadays it is still extremely typical, with housewives preparing it and offering it to welcome guests they have invited to their home, but it is also offered to guests on farm stay holidays. You find it where wine is sold, old people believing that it soaks up the wine and prevents the alcohol from making people drunk.