Pogača: pronounce it POH-gah-cha. In the Cyrillic alphabet: Πогача. A simple, staple Serbian bread.
Pogaca is a yeasted flatbread that’s quick and easy to put together, and simply delicious. It’s fuller, higher and more tender than pita; more like a bakery loaf, but round and short. It’s great with butter, even though that’s not a traditional use; Serbians don’t classically butter their bread. It’s wonderful for dipping into stews and soups like kupus or into dips and spreads like ajvar (Serbian eggplant caviar).
If you’re used to yeasted breads that take the better part of the day to create, what with all the kneading and risings, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find how fast you can get the warm goodness and rich smell of fresh-baked yeasted bread to flood your home when you make Serbian pogača.
This Farmer’s Pogača is a recipe I adapted from the 1963 “Yugoslav Cookbook” printed by the state. Of course, in 1963, just about everything in Yugoslavia was done by the state, as it was a comprehensively socialist economy. Everything from the Zastava factory, home of armaments and, later, Yugo cars, to restaurants of any substantial size were owned and run by the state.
When I traveled there in 1989 I learned quickly to avoid those state-run restaurants. They had the ambiance of, say, a DMV here in the states. Can you imagine the charm of ordering a meal from the person behind the counter at the Department of Motor Vehicles? Asking them the difference between the shopska salata and a Srpska salata listed on the salad page? That was pretty much the flavor of the interpersonal transactions at such places.
Small, privately run inns and cafes were the place to go for a warm, southern Slav experience. And good food redolent more of tradition than of institution.
Pogača is bread, and it can be as plain and dressed down as kolač (holiday bread made with eggs, butter, milk and a little sugar) is rich and resplendent. Usually it’s a yeasted flatbread, round and meant to be broken, not cut. There are many versions, including bogota pogača, meaning “rich pogača,” with extra special ingredients like buttermilk and egg yolks, that’s flaky and folded, sort of like croissant.
This “farmer’s flatbread,” though, is just flour, water, yeast, salt and oil. Easy, quick, and a great side to a hearty meal. The recipe makes three 10-inch pogače.
Don’t forgot to dock and brush with egg. I learned from hard experience that the docking keeps weird bubbles from misshaping the pogača into odd shapes. The egg gives a lovely gloss that’s a shame to miss.
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon yeast
- 6 to 8 cups flour ( I use 2 cups whole wheat and the rest all-purpose)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil or other fat
- Beaten egg (for brushing over top)
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add remaining ingredients. Mix to a medium dough.
Knead for 5 minutes.
Let rest 15 minutes.
Divide in thirds. Roll to size and shape of layer cake pans. Lightly grease the pans. Place dough inside.
Brush dough with beaten egg. Dock (prick all over with a fork.) Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 425, or until golden brown and done. Serve hot, or whenever you please.