Saturday, April 7, 2012

Walnut Potica (Nut Roll) from Slovenia, for Easter

"My town has tigers and mangoes", my Indian pen pal from Bengal wrote to me. I wrote back "I have mangoes, too, but not tigers..." When I was twelve, I sent a letter to a pen pal association in Ireland. They sent me a list with ten typewritten names and addresses of people from different countries around the world. I sent out letters to each one of them, and received answers from many.  Pen pals often only answered the first time, but some of them were more constant, such as my Dutch pen pal who quickly picked up Greek after a vacation, or Spanish without making any grammar mistakes! Then I was able to meet and stay in contact with at least with one of them. 
Original letter from my Slovenian pen pal, with original photo
A guitar player from Slovenia not only sent me a lovely cassette with guitar music on it, she also sent me her grandmother´s recipe for Potica on green stationery, complete with a photo of it as you can see above. I have wanted to make it ever since. I attempted to make it once, but it didn´t turn out. I am very excited about trying it once more. 
The first time I tasted a similar nut roll,  I was in a train station in Munich. Here are a couple of photos of some of the sights I was able to see when I was in that city:

History of Potica
Potica or povitica is a yeast bread filled with nuts eaten specially for Easter, Christmas, and All Saints' Day. Poviti means "to wrap in". There are sweet and savory poticas, though the most common kind is the walnut version. Some of the other sweet versions are:   poppyseed, cottage cheese, hazelnut, chocolate, tarragon, leek, honey or carob.
Before 200  years ago, potica rolls were placed directly in the oven. 200 years ago, they started placing them in baking dishes to give them the shape they have today.
In the United States, they are eaten in Montana, or for Christmas in southwestern Pennsylvania. In both places, they were introduced by Central European immigrants but were later adopted by most in the region. 

The recipe is from,  by Barbara Rolek. I was pleased to find a fantastic collection of Eastern European recipes in Barbara's section. In other words, this won't be the last bread recipe I will try from that region.

"Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour Total Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup ( 2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 1 1/2 cups finely ground walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar

Place the yeast in warm water, at 105 degrees, until it is warm to touch, but doesn´t burn your finger. Dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside, covered in a glass measuring cup so you can watch it rise. Heat butter, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt until lukewarm and butter has melted. In large bowl, combine yeast mixture, butter mixture and beaten egg yolks.
Add flour gradually, beating well. Divide into 2 equal portions, wrap and refrigerate overnight. When I did so, the yeast made the container's lid puff up, and I feared that the yeast would no longer work later. However, it rose wonderfully.

Make the filling the following day by placing walnuts, 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, 1/4 cup milk and honey in a saucepan on low heat. Stir constantly until the nuts are warm, then remove from stovetop to cool. Foam the egg whites and gradually add 3/4 cup sugar, beating until stiff. Mix together with cooled walnut mixture. Set aside. On a floured plastic mat, marble slab, or counter, roll 1 portion of dough into a 24-inch square. The dough is soft and stretches slightly and delicately, reminding me vaguely of the strudel dough I made weeks before.
Spread half the filling onto the dough, then roll. Coil in a well-greased, 10-inch tube pan or "flanera" (a pan for your flan). Repeat with remaining dough and place the second roll on top of the first. With a sharp knife, cut to bottom of pan in several places. Let rise, covered, until doubled, about 1 hour. You could also roll the dough to a 1/8-inch thickness, spread the filling onto it, roll it and bake as a log. The log option sounds tempting, though I haven´t tried it yet.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 1 hour or until nicely browned. Cool in pan 20 minutes and invert onto a wire rack.

In this slice, you can see that one roll was placed on top of the  other to make the potica.


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