Christmas Around the World: Slovenian Potica Cake

potica

Potica. Potvitica. Orechovnik. Štrudla. Orehnjača. However you say it, it all means Walnut Bread…or nut roll, to you and me.

Potica, pronounced poe-TEE-suh, is a rolled yeast bread traditionally made by and loved by Eastern Europeans. (*Note: It’s only called a “cake” because it’s made in a cake pan to give it form.)  If you are at all of Slovenian decent, I’m sure your grandma spent many hours in the kitchen (or in the church) rolling dough, making 20 plus breads at a time. You will find these breads typically filled with walnuts, however, they can also be made with other fillings containing poppyseeds, apples, pumpkin, strawberry jam, hazelnuts, cherries or cream cheese. Contrary to how it appears, potica is not sweet like a strudel, as it doesn’t contain a large amount of sugar. Serve it hot (with a pat of butter) and you have a wonderful bread to pass.

First mention of potica dates back to around 1575. Originally, it was a specialty reserved for the upper class of Slovenia but soon spread to the peasant class of people. Potica is a celebratory bread that began at Christmas but made it’s way to also be eaten as an Easter blessing food. Since there are around sixty types of potica, your grandma’s recipe may differ from the one below. However, they all have one thing in common…each recipe is made with love.

My family heritage is not Slovic, so this was my first try with potica. I’m going to toot my own horn here, as I sent some of the bread with my husband to work. A co-worker of his said it was very close to the recipe his mother used to make. If you try this recipe, you’ll be surprised at how easy the dough is to work with. Very soft and pliable, which allows you to get it so thin without even tearing. I did leave out the dates and replaced with more walnuts, as I couldn’t find any at my local stores (dates aren’t my favorite, anyway.) Next time, I want to try a poppyseed filling. Enjoy and have a “Veselé Vianoce!”

Potica Cake
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 c. Butter, cubed
  • ½ c. 2% milk
  • 3 Egg yolks, beaten
  • 2 pkgs. (1/4 oz each) Active dry yeast
  • ¼ c. Water, warm to 110-115 degrees
  • 2½ c. Unbleached flour
  • 1 TB Cane sugar
  • ¼ t. Sea Salt
  • Filling:
  • 2 c. Ground walnuts
  • 2 c. Chopped dates
  • ¼ c. 2% milk
  • 3 TB plus 1 c. Cane Sugar, divided
  • ½ t. Cinnamon
  • 3 Egg whites
  • Confectioners' sugar, optional
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter with the milk; cool. Whisk in egg yolks until blended. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt; add butter mixture and yeast mixture. Bean on medium speed for 3 minutes (dough will be sticky.) Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the nuts, dates, milk, 3 TB sugar and cinnamon. Cook and stir until mixture forms a paste. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining sugar, 1 TB at a time, on high until stiff peaks form. Fold into nut mixture.
  5. Cut dough in half; on a floured surface, roll one portion into a 20" square. Spread with half of the filling. Roll up tightly jelly-roll style. Place, seam side up, in a greased 10" tube pan. Repeat with second portion; place seam side down, over the first roll-up in the pan (layers will bake as one loaf.)
  6. Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. sprinkle with confectioners' sugar if desired.

Not into potica? How take a trip over to Sweden for these Swedish Raspberry Bars?

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