Potica (paw tee' tzah) is a traditional Slovenian holiday cake. Variations of it are also common in several other Eastern European countries. When my Polish house cleaner saw it on the counter, she said, 'Oh. Christmas Cake!'
Some of my fondest childhood memories are of being at my grandmother's house and helping with the potica, and then enduring the smell for hours before it was done and cool enough to eat. My grandmother came over from the old country when she was twenty, and lived in a Slovenian neighborhood in my hometown, and could she make a tremendous potica!
Well, my grandmother has been gone for twenty years, but when I ran across a recipe for potica on the Slovenia home page, I had to try it. And I was disappointed. It just wasn't the same as my grandmother's.
So I challenged my mother to remember how her mother had made it. And we looked up a dozen or more recipes in cookbooks and from other family members and friends. And we made several poticas, refining the recipe until we had it right. And now I can make potica as good as grandma's.
The smell takes me back to my childhood and her kitchen, and so she is with me still. And my child will take the smell with him, too, but this time he will have the recipe!
One thing to note. Potica is supposed to rise very high, topping out an angel food cake pan. In Slovenia they use special ceramic pans which are higher still. To get the rise you should have, the ingredients, the bowls, and the pans should all be warm, at least room temperature, and the kitchen should best be very warm as well. This way your potica won't catch a chill and fail to rise to expectations.
Measurements are all in English units, but the Slovenia home page has conversions to metric and traditional Slovenian units.
2 pkgs. dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup warm water
Sprinkle sugar over yeast and add warm water. Let it stand until twice its original volume.
5 cups flour (4 cups to start, adding additional flour as needed)
1-1/4 cup warm milk
1/2 cup softened butter or margarine
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum (or vanilla)
1 grated peel of lemon
Pinch of salt
Mix softened butter, sugar and egg yolks until the sugar is well dissolved and mixture is frothy. Set aside. Warm up the milk, mix in salt, lemon peel, and rum, and add to the butter mixture. Form the dough out of the 4 cups of flour, yeast, and milk mixtures. The trick is not to pour in all the milk mixture immediately; use about 3/4 to start with, then add more as the dough forms.
Beat with electric mixer until smooth and elastic. Then keep adding flour as needed, and mixing with a wooden spoon until of consistency that dough can be handled without sticking. Place dough on floured board and knead for about 15 minutes, adding flour as needed to make a non-sticking dough. Place dough in a well-greased bowl; turn dough upside down to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours until double in bulk. While dough is rising, prepare filling.
6 cups finely ground walnuts (approx. 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 lb.)
1 cup finely ground golden raisins
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup thick cream (or 1/2 and 1/2)
1/2 cup butter (or margarine)
3 egg whites, beaten stiff
Mix walnuts and raisins, and grind them together to keep raisins from clumping. Combine all dry ingredients. Warm the cream and honey, and melt the butter in this mixture. Add cream mixture to dry ingredients and mix completely. Fold in beaten egg whites last. Let filling cool as you roll out dough.
Roll out dough on table covered with a tablecloth well sprinkled with flour. Roll out to 1/4" thick, 18" x 24" or bigger. If you do it on a checkered tablecloth, the dough is thin enough when you can begin to see the tablecloth pattern through the dough.
Spread cooled filling over entire dough evenly. Start rolling up dough by hand, jelly roll fashion, stretching dough slightly with each roll. Start at an 18" edge and roll in the 24" direction. Keep side edges as even as possible. Continue to roll by raising the cloth edge slowly with both hands so the dough rolls itself. Dust away any excess flour on the outside of the dough with a pastry brush as you roll. Prick roll with a toothpick as needed to eliminate air pockets.
With the edge of a spatula (pancake flipper) cut off each end of roll to make it the length needed to fit around the inside of an angel food cake pan. Place in well-greased angel food cake pan or Bundt cake pan, being sure to arrange the seam where the roll ended against the center. If you have a two-piece angel food cake pan, it is easiest to roll the loaf onto and around the bottom plate of the pan, and then lower this into the body of the pan. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until double in volume. Bake about 1 hour at 325 degrees.
Put cut-off ends in greased loaf pans, cover with cloth and let rise in a warm place until double in volume, then bake for 30 to 35 minutes at 325 degrees.
For a shiny crust, brush top before baking with 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. milk, OR brush top with melted butter when taken from oven.
Let stand at least one hour before removing from pan. Loosen sides and bottom with knife. Turn onto wire rack to remove, then turn over again onto another wire rack to cool right-side up. Once completely cool, turn upside-down on a cake plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
If you have trouble with the warm potica settling with handling or once you turn it over, an alternative is to leave it right-side up in the pan until completely cool. You can even remove the outer ring of the angel-food cake pan, and let it cool completely that way before turning it over onto a cake plate. Or you can just serve it right-side-up on the base of the pan!
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Last updated: March 31, 2003
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