Potica (pronounced po-TEET-za) is a rolled nut bread from Slovenia (and other eastern European countries) made with a rich yeast dough and sweet walnut paste.
I live in Alabama, and if I want potica, I'm going to have to make it myself.
You might think that since I own a bakery and bake for a living, this would be easy. But it's not.
Making potica is time consuming and expensive, with lots of butter, nuts, cream and eggs in the recipe. And, since there is not a large Slovenian community in Tuscaloosa, not many people know what it is, so there is not exactly a huge demand for it. First generation Americans, of Slovenian descent, would make it themselves. It's the second and third generation who remember their mothers and grandmothers making the nut bread for holidays, weddings, and other special occasions. Most of us never paid that much attention to HOW it was made. And many grandmothers never offered detailed instructions, expecting us to learn the way they learned so many years ago.
The best time and place for me to make potica, is in the bakery (where all the ingredients and tools are) when we are not busy (like today, during spring break).
So I got out my grandma's recipe and multiplied everything by four -- the 60 quart mixer is too big for just one batch.
The dough is heavenly. Truly. For about eight pounds of flour, it has a three pounds of butter. Plus lots of cream and egg yolks. The dough is soft and smooth, and practically melts in your hands.
We have a dough sheeter, which is like a big electric rolling pin, and rolled out two pounds of dough at a time to 2 mm thick (less than 1/10 of an inch), and squared it off. Then spread an equal amount of the filling over the dough.
Then, starting at one edge, began rolling up the dough into a roll.
Once it was all rolled, we cut it to fit our pans.
You can see all the filling rolled up. Then, very carefully, the log is placed in the pan, brushed with some egg, and set to rise before baking.
Once risen, the loaves go in a moderate oven (350oF) for about an hour. Our oven is a little hot, so I turned the temperature down a bit. Still, by the time the loaves were fully cooked, they were quite browned, but you really need to resist the tempatation to take them out too early. Between the soft filling and the soft dough, it takes the full hour to bake the potica all the way through.
I used a paper loaf pan at the bakery. My grandmother -- and my dad and aunts -- used a long metal loaf pan (longer than a typical bread loaf pan), as most modern Slovenians do. But the traditional (and by traditional, I mean REALLY OLD) method is to bake in a round earthenware tube pan, similar to a bundt pan. I've never seen one outside of Slovenia, but this is what they look like. A friend of mine is going there later this spring, and I am hoping he'll bring one back for me.
If you would like to try some potica (and I HIGHLY recommend it), we've got loaves and slices at the bakery this week. Should you want to make it yourself, here's a link to a recipe that's pretty close to mine (except I don't use any orange or lemon peel or cinnamon in the filling). I also used pecans instead of walnuts.