When I think back to holiday traditions that I remember growing up, Easter breakfast comes to mind first: hard boiled eggs, the Easter eggs we decorated, of course, cold Polish sausage, shavings of horseradish root tossed on the eggs and sausage, and potica—pronounced (poh-TEET-sah). Does anyone know what potica is? My Slovenian grandmother made it every Easter without fail. It is a yeast-raised dough rolled around a variety of fillings—sweet or savory. I only knew one kind, a semi-sweet dough rolled around a not too sweet walnut honey filling. Yum, yum, yum! Did I say yum? Oh, and when it is cut in slices, it reveals a pinwheel design—an added plus to this already delightful desert (or breakfast).
My daughter and husband also love potica, and since my brother, who has turned into the baker of the family, lives too far away for us to steal a piece, my daughter and I started making one on Good Friday afternoon.
The dough is a basic, sweet, yeast dough. It’s always nerve-wracking wondering if the bread will proof or not. I used our trusty Minitemp thermometer to make sure the water was between 105° and 115° before mixing in the yeast, so I was feeling confident enough, but you still never know. The dough chilled in the refrigerator overnight and was ready to be rolled out and baked in the morning.
We finely ground a pound of walnuts in the food processor. My grandmother would buy 2 lbs. of walnuts in the shell, shell them all with a nutcracker, then grind them in a hand grinder. I must say, thank goodness for food processors and walnuts that can be purchased already shelled!
The filling consists of scalded milk, butter, honey, sugar, walnuts, an egg yolk, vanilla, and an egg white folded into the mixture. It is very thick, sticky, and a bit difficult to spread.
My mom cuts this in half and puts each piece into a loaf pan. I decided to bake it on a cookie sheet like my brother does. I put the potica into a slightly warm oven to rise for a couple of hours. We kept checking on it to make sure it was rising.
And, it did!
50 minutes later we had a freshly baked potica and a house filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. What was the hardest part of making potica?
Waiting for Easter morning so we can taste it, of course.
I promise to show you what potica looks like when it’s sliced.