They say it takes a village of woman to make Potica and if you ever make this Slovenian walnut roll, you’ll find out why.
It’s time consuming. It seems incredible that such a simple cake could warrant so much work, but worth it? Oh yes, definitely. Special occasions don’t seem really special without Potica on the cake plate. That said, you don’t really need a reason to bake it– any day’s a good day for Potica.
I don’t have a village of women, but I do have 2 daughters and excellent delegation skills. No matter how many times I have made it in the past, or make it with them now, they always ask those little details that you forget (or, that they don’t write down). So this is one of those recipes I know they’ll be looking up tomorrow, next week and in years to come. There are quite a few Potica variations out there, all as good as the next one, I’m sure. This is an authentic recipe. It’s an old one and it works for me.
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- About 60 grams fresh yeast (that’s 2 fresh cubes or 2 tablespoons dry powdered) a note on yeast: make the yeast according to directions on the packet as I know there are some variations out there in brands.
- 800grams plain white flour (or pastry flour if you have it)
- Pinch of salt
- 100 grams fine white sugar
- 250ml / 1 cup full cream milk
- Yolks of 4 large eggs (a note on egg yolks: the more yolks in the recipe, the yellower the dough will be. If you wonder why other Potica’s are a deeper yellow, this is why)
- 160grams butter
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a separate bowl, melt the butter and add egg yolks, beating through the spices, sugar and zest thoroughly. Heat the milk and add, pouring over the butter and egg mixture. It will be smooth, runny and yellow. Set aside.
The yeast should now be active – and have good foam. When it does, it's time to add the flour. In the yeast bowl, add your flour in spoonful’s around the yeast.
Now, pour the butter-egg-spice liquid into the middle of the yeast whilst beginning to stir in the flour from the sides. Mix with a spoon until this becomes impossible. Now start mixing in the flour with your hands.
It might feel like the mixture is too dry at this step – it isn’t. Just persevere.
You can see from my pictures at this step what it looks like. Keep going!
Flour a surface that you are going to knead the dough on. Transfer the dough to the surface to begin the real kneading. You can see from my pictures that I cut the dough in half to manage it more easily. Now at this stage you knead the dough about 10 minutes again (or longer until) it feels light, elastic and springs to touch.
Now form the dough into a ball and place back into its original bowl. You can see from my pictures that my dough bowl is spotless – it has not been washed, it’s that clean after the kneading in the bowl earlier. Rub tasteless vegetable oil or butter over the surface of the dough so that it does not form a tough skin whilst rising. Cover with glad wrap (to trap heat) and then a kitchen towel and set the bowl aside to rise until it is double in height. This is the first rise. This usually takes about 1 hour, depending on your yeast and the warmth of your kitchen. I have doubled in 45 minutes in a warm basin, but it depends on how familiar you are baking with yeast.
Whilst waiting on the first rise, make the filling.
Warm the milk and add sugar, raisins, vanilla, lemon zest and egg yolks and stir through until the sugar is dissolved and the egg yolks are incorporated. Pour this warm golden mixture into a large bowl and add the ground walnut and biscuit meal and mix through whilst warm. Add the cocoa and continue mixing.
It should be sticky and taste wonderful. It should not taste overly sweet. If it is too dry (this can depend on the nut and biscuit crumbs) add more milk (or thickened cream) to achieve a smooth consistency. You do not need to warm up the additional milk or cream.
The filling must be easy to spread but not runny. The cocoa is to provide a lovely brown colour and a hint of flavor. The colour of your fill should be a rich brown colour. Set aside. The mixture is now ready for use.
Back to your dough.
It is risen to double its height and springy to touch.
On a flat surface, lay out a Potica Cloth and flour the surface.
Butter the dough with a few tablespoons of soft butter.
Add the filling, in dabs around the dough and then spread evenly, edge to edge.
Now roll your Potica dough.
Start by turning over the first edge with your hands and pressing down, then, using the Potica Cloth, lift the dough and continue rolling this way, using your hands as a guide only.
Finish as you started, tucking the ends with your hands. You want this tucked edge to be on the bottom of the tin. Now, very carefully, left the Potica and place it in the tin, shaping it to form if required.
The second picture shows a roll you can do if you have a larger flat tin. For that roll, you roll from each end into the middle where you stop. When you cut this Potica log, you have two spirals meeting in the centre. It looks like a twin roll in the picture and some women like to bake their Potica in this way.
After the second rise, it’s ready to go into the oven. I place it straight into a pre-warmed oven.
Bake at 175C for about 45 minutes until golden. This is for a fan forced oven. I like my Potica a little more baked and you can see mine is browner. I baked mine for 55 minutes.
175C is a moderate oven and you may need to adjust according to your own oven. If the temp is too low, the Potica won’t rise nicely and will be dense, if it’s too hot it will burn. Keep an eye on your Potica after the first 20 minutes to see how your oven behaves.
When baked, remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing.
This recipe makes 3 cakes.
A note on breadcrumbs: for every kilo of ground walnut, add 350 – 400grams plain biscuit crumbs. You can add more, depending on taste and consistency of fill. The reason for the biscuit fill is to balance the walnut. It allows you to eat Potica without experiencing a ‘sour’ nut taste afterwards which can sometimes occur from overindulging in nuts! In the past I used to make plain butter biscuits and grind them down. You can purchase them, this is fine. Alternatively, if you find you have biscuits left over from baking for an occasion, this is a good way of using them up.
A note on sultanas: I have a sultana / raisin mix in a deep jar that is steeped in rum. As I use the mix, I simply add more dried fruit and more rum as required. After a time, the fruit becomes infused with rum and the rum becomes a thick treacle from the sugar of the fruit. It’s the perfect addition to recipes such as this. If you don’t have rum soaked raisins in your pantry, simply add a few generous tablespoons of rum to the fill.
A note on the Potica Cloth: I have had my Potica Cloth for the past 35 years, it is linen, and used only for this purpose.