Potica is a traditional Slovenian pastry made with flaky dough and a sweet nut filling. You might be wondering what I’m doing making Potica, which is a reasonable question.
I suppose it started with my mom, who loves the stuff. It’s not exactly easy to find in stores, so she was always estatic to find someone had brought it to work for a holiday treat or for sale at a baked goods table at some event.
Then there’s my husband. He goes crazy for Potica. Both sides of his family make it, he grew up eating it…and for about as long as I’ve been cooking with him, he’s wanted me to learn how to make it. My standard response was that we didn’t have the counterspace, and while that used to be true, it’s not any longer. So it was time to learn to make Potica.
David was happy to organize the event, by purchasing a not-so-subtle three pounds of walnuts from Costco, and inviting his mom over to teach me. So it came to be that Dave’s mom came over a couple of weeks ago, with well-used loaf pans and a couple of worn, aged recipe cards (one for the dough, one for the filling).
She maintains that the recipe is not enough–you need to be taught to make this tricky pastry, and I certainly understand her point. For one, the recipe is an old family affair that involves measurements like “enough milk” and “just enough flour.” For two, it really was tricky work, stretching the dough so super thin. (Literally, thin enough to read a newspaper through!). No rolling pin will get you to dough that thin, it’s got to be done by hand. I was very grateful to have an experienced player in the kitchen, let me tell you.
Was it worth it, in the end? I have to say yes. For one, it’s a favorite of David’s, along with my mom and my granny, three people I love very deeply. And the look on my mom’s face when she realized what I was handing her was priceless. I also enjoyed hearing how much Granny liked it. In some ways, I’m not looking forward to the work that the next batch will require, but at the same time, I’m looking forward to making a batch on my own.
Plus, since David ran out last week, I expect I’ll be seeing another not-so-subtle bag of walnuts from Costco any time now.
Potica (Walnut Pastry)
Makes 4 large rolls
For the Filling:
- 3 sticks butter
- 1 cup honey
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 to 2 cups of milk, divided
- 2 lbs ground walnuts (I ground them using the fine plate on our Food Grinder attachment for the KitchenAid mixer).
For the Dough:
- 12 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 sticks margarine (melted)
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 4 eggs, well-beaten
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 packet of dry active yeast, or the equivalent
1. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add honey, sugar, and salt.
2. Beat the eggs with 1/2 cup milk and add to the nut mixture.
3. Add more milk, a little at a time, until the nut paste is smooth enough to spread. You’ll probably need about a cup of milk, but it could be more.
4. Cook for 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid the paste sticking to the bottom. Let stand for at least an hour at room temperature while preparing the potica dough.
5. To make the dough, heat margarine, sugar, and salt together in a small saucepan pan over medium-low heat.
6. Beat the 4 eggs with 1 cup of milk. Add a small amount of the margarine mixture to the beaten eggs and whisk to slowly raise the temperature of the eggs. Remove from heat and add the egg mixture to the margarine in the sauce pan. Whisk constantly to keep the eggs from curdling. Set aside, away from heat, and allow to rest until the mixture is cool to the touch.
7. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water with a teaspoon of sugar. Stir into milk mixture.
8. Add 6 cups of flour to the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add the milk/yeast mixture and mix until just combined. Fit your mixer with a dough hook, and mix on high.
9. Add additional flour about a cup at a time as the dough hook begins to shape the dough. When the dough is a smooth ball, but still sticky to the touch, turn the dough out onto a counter covered with flour.
10. Knead the dough, adding flour as necessary, until smooth. Place the dough in a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to give the dough a chance to rise. Let rise for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
12. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
11. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, work to roll and stretch the dough to a rectangle, about 1/16th of an inch thick. Work carefully so as not to put holes in the dough. When the dough is thin enough it will be almost translucent. Carefully spread with one quarter of the nut mixture, and carefully roll up the dough. Place on a baking sheet, covered with a towel, and allow to rise for at least 10-15 more minutes. Repeat until all four rolls have been made.
7. Place each roll on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can put two rolls on one full size baking sheet, but be sure to leave space between them. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour, until the dough is golden brown and the filling is set. The roll will be firm to the touch when the potica is done.
8. Allow to cool completely before slicing into 1 inch thick slices to serve. Potica rolls stay fresh for about a week if wrapped well, but can be frozen as well.