As a young girl, our family enjoyed my Oma's potica bread when we visited our grandparents in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
What Is Potica?
Potica, pronounced "po-TEET-sa," is an old-world Slovenian pastry made from a yeasty sweetbread dough spread out as thin and wide as the baker has the patience to roll. A layer of walnut filling is rolled up into the dough, which is then baked golden brown.
This bread is delicious plain or buttered. It makes a lovely dish for brunch or holiday parties, and is always a welcome gift.
What Is Povitica?
Potica and povitica are essentially the same thing—povitica is simply the Croatian name for this traditional bread.
My Potica Memories
As a young girl, our family enjoyed my Oma's (grandmother's) potica bread when we visited our grandparents in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Though they had immigrated to the United States from Germany, they were of Slovenian descent, and Oma's potica was delicious.
Though her recipe was lost when she passed away, my father missed the bread and spoke of it whenever any similar bread was served. Several years ago, I decided to find a potica recipe and make it for him for Christmas.
An internet search yielded numerous recipes, two of which I have used and revised over the years to recreate the flavor and texture of the bread that I remember. I do not roll my bread dough quite as thin as is traditional, but the bread is still delicious! Here are two ways to make your own at home.
Recipe 1: Traditional Potica
This is a more traditional potica recipe—or at the very least it more closely replicates the version I remember my Oma making when I was growing up.
Prep time: 45 min. Cook time: 2 hours 45 min. Ready in: 3 hours 30 min
Yields 3 full-size breads
For the dough:
- 2 envelopes / 6 teaspoons dry active yeast
- 1/4 cup warm milk (105–115°F)
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup softened butter
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 1/3 cups half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup half-and-half
- 2 pounds ground walnuts
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- Proof the yeast by mixing it into warm milk with 1 teaspoon sugar. The yeast should become thick and bubbly in a few minutes. If it does not look "alive," start over with fresh yeast. Stir in 3 tablespoons flour.
- In a separate bowl, beat the butter with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar (minus the 1 teaspoon that you already added). When it is creamy, beat in the egg yolks. Then add the yeast mixture and stir to incorporate.
- Mix 3 cups flour and salt in a large bowl. Alternately add half-and-half and butter mixture, beating it into the flour on low speed, a little at a time. Stir in 2 additional cups of flour to form a soft dough.
- Spread the remaining flour on a tabletop or pastry mat, and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead for about 15 minutes. The dough will become smooth and elastic. If the dough becomes sticky, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time, until the texture is smooth.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel or greased waxed paper. Let it rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.
- Prepare the walnut filling: Beat the eggs, sugar, and half-and-half in a bowl. Stir in the walnuts and cover the bowl. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.
- After the dough has risen (approximately 2 hours), punch down the dough. On a floured surface, divide the dough into three equal pieces. Cover two pieces with a towel and roll the remaining piece of dough into a large rectangle (approximately 12" x 16").
- Spread 1/3 of the nut filling over the entire piece of dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.
- Roll the dough up tightly from the short side. Place seam side down on a pan covered with baking parchment. Pinch the ends to seal in the filling, and tuck the ends underneath the loaf.
- Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling. Allow the loaves to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. If using a thermometer, the internal temperature of the loaves should reach 180°F.
- Transfer the loaves to cooling racks and allow them to cool before slicing. When completely cool, the loaves can be wrapped in foil and plastic wrap to freeze.
Recipe 2: Potica With Honey
Slovenian miners who immigrated to the United States and settled in the northern Midwest brought this recipe with them. Though similar to the first recipe, above, this version makes a smaller batch. The addition of honey to the ingredients list adds a slightly different flavor to the bread. These loaves are baked in loaf pans instead of baking sheets.
How Is This Recipe Different?
- Makes a smaller batch (two loaves vs. three)
- Sweeter (addition of honey)
- Baked in loaf pans (instead of baking sheets)
Prep time: 45 min. Cook time: 2 hours 30 min. Ready in: 3 hours 15 min.
Yields: 2 loaves
For the dough:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/3 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
- 3 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons half-and-half
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
- Combine 1 cup of flour and the yeast in a bowl. Set aside. Heat 1/3 cup of half-and-half, 1/4 cup butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a saucepan until it reaches 120°F. Add the warm liquid mixture to the flour mixture. Add 2 eggs and beat on high for 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as needed. Stir in 1 cup of the remaining flour using a wooden spoon.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough, adding an additional 1/2 cup of flour 1 tablespoon at a time until a soft, elastic dough is achieved. Shape into a ball and place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the ball. Cover and let it rise until it has doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
- While dough is rising, mix all of the remaining ingredients to make the filling. Cover and set aside.
- When dough has risen, punch it down and set it aside to rest for 10 minutes. Lightly grease two bread loaf pans. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a 15-inch square. Cover and let rest again for 10 minutes.
- Roll the dough into a 30" x 20" rectangle, and cut in half to form two 30" x 10" sheets. Spread filling over the surface of both sheets, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
- Roll each sheet into a loaf, starting from the short edge. Pinch the ends to seal, and tuck them underneath the bread. Place loaves into the bread pans, seam side down. Cover and let it rise until it has nearly doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake for 45 minutes, until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. If bread appears to be browning to much, cover lightly with foil.
- Remove from pans and allow to cool on baking racks. Once completely cool, bread can be wrapped tightly in foil and plastic wrap for freezing.
Tips for Rolling Out the Dough
It can be difficult to roll the dough thin enough for this recipe. I have found that rolling the rectangle a few inches smaller than recommended in the recipe produces a loaf that is not as visually stunning as it would have been had I rolled the dough paper-thin, but the taste is just as delicious.
Before rolling out the dough, you'll need to cut the dough into equal portions. I find that a pastry cutter/scraper or wheel is handy for cutting the dough into rectangles.
In order to roll the dough very thin:
- Be sure that your dough is not sticky. Add flour, one tablespoon at a time, to the dough if it is sticky. Add flour until the texture is smooth and elastic.
- Generously flour your rolling area and rolling pin. I highly recommend rolling dough out on a pastry cloth that has flour rubbed into every crevice. The flexibility of the cloth will aid the process of rolling the dough up into a loaf, and if it is floured well enough, the dough should release from it easily.
- To prevent the dough from sticking to your rolling pin, use a cloth rolling pin cover that has been generously floured. If dough begins to stick during the rolling process, rub more flour into the cloth.
- Place parchment paper on your pans and the loaves will easily release from the pans after baking. Clean-up is easy. Simply throw the paper away, and you're done!
- If you have used copious amounts of flour, it may be difficult to remove all of it from your pastry cloth and pin cover. The flour tends to turn into a glue-like substance, and if it is not completely removed, will harden and turn to little balls that stick to the fabric. To effectively wash a pastry cloth and pin cover, rinse them well in the sink. Then soak them in a bowl of water overnight. Rinse them a second time in the sink, and immediately wash them in your machine with hot water and a mild detergent that does not contain strong-smelling perfumes or dyes.
- A pastry scraper can aid in cleaning up the floured surface by allowing you to scrape excess flour before wiping the surface down.
- A Brief History of Potica, the Traditional Slovenian Dish - Culture Trip
Potica is a traditional Slovenian festive cake served at holidays and important celebrations.
- Potica for the Holidays - Indiana History
The author shares his family's holiday tradition of making the potica recipe that his grandparents brought from Slovenia.
- 10 Most Popular Slovenian Dishes - TasteAtlas
List includes: Potica, Krofi, Kremna rezina, Idrijski žlikrofi, Prekmurska gibanica.
Do You Have a Treasured Family Recipe?
I hope you have enjoyed my potica recipes, and now I would love to hear from you. Do you have a recipe that has been passed down through your family? What is your favorite heritage recipe? Please share in the comments below!