Potica (pronounced “po-TEET-sa”) is a paper-thin sweet bread filled with walnuts, honey, sugar, and butter. Croatians who came to Minnesota’s Iron Range to work the mines at the turn of the century likely brought this delicacy with them, but now just about everyone in Hibbing, Minnesota, serves it at Christmas, weddings, and other celebrations.
For years, most people in Hibbing bought potica at the Sunrise Bakery, which still makes it the old-fashioned way: stretching the dough until you can read through it, then sprinkling the nut filling on top and rolling it up. But recently, a slightly different potica has entered the scene. When Jan Latick moved to the Iron Range from Slovakia (via Flushing, New York), he brought with him a regional variation of the same cake. After trying his recipe, friends urged him to start baking on a larger scale. While working in the Hibbing Hospital’s maintenance department, Jan baked on the side. And he baked well — his potica won a blue ribbon at the local Balkan Fair. “I felt so horrible,” he told me. “All these ladies come every year, and I get the ribbon.”
After winning more blue ribbons, he decided to go into business, and in 2000, he opened Andrej’s Bakery, named for his father. Now he is making between 200 and 300 loaves of potica a day, six days a week. This easy version, which uses puff pastry dough instead of strudel dough, won accolades from a friend who was raised on the Iron Range and on the potica there.–Joan Nathan
LC Parting with Tradition Note
If you’re going to part with tradition and use puff pastry for this potica, why not take really break with tradition and play with different fillings for your creation? Sure, walnuts are the most usual thing to spread over the dough, but why not dabble with pecans, hazelnuts, or poppy seeds instead? Even, dare we whisper it, Nutella? Or take it in a savory direction with cream cheese and chives or proscuitto and grated Parmesan. Once you’ve got the hang of rolling the dough, there’s no telling the places you’ll go.
- Quick Glance
- 20 M
- 1 H
- Makes 2 loaves
- 10 ounces (3 cups) walnuts
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 4 tablespoons light or heavy cream
- 2 sheets (about 17.3 ounces) prepared puff pastry dough
- 1 egg yolk
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease a 9-by-11-inch jelly-roll pan.
- 2. To prepare the filling, put the walnuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add both sugars, the honey, cinnamon, egg, and 3 tablespoons of the cream, and pulse a few times, until the mixture is the consistency of a chunky paste.
- 3. Flour a table or other flat surface and roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry dough to form a 12-by-16-inch rectangle. Smear half the filling all over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around.
- 4. Starting at the narrower 12-inch end, roll up the puff pastry like a jelly roll, tightly but gently, tucking in the sides as you roll. Place the dough in the baking pan. Repeat with the second sheet and the remainder of the filling. Mix the egg yolk with the remaining tablespoon of cream and brush the glaze over the potica. Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly and transfer to a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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Potica Recipe © 2005 Joan Nathan. All rights reserved.