Tag Archives: Breakfast

How Potica could change your world

If a cinnamon roll and a loaf of brioche bread got together and had a love child while on honeymoon in Slovenia, it might result in this week’s culinary adventure.

Potica (pronounced po-TEET-sah).

In the Slovenian-American community, it is the go-to dessert/breakfast item for special occasions.

Christmas. Potica. Easter. Potica. Wedding. Potica. Anniversary. Potica. Birthday. Potica.

With good reason. This is the stuff of which addiction (and weight gain) is made.

In the version we are preparing for you today, Potica is an enriched yeast dough rolled as thin as the skills of the Slovenian baker allow; spread with butter and a mixture of English walnuts, cinnamon and sugar; drizzled with honey and rolled into a loaf.

potica_loavesIs it a pastry? A bread? A cake?

The web is awash in debate – at least among the American-born descendants of Slovenian immigrants who see it as their heritage/tie to the mother country.

Reknowned Slovenian ethnologist Dr. Janez Bogataj (You’ve heard of him haven’t you?) refers to it as a “cake.” And, while its tempting to let the man who wrote the seminal work on the “cake” – Potice iz Slovenije (Poticas of Slovenia) – have the final word, we feel like doing so would signify that we have given in to the European Union on its Monsanto-esque quest to control food commerce.

Say what? European Union? Monsanto? Culinary commerce control? Where did all of this come from?

I thought we were talking about a cinnamon roll/brioche love child that might be a bread…or a pastry…or a cake.

We are. We will. But nothing is that simple.

Let’s call it the Slavic butterfly effect.

A stuffed shirt in Slovenia flaps his gums about the need to define and protect Potica.

Potica is a cake. Potica dough must be made only with nine specific ingredients. There are only 40 recognized fillings. It must be cooked in a clay or metal cylindrical mold with a circular protrusion in the center. It should originate from a certain region.

We need laws. ‘Protect Potica,” is the rallying cry. Give Potica European Union protected food status.

Laws are passed. Time goes by. The United States begins recognizing international  trade  law. The owners of the Rocky Mountain Potica Company in Evergreen,  Colorado whose Slovenian family has been making Potica for hundreds of years get a cease and desist letter from the European Union telling them they cannot market their product as Potica because it is baked in loaf form and several of their products such as the “Elvis Wrap and Roll Potica” with its peanut butter, honey and banana filling don’t adhere to the EU’s 40 recognized filling standard.

The owners of the Potica company fight the lawsuit, which is joined by Elvis’ estate. Their multi-million empire (built on the food formerly known as Potica) is bankrupted. They reorganize and reopen under the name Rocky Mountain Nut Roll company but the company owners and their children remain more than a little bitter. And not just regarding the business. Their heritage – its preservation and evolution – has been impeached.

It sounds a bit ridiculous, but is it really that far-fetched?

Most people have become accustomed to making a distinction between “Champagne” and “Sparkling wine.”

Why? Litigious society.

Three European Union schemes of geographical indications and traditional specialities, known as protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI), and traditional specialities guaranteed (TSG), promote and protect names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs. They are based on the legal framework provided by the EU Regulation No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs. This Regulation (enforced within the EU and being gradually expanded internationally via bilateral agreements between the EU and non-EU countries) ensures that only products genuinely originating in that region are allowed to be identified as such in commerce. The legislation first came into force in 1992. The purpose of the law is to protect the reputation of the regional foods, promote rural and agricultural activity, help producers obtain a premium price for their authentic products, and eliminate the unfair competition and misleading of consumers by non-genuine products, which may be of inferior quality or of different flavour.

These laws protect the names of wines, cheeses, hamssausages, seafood, olivesolive oils, beers, Balsamic vinegar and even regional breads, fruits, raw meats and vegetables.

Foods such as GorgonzolaParmigiano-Reggiano, the Waterford Blaas,[4] Herve cheeseMelton Mowbray pork piesPiave cheeseAsiago cheeseCamembert, Herefordshire CiderCognacArmagnac and Champagne can only be labelled as such if they come from the designated region. To qualify as Roquefort, for example, cheese must be made from milk of a certain breed of sheep, and matured in the natural caves near the town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon in the Aveyron region of France, where it is colonized by the fungus Penicillium roqueforti that grows in these caves.(Wikipedia)

Do these measures protect food heritage? Corner the market on the food product’s commercialization? Both?

Who decides when a food item’s evolution stops or whether/when it is entitled to be called by a specific name? Courts and governing bodies?

In the case of Potica, we hope that the hundreds of thousands of Slovenian-Americans who have developed a food heritage over the last couple of hundred years and might not fit exactly into Bogataj’s metal or clay mold will be considered.

Regardless, we’ll continue to eat the Slovenian-American sweet and savory versions of Potica and call it by the name it earned at the hands of grandmothers who handed the food tradition down to subsequent generations.

The recipe that follows may or may not be Potica.

potica_detailPotica recipe
Ingredients
1.5t active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk, warmed
1 cup butter, softened
6 egg yolks
1.33 cups mil
5 cups flour
1t salt
Filling and coating
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup honey
6 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup sugar
1T cinnamon
dash of salt
1. In a mixing cup, dissolve yeast, 1t sugar and 3T flour in the warm milk. Mix and let stand 10 minutes
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with remaining sugar (beat 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy) on a medium setting on your mixer. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the reserved yeast mixture, remaining milk, 4 cups of your flour and the salt. Mix using a rubber spatula until there are no white flour spots and a dough begins to form. Add the remaining flour a half cup at a time. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes).
3. Lightly grease a large bowl. Place the dough inside. Cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until doubled in volume (about 1 hour).
4. Make sure your walnuts are finely chopped (use a food processor) or they will tear the dough when rolled. Combine them with the sugar and cinnamon. Reserve.
4. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets. Remove dough from bowl, divide into four equal pieces. Place one piece of dough onto a lightly floured pillowcase (or if you think you can keep it from sticking – a lightly floured countertop). Roll it out into a rectangle that is almost twice as long as it is wide and 1/4-inch or less thick.
5. Spread 2T of melted butter across the rectangle, making sure that it is well-covered. Use more if needed. Spread almost two cups of the filling across the dough. Drizzle the filling with 1/4 cup of warm honey. Begin rolling from width (not length) as you would a jelly roll. Every two turns prick the dough with a fork. Pinch the ends closed and place seam-side down on the prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown at 350-degrees fahrenheit. Internal temperature should be 180-200 degrees depending on how well done you like your dough.
7. Remove. If possible, allow to cool before eating/slicing. Some folks say day old Potica is the best because the filling has more opportunity to permeate the dough/bread/cake/pastry.

Czech yourself before you wreck yourself – Povidla (plum) Kolaches

A friend of ours of Czech descent brought us a bag of extremely ripe plums from his backyard tree last week and said he had run out of ideas of what to do with this year’s bumper crop.

Plum sorbet? Plum jelly? Plum skillet cake? Plum compote? Broiled plums with Moscarpone? Plum Crostata?

Povidla!

The second we thought of it we knew that was what the doctor had ordered. We were transported to Central and East Texas where my mom’s family hails from and where Czech mothers and grandmothers of our friends (all whose names seemed to end in “ek”) once let us gorge ourselves on the fruit butter/sweetener/spread that they had tucked away in their cupboards with neat rows of other preserves in Ball and Kerr jars.

Never had it? Think of the apple butters or other fruit butters you are used to but made from sweet, sweet plums.

Sweet nectar of the old Slavic gods. We had forgotten about this everyday preserve that today we consider a delicacy (primarily because we have no idea where we can find any of it).

Slather it on biscuits, pancakes, toast. Bake it into cakes. Top kolaches with it.

Mmm. Kolaches.

Povidla is literally the original kolache topping.

And, unless you are going to travel to East or Central Texas, Czechoslovakia or Moravia, you are going to have to make it yourself.

After making ourselves a batch of Povidla one night last week, we got a hankering for the kolaches of our youth.

Instead of making a dough that we knew would require three separate rises, we set off to town to purchase one from a bakery.

Now, we didn’t expect to find a Povidla Kolache, but we figured apricot, poppy seed or cream cheese might be within spitting distance of where we live. After all, we know a lot of folks with Czech surnames in West Texas.

Trips to three donut shops – all of which claimed to have kolaches – left us “Novak – ing” (the Czech equivalent of the surname Jones) for the real deal.

And thus begins the rant and an open letter to the proprietors of local bakeries, pastry and donut shops.

A Kolache consists of a dollop of fruit filling (and only fruit filling – unless it is cheese or poppy seed based) rimmed by a pillow of enriched yeast dough. It is round – the word ‘kolache’ coming from the word ‘kola’ which is wheel in Czech.

What it isn’t:

A pig in a blanket. It is not croissant dough, biscuit dough or even yeast dough wrapped around a link sausage or ‘Lil Smokie.

The Czechs do make a baked good that consists of a link sausage surrounded by the same kind of dough used in making kolaches. It is a klobasnek. (Even Czech kolache shops do sometimes call these kolache because it easier to ask, “what kind do you want” than to teach ‘Muricans a knew language).

Please don’t advertise kolaches if you don’t have them. It hurts our hearts.

End of rant/open letter.

Long story short. We came home and made our own, which is what we should have done in the first place. And unless you are around Caldwell during its Kolache Festival or West during West Fest or any number of East Central Texas towns where there is a Czech bakery (Calvert, West and even Houston), you’re probably going to have to make them yourselves.

Povidla formula

The Povidla we grew up eating was simple but time consuming.

  1. Remove the pits from as many ripe, ripe plumbs as you can get your hands on. If you don’t have at least five pounds (preferably 20 or so), it isn’t worth your time.
  2. Put the plums in a heavy bottom pot. Add half a cup of water. Bring to a soft boil (medium heat) and stir occasionally.
  3. Continue until your plums have broken down almost all the way to liquidy, pulp with skins (about 1-1.5 hours on a low simmer)
  4. Transfer the plums to a blender and blend until it is a smooth puree (this is my nontraditional take).
  5. Return to the pot and continue to cook and stir at a simmer until it is a thick batter/paste.
  6. Taste and add sugar to your liking (a half cup at a time), making sure to cook the Povidla until the sugar has melted off and become completely incorporated. (If you have extremely ripe plums, you don’t necessarily need sugar. It also depends on the plum’s variety and tartness)
  7. Can as you would a jelly. (I once ate Povidla from a jar without permission and my friend’s mother told me that it had been at least five years since she canned it/that she didn’t know there was any left in the cover. I never got sick/am still here).

Kolache recipe (makes 24)

2.25t yeast

1c warm milk

.5c unsalted butter at room temperature

2 large eggs

6T granulated sugar

1.25t kosher salt

zest from two lemons

4c bread flour

Egg wash

1 large egg

1t cream

1t water

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm milk with sugar.
  2. Add butter, beaten eggs, salt, lemon zest.
  3. Add two cups flour and turn it with a rubber spatula until it absorbs the liquid.
  4. Continue adding remaining flour in half cup additions until you have a workable dough.
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about five minutes or until it is smooth and when allowed to sit for a second contracts.
  6. Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and allow it to rise for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  7. Punch the dough down. Knead briefly. Return dough to oiled bowl and allow to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in bulk.
  8. Punch the dough down. Knead a couple of turns. Divide the dough in three equal pieces (about 390g in weight) and form three separate balls.
  9. Allow the dough to sit for 10 minutes (relaxing the gluten)
  10. Put parchment paper on a baking sheet.
  11. Cut each ball into eighths and roll the little triangles into balls before pressing them into half-inch tall circles on the baking sheet.
  12. Cover the dough with a moist towel or plastic wrap that has been oiled and allow to rise for an hour.

    Use a spoon to create a well for your Povidla or other fruit/cheese filling.

    Use a spoon to create a well for your Povidla or other fruit/cheese filling.

  13. Using a spoon, create a well in the center of each piece of dough, leaving a half-inch rim on the outside.
  14. Brush the rim with the egg wash.
  15. Fill the well with 1-1.5T of Povidla or fruit/cheese filling of your choice.
  16. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.
  17. Cool on a rack and eat within a day or freeze for up to three months.
  18. Reheating instructions from room temperature product: place in a preheated 350-degree oven for 5 minutes.