From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...Poteca is a Slovenian buttery yeast-based pastry that is filled with ground walnuts or poppy seeds and prepared for holidays and special festive occasions such as weddings. Christmas is celebrated throughout Slovenia, though it is a simple affair whose focus remains church and family. Traditionally, the few gifts that are exchanged are food and candy for the children, but a festive table is set for both the Christmas and Easter holiday and Poteca, which is an original Slovenian specialty, will be served at both celebrations. It is considered to be a ritual blessing food and it has appeared on Slovenian tables since the 15th century. Needless-to-say, there are hundreds of recipes for this specialty bread, and, like many folks, I was hesitant to try any of them because the bread looked too complicated to try. This year I bit the bullet and decided to include it with our New Year's Day breakfast. Actually, along with a pineapple juice concoction that is better not discussed, it was our breakfast, and, hopefully, without sounding too full of myself, it turned out to be delicious. I settled on a recipe I found in a special Taste of Home publication called The Best Holiday Recipes and it did not disappoint, though it was not without challenges. This a really more a cake than a bread and while it is made with lots of yeast it rises very little. After the prescribed period of refrigeration, the dough remained brick-like, though it had come together in a cohesive mass. I had a moment of doubt and almost threw it out, but I decided to let the dough sit for about 30 minutes before I divided and rolled it. I must admit that I was not able to achieve the 20 x 20-inch square suggested in the recipe, but I was able to coax mine into an almost 16-inch square that I arbitrarily declared good enough. The rest of the instructions were easy to follow and I actually got both rings into the pan and an hour later had a Poteca that my family loved. It was not beautiful, but it was surprisingly tasty and much more like a cake than a bread. I urge any of you who have the time to give this very special coffee cake a try. It is delicious, and, yes, it had my socks going up and down. Here is the recipe for those of you enjoy a challenge.
Poteca Cake...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy of Taste of Home Best Holiday Recipes publication
1 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
4-1/2 teaspoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups ground walnuts
2 cups chopped dates
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons plus 1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 egg whites
Confectioners' sugar, optional
1) Melt butter with milk in a small saucepan. Cool. Stir in egg yolks until blended.
2) Dissolve yeast in warm water in a small bowl.
3) Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Stir in butter mixture and yeast mixture. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes (dough will be sticky). Cover and refrigerate overnight.
4) The following day, combine the nuts, dates, milk, 3 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Cook and stir until mixture forms a paste. Transfer to a large bowl.
5) Beat egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form. With mixer on high, gradually beat in remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff peaks form. Fold into nut mixture.
6) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 10-inch tube pan with nonstick spray.
7) Cut dough in half. On a floured surface, roll one portion into a 16 to 20-inch square. Spread with half of filling. Roll up tightly jelly-roll style, pinching seams together. Place, seam side up, in prepared pan. Repeat with second portion, however, place, seam side down, on top of first roll-up in the pan (layers will bake as one loaf).
8) Bake for 60-70 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar if desired. Yield: 16 servings.
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