Month: January 2022

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.78: Potica from Slovenia

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.78: Potica from Slovenia

Think of it as the child of a love triangle of brioche, cinnamon bun and baklava, only with a lot less sugar. For Slovenian celebrations – Easter, Christmas, weddings, whatever – the Potica (the “c” is pronounced “ts”) is a favourite baked item. (I’m not really sure whether to call it a bread or a cake). There is even a special mould for it called a Potičnik, which is a relative of the bundt tin more commonly found in the UK or US, but with a different pattern around the top. However, if you don’t own a bundt tin, you can make a perfectly good Potica in a normal loaf tin, as I’ve done here: it just won’t be quite as striking.

The critical part here is to make a beautifully stretchy dough enriched with eggs, butter and some sugar, although really a lot less than you might expect from similar breads around the world. I’ve started with this recipe from Jernej Kitchen and I’m really impressed: it’s resulted in a truly lovely dough: smooth, elastic, non-greasy and deeply satisfying to work with.

Next, it’s the filling. Staying with Jernej, I’ve gone for walnuts and honey, which is probably the most popular version of Potica: apparently, you can choose any of the usual things that Eastern Europeans like in pastries: poppyseeds are a favourite of mine.

Finally, rolling and baking. Let’s be honest here: looking at the photos, it’s obvious that there aren’t nearly enough turns on my spiral of dough and filling. Partly, that’s the fault of the recipe suggesting that I roll it to 40cm long – I think doubling that would have been good – and partly, I wimped out of how thin the dough was. Next time, I’ll roll out the dough to as close as I can get to the full length of my board and then make strenous efforts to roll the whole thing as tightly as I can.

By the way, proving times are pretty flexible. Jernej gives a couple of options, both of which involve long proves in the fridge; I didn’t have time so I just proved at slightly above room temperature and watched carefully until the dough was risen how I wanted it, which I think worked fine.

The dough

  • 5g dried yeast
  • 25g sugar
  • 270ml milk
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 65 g butter
  • 8g salt
  1. Put the milk into a bowl and warm until lukewarm (45s in my 900W microwave got the milk to 34℃).
  2. Put the yeast, sugar and milk into a bowl and leave until frothy (10 minutes or so)
  3. Put the flour into the bowl of your stand mixer
  4. Separate the eggs: place the yolks in the bowl with the flour, setting aside the whites, which you’ll use for the filling.
  5. Add the yeast mix to the bowl and mix with the standard paddle until well combined
  6. Melt the butter and add it to the bowl with the salt.
  7. Switch to the dough hook and knead at low speed until smooth and elastic – around 8-10 minutes.
  8. Form the dough into a ball and place in a bowl and cover.
  9. Leave until risen to around doubled in size – around 1-2 hours depending on the temperature of your kitchen.

The filling

  • 300g walnuts
  • 60g honey
  • 30g granulated sugar (or caster)
  • 100g single cream (Jernej went for 75 g heavy cream – single was what I had)
  • 20g butter
  • 20ml rum
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 2 egg whites reserved from above
  • 25g caster sugar
  1. Put the walnuts into a food processor and grind until fine – but don’t overdo it: you don’t want oil coming out of the walnuts.
  2. Put the honey, granulated sugar, cream, butter and rum into a saucepan and bring to the boil; simmer for a minute or so.
  3. Add the mixture into your bowl with the walnuts, add the cinnamon and lemon zest and stir thoroughly.
  4. Wait until around 10 minutes before your dough is sufficiently risen before the next step, which is to make a meringue.
  5. Beat the egg whites at high speed. Once they are soft and beginning to fluff, add the sugar gradually as you beat.
  6. Continue beating at high speed until you have a stiff meringue.
  7. Fold the meringue into the walnut mixture until smoothly combined.

Putting it together 

  • A little milk for brushing
  1. Preheat oven to 165℃ fan.
  2. Grease your baking tin – a bundt tin if you have one, or a loaf pan if you don’t.
  3. Flour your board.
  4. Roll out the dough into a rectangle. The width should be the length of your loaf tin, or around twice the width of your bundt tin. The length should be as long as you can reasonably make it without tearing the dough.
  5. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving around 3-5cm around the edge.
  6. Roll the dough up into a spiral, as tightly as possible: the more turns the better. Pinch the ends to stop the filling leaking out.
  7. Transfer the dough to your tin, seam side up.
  8. Cover and leave to rise until most of the way to the top of the tin. This took me 2 hours: it will take you more or less, depending mainly on the ambient temperature. Jernej suggests overnight in the fridge.
  9. Poke holes in the dough with a skewer to allow moisture from the filling to escape with lower risk of the layers separating;  I probably poked a dozen holes in total.
  10. Brush with milk.
  11. Bake for 45 min; then reduce the heat to 140℃ and bake until a deep gold colour – around 20 minutes more.
  12. Remove from the oven, cool for a couple of minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and leave to cool.
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.77: Must Leib – Estonian black bread

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.77: Must Leib – Estonian black bread

There have been several dark rye breads in this series, but after a recent visit to Estonia, I felt compelled to make the Estonian version, known simply as “Leib” (bread) or, if you’re feeling loquacious, “Must Leib” (black bread). It’s a soft, earthy and aromatic loaf that immediately hit the top of family favourites of any bread that I’ve made, displacing its Russian cousin Borodinsky bread; it also seems to keep particularly well. You need a couple of days elapsed time and it’s fairly hard work compared to many breads, not least because the dough is very sticky so you spend masses of time on washing up, but it was well worth the trouble and it’s definitely going to become a regular.

As ever, recipes vary: the common theme is the use of dark rye, caraway seeds and various other seeds (pumpkin and sunflower here; I’m sure others are possible), as well as the use of a fairly long fermentation time. I’ve started with a post on Deutsche Welle from their EU correspondent Georg Matthes, taking down the quantities around 20% to suit the size of my bread tin and changing a couple of ingredients to the ones readily available to me. By the way, my bread tin measures around 29cm x 11cm x 10cm, so around 3 litres, probably not far off an American 10 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Georg is surprisingly precise about fermentation time and temperature – 17 hours at 24℃ – which is fine if you are a professional baker with access to a temperature controlled environment but sounds scary to us amateurs. I have the choice of room temperature (around 20℃ in winter) or the cupboard containing my boiler (more like 30℃), so I ended up doing a kind of mix and match. It worked fine, so I suspect that things really aren’t all that sensitive.

I’ve given you the timings and sizes that I used successfully. Obviously, adapt as needed to your schedule, kitchen and available equipment. 

Day 1 – around noon

You’ll start by making three separate mixtures and leaving them to ferment. In each case, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly, cover and leave.

Sourdough

  • 50g sourdough starter (mine is dark rye)
  • 200g dark rye flour
  • 200ml water

Plain dough

  • 280g dark rye flour
  • 300 ml water

Seed mix

  • 50g pumpkin seeds
  • 75g sunflower seeds
  • 8g sat
  • 120ml boiling water

Day 2 – around 9am – mix and first rise

  • 200g wholemeal wheat flour
  • 10g dried yeast
  • 35g malt extract
  • 50g molasses
  • 7g caraway seeds
  1. Put all ingredients into the bowl of your stand mixer. 
  2. Add all three doughs from the previous day.
  3. Mix thoroughly at medium speed for around 10 minutes using the normal paddle (the dough hook won’t work). You may need to stop and scrape the sides a few times to make sure that you incorporate any flour at the bottom that hasn’t blended in, as well as ensuring that the sticky malt extract and molasses are evenly distributed.
  4. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size (in my relatively cold kitchen, this took close to two hours).

Day 2 – around 11am – shape and second rise

  • 15g butter
  1. Melt the butter and brush your baking tin with it.
  2. Press the dough into the pan, getting it fully into the corners and making as even a shape as you can. Don’t worry about maintaining gluten structure: the preponderance of dark rye flour means there won’t be much.
  3. Leave to rise until the bread is nearly level with the top of the tin. This took another two hours, but in all honesty, the time is completely variable (disclaimer: I should have left mine about half an hour longer than I did for the loaf photographed here). You just have to be patient and keep watching the bread at regular intervals.

Day 2 – around 2pm – bake and glaze

  • 8g potato starch
  • 30ml water (this is a guess – Georg doesn’t specify)
  1. Around half an hour before you think your loaf will be fully risen, preheat your oven to 250℃ fan.
  2. Spread the potato starch thinly over a Silpat sheet or sheet of baking paper over a baking tray. When the oven is up to temperature, put it in the oven and roast until golden (this took me around 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. When your loaf is risen to your satisfaction, score the top and brush it with a little water.  If you have a thermometer probe that you can use in the oven, stick it into the loaf.
  4. Put the tin into a larger roasting pan with some water and put the whole assembly into the oven.
  5. After 10 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 180℃ fan and open the oven briefly to let off the steam.
  6. Bake until the internal temperature reaches 98℃ (this took me around 50 minutes).
  7. Around 10 minutes before the end of the baking time, put the roasted potato starch and the water into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes or so. Take off the heat.
  8. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Brush it all over with the potato starch and water mixture.
  9. And here’s the hard part: leave the bread to rest for 24 hours before eating!