Andreja Brulc's Blog

‘Lost and Found’: Typographic Easter

Posted in Lost and Found by andrejabrulc on 06/04/2013

In my post of last year on how to dye Easter Eggs in onion skin with leaf pattern as part of the ‘Lost and Found’ series, I explained the reason why the ‘lost and found’ notion was applied in the method of dying eggs traditionally used in Slovenia. This year I decided to push my culinary skills even further – I pulled my sleeves and set on the adventure of making another essential item traditionally prepared for the Easter feast (and Christmas) in Slovenia – the baking of potica. I have never done this kind of roll before, so for me it was ineed the beginning of the new adventure! Potica is a culinary symbol of Slovenia from where it spread around the world, so I thought that this festive roll ought to serve as the base for my typographic touch!Happy Easter_2

The context

Potica, also known as povitica, is a yeast-raised sweet dough rolled with a variety of fillings (apparently around 50 different kinds of fillings are used), but the most famous filling traditionally used is without doubt a walnut paste.

Potica is first mentioned in historical documents in 1575. It is also famously described as a festive dish in The Glory of the Duchy of Carnolia, a historical and typographical account of the Slovenian lands under the Habsburgs in the 17th century by a Carnolian nobleman, scientist, polymath and a fellow of the Royal Society (London) named Johann Weikhard von Valvasor.  Some researchers claim that its origins go back even further in history. For instance, the ethnographer Damjan J. Ovsec suggests that potica was already prepared in medieval monasteries by nuns. The linguists also point out that the word potica comes from the Latin word ‘potissmus’ suggesting a cake that is very tasty and delicious. Such a cake would at the time normally be prepared in the monasteries for church dignitaries, from where it would spread through the social strata via feudal lords (castle) to townspeople (towns) and peasants (villages).

Method

Every family has its favourite recipe and can vary from one household to the next. My method of making it comes from my childhood memory of how both my grandma and my mum took a great care in the preparation of the ingredients needed for the baking and how they tackled the whole process.

The rule number one: the selection of walnuts in particular is considered very important – their age and whether they are dried properly and so on! My whole family would gather around the kitchen table a few nights before in order to engage ourselves in crashing the walnuts out of their shell – of course, one went into my tummy, the other on the floor and the third one onto the pile for the roll! All recipes suggest that you ought to grind the walnuts very finely but I broke the rule – my electric blender is a bit outdated so it ground them between fairly fine to medium. The paste came out a bit more coarse than usual but in my opinion it was an improvement!

The rule number two: beat the dough until smooth and filled with bubbles. I remember my grandma and my mum how they leaned over their large metal pot laboriously beating their yeast dough for ages. This process is apparently essential but I decided to break the rule yet again and kneaded it instead (circa 10 mins).

The rule number three: before your start, leave out all the ingredients to the room temperature (1 hour). I recall how my mum yelled at us if one of us left the door open while the dough was being raised! It is important that your kitchen is warm during the making, so absolutely no draughts are allowed!

The rule number four: all Slovene recipes suggest you use fresh yeast – to which you add warm milk and sugar – in order to raise it first before it is added to the rest. But no need for the fresh yeast (which is hard to find in London!) as dry one does the job just the same – you sieve it into the flour and then add all the ingredients!Slovenska kuharica

However, the list of ingredients and their proportions were taken from my dilapidated copy of the Slovene cookery book (1970) written by a nun called Felicita Kalinsek, who is famous in Slovenia for her writing and teaching on cooking. You may laugh – but I was taught by her how to cook when I was 14! I have been embarrassed by this for a long time (being sent to a nunnery by parents to do knitting, crocheting and cooking) but now I am more than delighted to write this down! After all, all the best cooking, historically speaking, was perfected in monasteries!

Dough

Ingredients

1 liter bread flour (approx 630 g)
1 pack dry yeast (weight for 630 g flour)
1/4 liter warm milk (you can add a bit more later depending on the dryness of your flour)
100 g butter
1 lemon grind
1 drop vanilla extract
4 egg yolks (the recipe suggests 2 to 5 but I would say the fewer the softer the dough but less yellow and tasty!)
1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar

Instructions

1. Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Make a hole in the flour, into which you sieve the dry yeast.
2. In a separate bowl, mix warm milk, butter, sugar and yolks.
3. Add the mixture to the flour and add the salt.
4. Mix all together until the dough is fairly dry. Then knead the dough for 10 mins.
5. Leave the dough in a larger bowl to raise (approx 1-2 hours depending on the warmth in your kitchen, or radiator if you have not got much time!). Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Filling

Ingredients

70 g butter
3 egg yolks (2 egg whites)
250 g sugar
1 lemon grind
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large spoon single cream
1 liter walnuts (when ground, separate walnuts evenly into two bowls – 50:50)
1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar

Instructions

1. Mix butter with egg yolks and sugar until creamy.
2. Add spices, cream, half a litter of walnuts and whisked egg whites.

Preparing the roll

1. Use the dough roller to flatten your dough so that it is about 1cm thick.
2. Evenly distribute the wet filling onto the flat dough. Sprinkle the second (dry) part of the walnuts on top.
3. Optionally you can add raisins (not sultanas). Generally I am not so keen on ‘squashed flies’, but as my potica was made for my British family who like raisins, I used the largest ones (approx 1-2 cm tall) I could find in our corner shop – and I am now converted! Sultanas = ‘squashed flies’ versus large raisings = ‘the real thing’!
4. Roll the dough as tightly as you can into one long roll. The roll was then cut into 3 even parts (approx 20cm long) to fit my bread tins. Each piece was topped with cream and smoothed with a brush.
5. Raise potica while in tins for another hour. Then bake it for approx 1 hour at 170 degrees (fan oven). Note: if it is browning too fast on top, place some aluminium foil to prevent the crust from burning!

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  1. […] interest in combining celebratory food and type, read more about her London Meal, Happy 2013 and Happy Easter baking […]


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