We had a close two-way race this quarter, with SLAVIC beating Bengali by just one vote. This encompasses an enormous geographic area and multiple countries including Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Belarus, Bosnia and others.
Among them, I have visited Czech Republic and Poland, but I am certainly no expert on the region or cuisine so I am looking forward to exploring it with all of you! За здоровье!
While we’re all firing up our ovens, I’ll share a dish from last year. Husband’s grandmother emigrated from Croatia, then Austria, as a teenager. She brought with her the holiday tradition of POTECA, pronounced “poh-teet-za”, a semisweet walnut filled bread. Her daughters continued the tradition at Easter and Christmas, and as “last of the Mohican women” in the family, I am now making it. It is ethereal when fresh, but excellent for a week or so when toasted in a dry frying pan.
While my m-i-l claimed that it was close to impossible to make (Put all the leaves in your dining table and cover it with a freshly ironed sheet; get out your largest mixing bowl…), like most complicated recipes, I’ve found that it is very straightforward and quite easy to make a small batch, enough for a large coiled loaf.
Using your favorite sweet bread recipe, roll out on a floured surface into the largest and thinnest rectangle you can.
Spread the filling ingredients evenly over and roll up tightly like a jelly roll. Don’t worry about small holes since they will be concealed.
Coil or serpentine in a baking pan. Shown is a double recipe.
Czechs and Slovaks bake this too but I don’t know what they call it. This was considered a festive food when I was growing up. Traditionally served at Easter and Christmas. Though ours was a simpler jelly-roll shape, your coiled shape is more appealing to me.
Alternative fillings in the order of my favorite kinds: prune butter (also known as plum butter or lekvar), poppyseed, and apricot. Traditionally my grandmother used Solo brand canned fillings, which I have tried as an adult and dislike. (Cheaper ingredients used nowadays, maybe?)
Polish too - it’s called Makowiec. A Polish friend of my parents used to gift us one each Christmas - hers always had a poppy seed filling and she used the simpler jelly roll shape. It looks like the walnut version has a different name in Polish but the idea is the same.
My grandmother baked these for Christmas gifts too. More than enough rolls to cover the dining room table! Usually poppyseed and nut varieties, but sometimes there’d be a lekvar (prune/plum butter) one that we’d keep.
An exemplary article on Wikipedia. Very interesting …
The 1st country we had visited was The Czek Republic. The Prague is quite an enchanting city.
The only other was Croatia, now a member of the E.U. The southwestern coast is a Mediterranean paradise and the shellfish, finned fish and celaphoids are abundant in this region. They are fairly large wine producers !!
The commercial povitica of my youth.
My sister always sent us loaves at Xmas time from the church bake sale where they’d make massive amounts between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and sold at Bichelmeyer’s, a KCK meat market for the ages.
Thank you for prompting a couple of good memories! The article included a sentence about grinding the walnuts, which I can remember my grandfather doing with a well-worn hand-cranked grinder so my grandmother could bake her loaves.
The grinder made an appearance only at Christmas. One use was for grinding walnuts.
Then a little before Christmas Eve, my grandfather would bring out the grinder again to prepare the horseradish that was part of a traditional Christmas Eve meal. We took turns grinding the horseradish because the root was so pungent that tears would stream down your face. You had to stop to take breaks.
The Garnet Bracelet is amazingly festive. I would pair with prawns (langostinos) or wild salmon or gravlax or smoked salmon as we do not eat feathered species. Very beautiful presentation and wonderful history connected to it.
I will re-read the recipe … And substitute from there.