Recipe spectacular: Memories of Potica.


My grandparents were poor, yet they saved money all year long in a tin coffee can to celebrate Christmas with their ten grandkids in St. Paul. Every Christmas they arrived from the Iron Range in their blue station wagon loaded to the top with Christmas packages and baked goods.

Of all the many homemade gifts (including monkey puppets made from socks), my favorite was Grandma Dolly’s homemade Potica bread. Every year she elaborated on how big a task it was—how she’d rolled out dough so thin it covered a large table; how she’d spread a paste of cinnamon, butter, and finely ground walnuts; how gently-and-oh-so-carefully she tightly rolled the expanse of dough, sealed its edges, and then cut it into loaf lengths before baking.

I continue her tradition each year with a much easier Potica recipe. Rather than a few days, my recipe requires a few hours and will never be truly authentic. Yet as the scent of baked cinnamon, walnuts, and oven-fresh bread fills my kitchen, I always think fondly of my grandparents, who passed on a love of Potica and so much more.

Illustration of Potica. Does not represent the actual recipe.
Image source: Creative Commons.


Mary Casanova’s “easier” Potica recipe comes from Betty Crocker’s International Cookbook.

Yield: 2 coffee cakes

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
3/4 cup lukewarm milk (scalded, then cooled)
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
3 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Walnut Filling (see below)

FOR WALNUT FILLING: Mix all of the following ingredients together.

2 1/2 cups finely chopped walnuts
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 egg
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in milk, margarine, eggs, sugar, salt, and 3 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.)

Punch down dough; divide into halves. Roll each half into rectangle, 15 x 12 inches, on lightly floured surface. Spread half the filling over each rectangle. Roll up tightly, beginning at 15-inch side. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal well. Stretch roll to make even.

With sealed edges down, coil into snail shapes on lightly greased cookie sheets. Cover; let rise until double, about 1 hour. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Brush with margarine if desired.


For more holiday recipes, check out past posts:
From 2015:
Eric Dregni’s gravet laks.
Betsy Bowen’s bird feed for Christmas Eve.
Sue Leaf’s meringue cookies.
Jeff Manuel’s favorite hotdish.

From 2012:
Beatrice Ojakangas’s Finnish Christmas Stars and Old Danish Christmas Kringle.
Brenda Langton’s cranberry tart.
Jenny Breen’s brussels sprouts with honey horseradish.
Atina Diffley’s corn chowder.
Helene Henderson’s Swedish pancakes.
Beth Dooley’s sweet potato salad.


Mary Casanova grew up on the edge of St. Paul and lives in Ranier, Minnesota. She is author of more than 30 books for children and young adults, including Frozen, Moose Tracks, Wolf Shadows, When Eagles Fall, and the forthcoming Wake Up, Island.

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