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My Mother’s Kitchen – Mary Mihanovich’s Potica

Potica

by Dorothy Mihanovich

My mother-in-law, Mary Mihanovich, was born in Split, Yugoslavia. She was a mail-order bride. Her husband, Sam, came to America from Yugoslavia and went to work in the coal mines in Rock Spring, Wyoming. He sent to Yugoslavia for a bride but that one did not want to come to Wyoming, so Mary came instead. At 16 years old, not speaking English, she boarded a boat to America, landed at Ellis Island and then rode the train to Rock Spring.

Mary and Sam made a life together in Wyoming until they left the coal mines to work for the railroad in Sacramento, Calif. It was here that I met and married my husband, John, their son.

The competition in Mary’s family was very fierce over this Potica recipe. Everyone would make the dish for Christmas and then they  tested them to see  whose was the best. Everyone bitterly complained over how hard it was to make, but devoured it in a split second.     Mary’s kitchen was her domain and allowed no one else in because it was virtually all she had to herself. However, Mary did allow me to come into the kitchen to watch her cook, which made me feel so honored.

All of her cooking was done without recipes and whenever Mary cooked with brandy or any form of alcohol, she hid it as she was embarrassed that she cooked with ‘alcohol’.   The recipe I am giving you today is for Potica (pronounced po-teet-sa) which is difficult to make because you need a large surface  to roll out the dough. I asked many questions of Mary so I could make this just right.  The hardest part was rolling it and fitting it in the pan. However difficult it is to make, it is well worth the trouble.

SWEET ROLL DOUGH

Mix together:  1 cup lukewarm milk and ½ cup sugar

Crumble in:    2 pks active dry yeast, stir until dissolved.

Stir in:    2 eggs

½ cup soft margarine (or 1 cube butter).

Mix in first with spoon, then with hand:

4½ to 5 cups flour (white).

After mixing the flour and the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured board to KNEAD.

Fold dough over toward you and knead for 10 mins. until dough is smooth, elastic and doesn’t stick to the board.

Place it in a greased bowl, turning once to bring greased side up. Cover with damp cloth and let rise in warm, draft-free spot until almost double (1 ½ to 2 hrs)

Punch down: thrust fist into dough and turn over in bowl. Let rise again until almost double again.

To roll out, place a floured cloth or sheet (very large area) and roll dough out paper-thin into an oblong 30 x 20 shape. Spread melted butter on rolled dough. Spread walnut filling (see below) over the dough  to the edges. Sprinkle with sugar. Starting at the wide side of the oblong, lift dough rolling it up like a jelly roll. Place it in a greased pan. (Some people use a cookie sheet; I use an angel food cake pan) Brush a whipped whole egg on the top.

Bake at 325° for 40-45 mins.

FILLING

½ cup finely cut raisins (white or dark)

2 cups ground walnuts

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg (separate the yoke from the white and whip the white)

½ cup half and half or milk

¼ cup soft butter

½ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons brandy

Mix the butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, brandy & egg yoke. Add nuts, milk and raisins. Add whipped egg white. Bring to boil. Then it is ready to spread on dough.