Friday, December 21, 2012

Potica: A Step-by-Step Guide to Slovenian Nut Roll

The last time I posted my family's potica recipe, I promised that I would add an expanded version of the instructions, along with step-by-step photos.

Suddenly, the year is drawing to a close.  So here it is.

There are at least four generations of potica bakers in my family.  As a child in Cleveland, I used to watch my Slovenian-American grandma roll out the dough on her kitchen table. I learned to make it from my mother.  My sister and I have passed the recipe along to our sons, who have turned out some impressive loaves.

The photos are from a potica-making session last fall.  I had been asked to contribute a potica to the Trgatev, the annual grape harvest festival, held at San Francisco's Slovenian Hall.  So I decided to take photos and record some details, to flesh out the recipe.

The potica turned out well, even though it was a little overbaked.  Actually, it was twice baked.  I had stored it in the oven overnight, for safe-keeping, after reminding my husband to be sure he didn't turn on the oven.  You can imagine the rest!

I was tempted to call this recipe Easy Potica, even though that is something of an oxymoron.  The only truly easy potica is the kind you buy.  And yes, I have tasted some very good commercial versions. So far, the one that comes closest to my treasured family potica is made by these folks.  (It must be that Rocky Mountain air!)

Our family's style of potica is closer to pastry than bread.  With the rich honey-nut filling and the thin layers of yeast dough, it tastes like a cross between brioche and baklava.

But it is easier to make than many other potica recipes I have seen.

Here is why:

-The sour cream refrigerator dough is make-ahead, so the recipe is prepared in stages.
-The dough is easier to handle than the usual yeast dough.
-The filling is simple and elemental, with no complicated mixing or cooking.
-The loaves are made individually, which is easier to manage

Another advantage to this recipe: The potica keeps very well, because of the honey and sour cream.

There are many approaches to making potica.  There are also many different filling possibilities, especially in Slovenia.  (Including some unusual savoury versions, with tarragon and even pork cracklings!)

But this is the potica I have eaten every Christmas of my life.  It is also a traditional Easter dish.  So I am partial to it.

Enjoy!  And Happy Holidays, from my kitchen to yours! 

Potica (Slovenian Nut Roll)


1 cup plus 6 T. butter, melted and cooled (2-3/4 sticks)
1 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1-1⁄2 cups sour cream
2 packages dry yeast
3/4 cup warm milk
1 t. sugar

6 cups flour, plus more for kneading
1 t. salt

In a large bowl, combine the butter, sugar, egg yolks, and sour cream.  Mix well.

In a small bowl, proof yeast in warm milk and sugar. Add yeast to the first mixture.  Mix well.

Sift flour and salt. Add to the mixture in the large bowl and stir to combine.  You should have a soft, sticky dough.  Turn it out on a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic.  Divide dough into four even balls and flatten them slightly.  Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.


6-1/2 cups finely ground walnuts
1 c. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
dash of salt

1⁄2 cup melted butter
honey to taste, 1/2 to 1 cup
(Optional: dried cranberries)

To Assemble

It is easiest to use a floured cloth to roll out the dough. I like to cover the kitchen table with a tablecloth and then put a floured pillowcase in the center. The pillowcase provides a good guide for shaping and it can also be used to nudge the roll along.
Remove a ball of dough from refrigerator and place it on floured surface. Roll it into a rectangle.  The dough should be thinner than pie crust but thicker than strudel or phyllo. I ended up with a 15 x 26 inch rectangle.

(For ambitious bakers: To make an extra-tasty potica, try to create even thinner layers. Roll the dough into a rectangle that is a little narrower but considerable longer. To see the difference, you'll find a photo of of an extra-thin potica below.  Or see a more recent potica post, here.)

Spread the dough with 2 T. melted butter and a quarter of the nut/sugar mixture, which should be about 2 cups. Warm the honey in a saucepan of hot water to thin it slightly.  Drizzle the dough with 2-4 T. of honey.  (We use the larger amount!)

Roll up the dough, beginning from the short end.  (I used to roll from the long end, but I now believe rolling from the short end results in a better-shaped loaf.)   After every few turns, prick the dough with a fork to eliminate air bubbles.   Pinch seam and ends closed and fold ends under.  Place seam side down on baking sheet or rectangular pan that has been oiled or lined with parchment paper.

Repeat with remaining balls of dough, for a total of four loaves. 

Let potica rise 1-1/4 hours. (Note: Loaves don’t rise much.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If necessary, bake for 10 minutes more at 325 degrees. Let cool before slicing.  To store, wrap in aluminum foil.  Potica tastes better the next day.  It stores well.  It also freezes well.


To make a less rich dough: Use milk instead of sour cream. (I've never tried this and don't recommend it!)

To omit the honey: Increase the sugar to 1-1/2 cups.  (We only skip the honey by accident!)

To avoid walnuts:  Just substitute pecans.  Tastes good, if less traditional.

To make a festive cranberry-nut version: Sprinkle the dough with dried cranberries before rolling.

To make a chocolate version:  See the previous post, for putizza di noci.

To make an easy poppy seed version: Add 2 beaten egg whites, 1/2 cup ground nuts, the grated rind of a lemon, and 1 T. rum to a 12 ounce can of commercially prepared poppy seed filling.

For potica with the flavor of Kosovo, use tahini-honey spread.

Potica Variations: Chocolate, Pecan, and Poppy Seed

Extra-thin, with tahini-honey spread

Step-by-Step, in Photos

mixing butter, sugar, eggs, and sour cream for dough

proofing the yeast
mixing dough before kneading      

dough, after kneading

dough, after refrigerating

filling ingredients

dough, rolled out

dough, spread with butter and walnut-sugar mixture


dough, drizzled with honey

potica, before rising (with extra "roll" in between)

potica, after rising

potica, after (over) baking!

potica, sliced


  1. This looks amazing! I love the addition of sour cream in the dough and I can't wait to try this recipe :)

  2. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Lisa! The sour cream is definitely the key. I hope you try it. Let me know how it works out!

  3. This is the recipe I grew up with, too. The dough is so easy to work with. We seldom used the honey - still very tasty!

    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting? Where did you grow up?

      Happy Holidays! Blair

  4. My motherinlaw taught me how to make potica 40 years ago. She learned from her Slovenian motherinlaw. The dough has always been hit or miss with me because the recipe said roll out one large sheet of dough. I am excited to try your dough! Do you recommend measuring 6 cups flour and then sifting or using 6 cups of sifted flour?

    1. Hello Jack,
      Thanks for stopping by! Technically, you should sift then measure. But I often just stir to aerate a little so it's not packed and then measure. Also, flour has different levels of moisture so the measure is never exact anyway. It's good to leave a little flour left over when you stir it in, then add if you still need more. The kneading will also incorporate more flour. Hope this helps! Good luck--and do let me know how it turns out!

    2. Hello again! Do you recommend taking the dough out of the fridge for a bit before rolling to warm it up a bit?

    3. Hello Jack,
      Yes, the dough is pretty firm when first taken out of the fridge! So let it soften a little. Where are you living? Are there any other potica-bakers close by?

  5. I live in Madison, Wi. I am the one in the family who brings the potica. I am hoping my daughterinlaw will take an interest. My sons have nicely declined. It is kind of intimidating!

  6. I made it today...the pillow case is a great idea! The slice I had is delicious...but each loaf is cracked. Any ideas about what I can do next time?

    1. Glad it tasted good, at least :-) Ours sometimes crack a little. Only a problem if the honey runs out! Perhaps you needed a little more flour in the dough--or it may have been a little too thin. But don't worry about it too much.

  7. Hello! I just saw your postings...Am on the same recapture my heritage...100% Slovenian but of course, the family didn't teach us to write, read or speak the language, even though they all were fluent. Any tips for learning the language? I grew up in Cleveland, but have lived in Philly for the last 47 years...My Father is a lifetime polka hall of famer...
    :-) Shari

    1. Hi Shari! See my replies to you below.

  8. Thanks for writing, Shari! It sounds like you were exposed to more of the culture than I was. Language learning resources are limited--except in Cleveland, of course :-) I have been very lucky to find a class at the Slovenian Hall here in SF. There are some good online resources for at least learning simple conversation, which include audio. Best bet: go to Slovenia and take the 1 or 2 week immersion class offered by the Center for the Study of Slovene! Feel free to e-mail me--see contact information up above on the blog. Good luck!

    1. To study the language in Slovenia:

  9. Blair , I can not wait to try this recipe. Can you tell me if this is like Popiteetza'. I was searching for the recipe also. My Grandmama (Hele)Jeylika use to make a cheese and or walnut. I have yearned for it again for 20 some years. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I am glad you like this! I never heard of popiteetza. Could it povititca ("pov-vi-teet'-za")? That is the Croatian name for what is essentially the same thing. Where was your grandmother from?

  10. Thank you for the clear instructions and the wonderful photos. This roll reminds me of my mom's nuss beigli and her mohn beigli. (Hungarian version)

    1. You are most welcome! Thank you for the kind words. I love poppyseed fillings!

  11. Blair, I have a bumper crop of chives and am desperate to recreate the chive-filled potica that a Slovenian friend of my Croatian mother used to make when I was a kid. Any ideas?

    1. I have seen photos and read about potica with chive fillings but now you've got me looking for a recipe! The Slovenian name is zelševka. It is a specialty of Slovenian Idrija, the area that borders Italy. I have at least one in a cookbook I bought this summer in Slovenia--devoted to just 2 dishes, potica and struklji! Sure enough, there is a recipe. I have found more online, mostly also in Slovenian, although online translation tools can be used. So far, they look pretty similar. A standard potica dough, probably a little less rich than the one I use. The filling is just chives and spring onions, browned in butter, and seasoned with either salt or sugar. Ws the version you recall sweet or savory?

    2. . . . except for the more elaborate one in the cookbook I bought in Slovenia. That filling is mostly green onions, some chives, with sour cream, egg, raisins, and sugar!

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Thank you so much for such a prompt reply!!! I have scoured the internet, and did discover zelsevka, but the one in my memory had WAY more chives than in the photo! My dear mother and aunt tried to replicate it once, but made it way too sweet. They thought since I liked it as a child it must have been sweet. It was rich, but savory. Not elaborate! I am going out now to cut my chives, since it is supposed to freeze tonight, and then start the dough ( your recipe!). Wish me luck!

  13. I tried to copy link but it was too long, and also gave an inaccurate conversion for the Slovenian measurement. So here is my paraphrase: Make your usual potica dough. For filling: Cut up 15 dag (=150 g) fresh chives and fry (but don't burn!) in oil or butter. All liquid should have evaporated. Let cool. Roll out potica dough as usual and spread with a beaten egg. Sprinkle with chives. Add salt or sugar, depending on the taste you want. Roll up and bake as usual. Good luck :-)

  14. Thank you so much!!! I will let you know how it comes out!

  15. I see we are playing post tag, Anonymous! I think you will like the version I just posted, nothing but chives! Let's face it, this is all pretty approximate. I would say just season the chives in a way that tastes good to you. Slightly sweet but slightly salty is a combination that is common in Slovenia (and Europe) but not so familiar to Americans. The rather elaborate recipe in my Slovenian cookbook specifies a "sweet" (sladkega) rather than "salty" (slanega) dough, so mine should work just fine. Please do report back!

  16. Sorry to be anonymous, my name is Pam but I didn't want to create yet another profile!
    Just took the bread out of the oven and eagerly anticipating the first slices! I halved the dough recipe and made one chive and one poppyseed. The dough was a dream to work with.
    Will report back after it cools!

  17. Both loaves recreate the breads I remember! Thank you so much for your help; I will be making these again!

    1. I am thrilled that this worked for you! You've inspired me to try the chive filling now. Did you make your own poppyseed filling from scratch?

  18. I used canned poppyseed filling with the additions you suggest in your recipe.

    1. One of these days I will make a poppyseed filling from scratch! But the canned filling, with a few additions, does seem to work. Glad you liked it!

  19. I made this recipe and the filling came out of the top. Could I have rolled it too thin?

    1. That does happen sometimes, for me and even for my mother. I think it's from using a bit too much honey, and/or rolling the dough a little thin. But I wouldn't worry. It always tastes good!