It’s time for some Potica bread.
What is Potica anyway? It’s a sweet, yeasted bread dough filled with nuts/honey/spices/raisins and rolled up into a loaf shape, roll cake or cylinder shape (‘potica’ means 'to roll up’). It’s a traditional Slovenian recipe but you can find versions of this yeasted cake in Turkey, Germany, Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries.
Today I’m sharing with you my spin on this traditional recipe. It includes jazzed up dough which is super soft, pillowy and light (the dough rocks - seriously!). If you are searching for rolls that would not go stale and hard 2-3 hours after baking - this is it! I cut the amount of sugar and butter in the dough as all the sweetness and richness comes from the filling and the glaze. Traditionally, you would see Potica baked into a loaf-shaped bread, roll cake or babka-like shape. I love to bake simple rolls as these are way easier to divide into portions, easy to store and generally bake much quicker. I have included my two favourite fillings for Potica rolls - traditional nut-based filling and brown butter cinnamon filling (Potica doesn’t necessarily need to be filled with nuts!). Both are delicious! Rum-infused cranberries and brown butter bring both fillings onto the next level. I’m not using egg wash here. Instead, hot rolls are generously brushed with brown butter buttermilk glaze. I’m pretty sure you will love the end result even if you are not a fan of using glaze on your buns or yeasted cakes (combination of acidic buttermilk and nutty brown butter makes the glaze a fantastic match for this simple roll).
There is a lot of recipes for buns and rolls on our blog but this one is my absolute favourite.
For a good bake:
Flour - use bread flour for this recipe (12g protein). You will get soft texture but in the same time springy and bouncy crumb structure. If you are using Polish flour - use type 550.
Milk roux - pre-cooking flour will release additional starch. Thanks to this process, rolls will have softer texture and improved flavour. Portion of flour and milk is mixed together, cooked (whisking) until reaches 65C and achieves creamy consistency. This roux needs to rest for at least 1 hr (refrigerated) and up to 2 days. The longer you refrigerate this roux the better the outcome. I usually let it mature for 12 hours in the fridge (shared sample timing below). Why does it need to mature? Time will allow flour (starch) and milk to gel. It will improve taste and texture of your rolls. If you don’t have kitchen thermometer - cook the mixture on medium heat, whisking every so often, for about 2-3 minutes until creamy consistency (thin béchamel sauce consistency, see photo).
Butter incorporation - after initial short kneading let the dough rest. The gluten will relax and strengthen, yeast will start working and after 15-20 minutes your dough will be ready for butter incorporation. For best texture, add butter in small portions (2-3 turns), kneading on low-medium speed.
Window pane test - after butter is incorporated, knead the dough until it passes window pane test. This will be a difference between good rolls and excellent rolls. So - what’s the window pane test? Stretch a portion of the dough and it should form thin film without breaking (see picture). It’s a sign that the gluten has been developed properly. This will allow rolls to achieve firm and bouncy structure. What if the dough is breaking? Knead for a little bit longer or you have kneaded too fast (usually an issue when using stand mixer). If you are kneading using stand mixer - use low-medium setting and don’t knead on fast speed (you will break gluten as the dough is egg-heavy and enriched, take it slow and it will pay off). If you are kneading by hand - knead in short bursts - 5 minutes kneading, 5-10 minutes break and then another 5 minutes kneading. Usually, when kneaded by hand this dough passes window pane test after 7-10 minutes of kneading (it takes about 15-20 minutes using stand mixer).
Proofing at warm temperature - bulk proof the dough at warmer temperature - 28-30C. You may opt to pre-heat oven for 30 seconds and place covered dough in warm-ish oven or use proofing box. Hitting lactic fermentation will help to achieve soft and feather-like texture. Shaped rolls can be proofed at ambient room temperature (21-24C). Give it a good 40-60 minutes for the final proof, the rolls should become visibly puffy.
Overnight rest - the dough will get a chance to develop more flavour, will be easier to work with and roll out. The rolls will be softer and enjoyable for longer. On top of this - it’s easier to manage your time, splitting prep into few phases rather than having one long baking session.
Filling - there are two fillings in this recipe. First one is traditional, nut-based filling; second one - is slightly thicker, brown butter cinnamon filling with rum-infused cranberries. Both are delicious.
Tin - bake on a large tray or in a round tin for taller, pillowy rolls.
Brown butter buttermilk glaze - this one is a real treat! In these rolls I am not using an egg wash. Rolls will have lightly brown, soft skin which is then brushed generously with brown butter buttermilk glaze. Brown butter brings nutty richness and buttermilk’s acidity knocks back sweetness of the sugar. Cool down brown butter before adding the rest of ingredients (otherwise buttermilk will curdle too much). Brush hot rolls 2-3 times, generously.
Storage - potica rolls are super pillowy on day 1 but thanks to milk roux and the overnight rest they are also enjoyable on day 2. Wrap in clean kitchen towel and store at room temperature. You may opt to heat up your rolls for 2-3 minutes on day 2.
Potica Rolls recipe (traditional nut filling + cinnamon filling)
Yield: 8 rolls (large tray) or 6 large rolls (23cm round tin)
Time: 2hrs (dough prep) + overnight dough rest + 1hr (shape and proof) + 18min bake
Tin: large tray or 23cm round tin
10am - prepare milk roux and refrigerate (flex to suit your schedule - roux can be stored refrigerated for 1 hr and up to 2 days)
7pm -7.30pm - bring roux to room temperature and proof the yeast
7.30pm - 8.15pm - mix the dough
8.15pm - 9.15pm - 1st proof (28-30C, warm-ish oven or proofer)
9.15pm - 9.15am - overnight dough proof in the fridge
9.15am - 10.15am (day 2) - shape and proof at room temperature (21-24C); preheat the oven; prepare the filling
10.15am - bake (18min on a large tray, 26-28min in a round tin).
25g bread flour (12g protein)
125ml full-fat milk
For yeast proofing:
150ml full-fat milk
1Tbsp (10g) bread flour
1 tsp (5g) sugar
2 tsps (6g) instant yeast or 20g fresh yeast (yeast cake)
For the dough:
390g bread flour (12g protein)
1 tsp (6g) coarse sea salt (use 1/2 tsp if using table salt)
45g sugar (30g sugar +15g vanilla sugar)
1/4 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
65g unsalted butter, soft but not oily
Traditional nut filling:
70g unsalted butter, browned
100g light brown sugar
100g good honey
45ml full-fat milk
40ml golden rum
4 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp lemon zest (zest from 1 small lemon)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt)
100g dried cranberries
2 large eggs, separated
60g unsalted butter, browned
120g light brown sugar
4 tsps cinnamon
10g (1 Tbsp) bread flour
1/8 tsp coarse sea salt
70g dried cranberries (optional)
40ml golden rum (optional)
Brown Butter Buttermilk Glaze:
50g unsalted butter, browned
120g confectioners’/icing sugar, sifted
30ml buttermilk, shaken
1/8 tsp table salt (scant tsp)
Prepare milk roux: In a pot with heavy bottom whisk in flour with milk. Warm up slowly to 65C, whisking every so often (watch after reaching 40C as if not whisked it may create lumpy texture). When you reach 65C and the mixture is creamy and smooth, transfer to a small bowl and leave at room temperature until cooled. Then, cover tightly with cling film and refrigerate for 8-12 hours (and up to 2 days). When ready to prepare the dough, take the mixture out of the fridge and bring to room temperature (30min-1hr) before adding to the dough.
Proof the yeast: Warm up 150ml milk to 38-40C, mix in flour, sugar and yeast. Cover and let proof in warm temperature (24-30C). After 15 minutes the mixture should become visibly frothy and bubbly. If it’s not, start again - the yeast might have been too old or the temperature too high or too low.
Mix the dough: Place flour, coarse salt, sugar, ground cardamom in your main mixing bowl. Add milk roux, lightly beaten egg and proofed yeast and knead on low-medium speed for 3-5 minutes. If you are kneading by hand - knead for 3 minutes, remembering to rotate the bowl every so often. The dough will look shaggy and that’s ok - you may opt to clean the bowl, do few slap and folds and place back in a clean bowl. When done kneading, cover the dough and let rest at warm temperature (24-30C) for 20 minutes, then go back to the dough and knead, slowly adding butter (add in 3-4 turns). Keep kneading until the dough passes window pane test (15-20 minutes on low-medium speed or 10 minutes by hand). If you knead by hand you may opt to knead for 5 minutes, then leave the dough to rest for 10 min and go back to it to knead until it passes window pane test. When done, tip the dough onto a surface and slap&fold few times to shape. When ready, transfer to a clean bowl lightly brushed with olive oil.
Proof the dough: Cover the bowl tightly with cling film and proof for 1hr at 26-30C (or until doubles in size).
Overnight rest in the fridge: Degas the dough and shape briefly, cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning - prepare nut filling: Transfer pecan nuts onto a large tray lined with parchment paper and toast until golden and crunchy (10-12min at 180C/160C fan forced). Cool down slightly and grind into fine mass (you can also use shop-bought ground nuts, don’t toast then). Place butter into a pot with heavy bottom, brown the butter (3-4 minutes on medium heat), then add brown sugar, honey, milk and cook for 1-2 minutes. Take off the heat, add ground nuts, rum, flour, cinnamon, lemon zest, vanilla bean paste, coarse salt, dried cranberries. At the end add egg yolks, mix until combined. Lightly beat egg whites to soft peaks and gently fold in into the mass.
OR cinnamon filling: Brown butter and cool down slightly. Add light brown sugar, cinnamon, bread flour and salt and mix until pasty mixture is formed. This filling is fairly stiff and crumbly - rather than spreading, sprinkle on top of the dough and pat. If you are using cranberries - wash with warm water and soak in rum until ready to use. When ready to shape - spread the cinnamon filling first and sprinkle rum infused cranberries on top.
Shape and proof: Lightly dust work surface with flour. Tip the dough onto the work surface and pat into a small rectangle - roll out into 30x40cm shape, about 0.7-1cm thick. Spread the filling of your choice and roll into log shape. Cut into 8 rolls (or 6 if using round tin). Stretch the end of each roll and fold under the bottom (the rolls will keep nicer shape when baked).
Final proof: Place shaped rolls on a large tray lined with parchment paper. If you are baking in a round tin - brush the tin generously with unsalted butter. Cover shaped rolls and let rest at room temperature (21-24C) for 40-60 minutes. The rolls should become visibly puffy and plump. Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced). These rolls are not brushed with egg wash before baking.
Bake for 18 minutes (separate rolls, large tray) or 26-28min (23cm round tin). Few minutes before the rolls are ready prepare Brown Butter Buttermilk Glaze: in a small pot brown the butter, cool down until lukewarm and when ready add sifted confectioner’s sugar, pinch of salt and buttermilk - whisk or beat until combined and smooth. When rolls are baked - leave on the tray for 5 minutes then brush generously with the glaze when still hot (give 2 or 3 go’s, the glaze is delicious!). Leave the rolls for 20min to cool down slightly before enjoying.