It’s pronounced poh-TEE-tsah, according to my friend Mangeur.
Poteca is a eastern European rolled yeast-based pastry layered with a slightly sweet nut filling. I’ve known a version called povitica, which is sold by a rather well-known company in my hometown called the Strawberry Hill Povitica Co. Their pastry comes in 2.5-pound loaf form and in a host of different “flavors,” including ones filled with blueberries and cream cheese.
Mangeur’s poteca is a Croatian version, passed down through her husband’s family. Her’s is simple and classic. There are no spices and barely any sugar, only the fragrant scent of lemon zest, which miraculously perfumes the entire loaf, giving it an unexpected splash of brightness.
Recently, I saw Mangeur’s poteca, and I was smitten – a golden snail filled with a loose crumb swirled with nuts. I had to make it. Mangeur generously shared her in-laws’ Old World recipe with me. With her permission, I’m now passing it on to you.
Mangeur’s short-form instructions were impeccable. I’ve adapted her recipe a hair, fleshing out her instructions a twitch. The following recipe is actually a half batch. It will yield a rolled pastry bun about 12 inches in diameter (pictured).
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1 egg, room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Additional all-purpose flour
1 batch of Filling (recipe follows)
Dissolve the yeast in the water and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir in the milk, sugar, salt, egg, and butter. Let it sit for another couple of minutes. Gradually stir in the flour until well incorporated.
With your hand, work in enough additional flour to make a soft but not too sticky dough (as soft and moist as possible without it sticking to your hands). Form the dough into a ball and let the dough rest for a few minutes. Knead for about 5 minutes until, until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and let it rise in a lightly greased bowl covered with a damp towel for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place.
Punch down the dough, stretch and fold it a couple of times (or knead if you like). Form the dough into a ball and let it rise again, covered with a damp towel, until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet or tray with parchment paper.
Lightly dust your counter, or a large table with flour. Flatten the risen dough into a flat circle. Either by using your hands (stretching) or a rolling pin, pull the dough out in to a rectangular shape as thinly as you can without tearing the dough (aim for paper-thin).
Spread the filling as evenly as you can over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border along one of the long sides and both short sides of the rectangle for sealing. Starting with the long end without the border, roll the dough up tightly until you have a long, thick roll. Coil the roll into a serpentine or snail shape on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rise for an hour in a warm place.
Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Bake for 25 to 30. Check for doneness after 25 minutes. The poteca should have a slightly golden surface.
For the filling: This is a half batch of filling. You may want to slightly heat up the honey so that it will mix more easily.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Zest from one lemon
2 cups walnuts, finely ground (or pecans)
2 tablespoons milk
Mix together the butter, honey, egg, vanilla and lemon zest. Add the nuts and stir until well-incorporated. If the mixture is a bit too thick, add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it becomes just loose enough to spread easily.