VALLEY MUSINGS: Annual bread-making session is a success

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The quick breads my sister and I usually pull out of the freezer to have with meals – pumpkin, banana etc. – were temporarily displaced recently by something that is decidedly not a quick bread.

My mother discovered the recipe for Walnut Potica (pronounced pa-TEET-sa), a Slovenian yeast bread described as “a honey-nut filling rolled up in dough like a jelly roll,” in a Christmas magazine from the mid-1960s.

It immediately became a family favorite. My mother usually made it sometime before Easter. The recipe made two large loaves. We had enough to eat and share and some left over to put in the freezer.

I wanted to make this year’s batch before a planned trip to visit our youngest sister up in Jefferson County.

So, on a recent Friday, I ground up walnuts and put together honey from three partially used jars to make up the cup needed. Then I double- and triple-checked the recipe as I put together the ingredients for the filling.

I made a mistake on blueberry muffins a few days before, forgetting to look at the “either or” notes my mother had added to the recipe. The result wasn’t terrible, but the taste was disappointing. The muffins, however, were a quick and easy project. Potica was not.

Other than not noticing too late that the vanilla was supposed to be added after removing the thickened filling from the heat, it went all right. Hopefully the vanilla didn’t mind cooking with the rest of the ingredients.

I poured the filling into a batter bowl and put it into the refrigerator.

The next morning as I was preparing to put together the bread dough, the phone rang. My sister, who had planned to help, said she’d be arriving soon, but would be meeting relatives early that afternoon to pick up some furniture and other items from my older sister’s house that family members were cleaning out. We had planned a crockpot meal for supper so we worked around each other as she got the Spanish rice going in the Crockpot while I kneaded the dough and set it to rise.

After lunch, my sister headed out and I stayed with the dough. When it seemed to have doubled in size, I split it in two and tried to roll the first one into something resembling the 10x18 inch rectangle the recipe calls for. Once the shape was as close to a rectangle as it was likely to get, I spread on half the filling, rolled up the dough, sealed the edges, set it to rise and repeated the process with the second chunk of dough.

Neither loaf looked quite as unwieldy as some of our efforts have turned out, although they were unlikely to be photographed for a magazine illustration.

“Ours always look like beached whales,” I had told my niece when I’d talked to her earlier.

The bread was rising and I had my hands in the dishwater when my sister and my niece’s husband arrived with a metal table and two chairs and a piano bench.

“Thank you for taking things,” he said more than once.

More items had gone to my sister’s house and we’re hoping some of them will go to our youngest sister’s house.

We put the loaves of potica into the oven and they finished baking in plenty of time for each of us to have a slice with our supper.

As for the leftover not-too-great blueberry muffins, I bagged them up and put them in the freezer. They could probably be used in bread pudding, but that would be a job for another day.

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