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Serbian Potica Bread

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Who doesn't like a good Serbi-Slavic treat for the holidays? Potica (po-TEET-za) is a popular European nut bread most often served as a breakfast treat, an afternoon snack, or a lightly sweet dessert during the nativity season. Never heard of it? For shame! Paper-thin walls of rolled dough are spread with a buttery walnut filling and rolled tight like a snail, then baked. The loaves add a stroke of beauty to any table, but the taste is what really puts the carol in your Christmas.

The No. 1 ingredient in potica is patience. Ya gotta make the dough, let it rise, knead it, let it rise some more, spread it with splendor, and leave it once more before baking. And while the hours may seem to pile up, there are plenty of break times built in, and the final product makes your toils worth the challenge. By the way, you might think you'll have enough to feed the entire office party, but it will disappear quickly. We guarantee it.

No loving Slavic aunt or grandmother? That's okay. We've got your recipe right here.

Serbian Potica Bread

Dough 1 package dry yeast ¼ cup warm water ¾ cup warm milk ¼ cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 egg ¼ cup shortening 3 ½ - 3 ¾ cups flour

Filling ¼ cup butter, softened ½ cup brown sugar 1 egg ¼ cup milk ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ½ teaspoon lemon extract 2 cups walnuts, finely ground

To make dough: Completely dissolve yeast in warm water. Stir in milk, sugar, salt, egg, and shortening. Mix in flour until dough is easy to handle. Turn out on lightly floured board and let it rest for 10 minutes. Knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise at 85 degrees until doubled (about 2 hours). Place dough on board, cover, and let rise 15 more minutes.

To make filling: While dough is sitting, prepare filling. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, and egg. Stir in milk and extracts; then blend in walnuts.

To assemble bread: Place dough on a large floured surface and roll out almost paper thin into a rectangle--20 by 30 inches. Spread filling over dough, bringing it all the way to the edges. Starting at the wide sides of the rectangle, roll up like a jellyroll. Seal well by pinching edges. Curl up (like a snail) on a greased 9-by-13-injch pan.

Let rise about an hour. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes. If top browns too fast, cover with foil.

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