Diversions Welcomed

Diversion:  “An instance of turning something aside from its course -or- an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns; a recreation or pastime.”

These are the moments in my day when ideas spark. Creativity shines. When the “I should be…”, becomes a captured photo, a creative twist on a recipe or a fun little project. These are the sunny spots that add warmth to my life. They help define who I am.

And this is my opportunity to share my “Sunny Diversions”.

 

Making an “Iron Range” Potica using a Bread Machine

Making Potica, the traditional Minnesota Iron Range way, is a day labor of mixing, rising, stretching and baking. And at the end, each time, I truly feel I have conquered a baking masterpiece. However, apart from the holidays, it would also be fun to make a Potica on a lesser scale, maybe even play with some of the other classical fillings, such as pecan or poppy seed. I decided to trim my traditional recipe in half. And since I was looking for ease and experimentation, I would use a bread machine to make the dough. The dough was a success. It requires the extra proofing, but not having the floury mess and cleanup, allowed me time for other projects while the dough was rising. Plus, I had less dough to roll and stretch.

With only half the amount of dough on my table, I was able to stretch the dough very thin. In fact, I was able to stretch it out an extra 8″ widthwise. Although I was proud of my dough stretching abilities, there was not enough filling to keep the Potica as moist as the traditional bake.  I realized that the area of dough of my traditional Potica is 36 x 60 inches. Since I divided my recipe, I needed to keep to a 30 x 36 inch rectangle, and forego the extra inches. The Potica was still delicious, but next time I will try not to get carried away with challenge of making super ultra thin dough!

Potica (using dough cycle on bread machine)

Potica Dough:

4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. sugar
3/8 c. water
3/4 c. milk
2 eggs (beaten)
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tsp rum extract

Add the wet ingredients to the bread machine first. Next, add the salt and flour. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the flour. Set the bread maker on dough cycle and start the machine. Check to make sure all ingredients have incorporated nicely together and that dough is not too dry or sticky. After dough cycle is complete, gently turn the dough out onto a cutting board. Remove the paddle from dough and punch down to remove air. Place the dough in a oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Place the covered bowl in a non drafty area and allow to rise until doubled. While dough is rising, prepare the walnut filling.

Walnut filling:

1 pounds walnuts (ground fine with food processor)
1/4 c. milk
3/4 c. whipping cream
1/4 c. butter
1 eggs (beaten)
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp rum extract
1/2 T lemon juice

In large bowl, toss ground walnuts with cinnamon. Mix in one beaten egg and milk. In saucepan, heat butter, cream, honey and sugars until rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and rum extract. Stir warm mixture into ground walnut mixture. Set aside.

To form Potica:
Place clean sheet on table and cover with dusting of flour. Place the dough in the center of the table. Roll into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle.

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Ready to begin stretching out the dough

Place your hands under the dough palms up. Lift the dough up several inches and begin pulling it towards you with your fingertips. Carefully stretch it out, trying not to tear the dough, lifting and pulling until it is evenly thin and transparent, about 30″ x 36″.

Spread with walnut filling leaving a 1/2″ margin.

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Starting on the long edge, roll the filled dough in jelly roll fashion. Once the roll has started, you may use the sheet to lift dough and to keep the dough rolling evenly until one long jelly roll-like length is formed. Cut into approximately three, 10″ pieces, or to fit your available baking pans.

Line the pans with parchment and place rolled dough in pan. Allow the Potica to raise for at least 60 minutes or until doubled.

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Ready to bake

 

Bake at 325° F for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool before cutting into 1/2′ slices for serving. Enjoy!

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Fresh baked Potica!

 

 

Porketta

If you live on or near the Iron Range in Minnesota for any length of time, you will learn to love and appreciate the 3 P’s:  Potica, Porketta and Pasties. They represent some of the best of the diverse culture of the region. Serbia/Croatia/Slovenia for its Potica, Italy for Porketta and Cornish miners for the pasties. Having moved away from the “Range”, our family has really missed these traditional dishes. In the past, I’ve taught myself how to make Pasties and Potica, now it is time to learn how to make a Porketta. With two pork roasts on hand, I can make one to roast now and one to freeze for later.

It was so fun to research this boldly seasoned roast. I found many slight variations on a common theme of four staple ingredients: lots of fennel, salt, garlic and pepper. Around these seasonings were a variety of other fresh and dried herbs. I chose to concentrate on a Porketta with dried herbs only, since that is what I have in my pantry.

Toasting the fennel seeds would bring out a warmer, nuttier flavor and release their aromatic oils. After toasting, I ground them to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Fresh ground pepper, coarse sea salt and garlic powder completed my base spices. A few recipes had paprika in the mix. I love the flavor of paprika and incorporated that as well. Oregano and coriander were included to blend with the fennel as additional herbs.

The aroma in the house was amazing. And our Porketta sandwiches were delicious. It brought a bit of the Iron Ranger to our Wisconsin home.

Porketta

5 pound Boneless Pork Roast (approximately)

1 Tablespoon Fennel Seeds (toasted, and ground in mortar/pestle)

2 teaspoons Garlic Powder

2 teaspoons Coarse Ground Salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper (Fresh ground is best)

3/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons Oregano

1/2 teaspoon Coriander

I Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup apple juice

Toast the fennel in a frying pan on the stove for three to four minutes or until just slightly browned (be careful not to burn them). When cooled, grind in a mortal and pestle. In a small dish, mix the ground, toasted fennel with the other listed spices.

Butterfly your pork roast so that it lays flat in a cookie sheet. Pat dry with paper towels. Score the open roast with a one inch grid pattern, about I/2 inch deep, being careful not to cut all the way through the meat. Spread the inside with olive oil. Rub about 3/4 of the spice mix on the inside of the roast. Roll the roast, starting with the shorter edge. Tie roast with kitchen twine to hold together. Rub the remaining spice mix on the outside of the roast. Wrap the Porketta in plastic wrap and place in ziplock bag. Refrigerate for at least six to eight hours. Overnight is the best.

 

Pour the chicken broth and apple juice in to a slow cooker. ( I use a Nesco roaster). Unwrap roast and place it in the liquid with the seam side down. Cook on low heat for six hours or until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily with a fork.

Porketta is best served on a fresh crusty hard roll. We like to make our sandwiches ahead of time and refrigerate. The roll takes on some of the flavor of the meat which makes the Porketta sandwich taste even better.

 

 

Light Russian Tea

It is funny how the changing seasons affect what you like to eat and drink. Fall brings a desire for warmth and spice. Which has me wanting a warm cup of Russian Tea; that simple mixture of powdered instant drinks and spices. It has been several years since I made up a batch. But, even though I was craving that spicy orange tea, I really did not want all the calories that are in the classic recipe. So I spent my morning calculating how to tweak the recipe, plus reduce the calories, without using artificial sweeteners. Tang is made with sugar, so the calories would need to be diluted by the rest of the ingredients. A packet of Crystal Light Pure Lemonade, which uses stevia, was in my pantry. It easily substituted for the sugared lemonade mix. I tried my combination without adding any additional sweetening, but the spices didn’t pop without it. I added 2 teaspoons of stevia powder, which was just the amount. My tea was delicious, and only 35 calories per serving.

Russian Tea

1 cup Tang powdered drink mix

1/2 cup Instant Unsweetened Tea

1 packet Crystal Light Pure Lemonade (pitcher pack)

1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Cloves

1/8 teaspoon Ginger

2 teaspoons stevia powder

Shake all the ingredients together in a pint jar until well blended.

Mix one tablespoon in one cup of water, or 1 1/2 cups if you prefer a lighter drink. Enjoy, warm or cold.

 

 

Exceptional! Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Every once in a while, a recipe gets better when you have to make a substitution, due to lack of the proper ingredient in your pantry. That is how my Chocolate Crinkle cookies when from good to exceptional! I only had a small amount of vegetable oil left, and I really wanted a chocolate cookie. I substituted two thirds of the oil with softened butter. The result was a better flavored, soft cookie that stayed moist and chewy for days.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

1/2 c. softened butter
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
*powdered sugar for coating cookies

Cream butter, vegetable oil, sugar and cocoa together. Fold in eggs, one at a time until smooth. Add vanilla and stir. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients, about 1/2 cup at a time until blended. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill at least 3 hours or overnight. Drop teaspoons of dough into powdered sugar and roll into balls. Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Do not over bake. Place warm cookies on baking rack to cool. Store in tightly sealed container. Makes approximately 3 1/2 to 4 dozen.


*These roll well in granulated sugar, too. The last time I baked them, I divided the dough in half and made one half rolled in powdered sugar and one half in granulated.   Although there was not much difference in flavor, they did look nice when served together.

 

 

 

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