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What Is Potica or Povitica?

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Strawberry Hill owners Marc, Harley and Dennis O'Leary

Srawberry Hill Povitica Co. owners Marc, Harley and Dennis O'Leary

© Strawberry Hill Povitica Co.

So What Is Povitica?

Potica (poh-TEET-sah), also known as povitica (poh-vee-TEET-sah), is a yeast-raised dough rolled around a variety of fillings -- sweet or savory.

Its name derives from the Slovenian word poviti, which means "to wrap in." Every family has its favorite recipe and a walnut potica, the most popular kind, can vary from one household to the next.

Sweet potica can be served as dessert with coffee or dry white wine, and savory potica is delicious as a side to the main meal or as a snack with cold beer.

Just Like Grandma Made

How can you miss with a company that plays polka music when your phone call is on hold? That was just the start of my love affair with Strawberry Hill Povitica Co. and its products.

Read this review of Strawberry Hill povitica.

In Search of Labor-Free Products

Let's face it. People just don't have the time to do all the baking they'd like to for the holidays. So in my search for products that taste homemade without the labor, I came across Strawberry Hill Povitica Co. Test samples of this nutroll performed so well, I had to talk with the owner to hear his story.

Strawberry Hill Povitica Co. History

Dennis O'Leary, president and owner of Strawberry Hill Povitica Co., does not have one drop of Irish blood coursing through his veins as his name might imply. His mother, Mary Ann Uzelac (now deceased), was Serbian and his father, Harley O'Leary (also now deceased), who founded the company in 1984 in Kansas City, Kan., was Croatian. O'Leary was his stepfather's name.

"My parents got divorced in 1982 and Dad's inlaws wouldn't share any povitica with him for the holidays, so Dad got his mother's recipe and started making it himself," Dennis O'Leary says.

"Dad asked for Mom's advice and she told him how to improve it. Even though they were divorced, they worked on the recipe together, but it was Dad's company. He died 10 years ago and if he were living today, I guarantee he'd still be intimately involved in the business."

How Strawberry Hill Povitica Is Made

Strawberry Hill's povitica starts with a sweet yeast dough that is rolled out by a mechanical sheeter to a certain thinness and then the dough is transferred to a tablecloth and the rolling and filling is finished by hand.

"Our English walnut filling is sweetened with honey and contains butter. Mom's side used to put cocoa powder in theirs, but Dad's side didn't and his prevailed," O'Leary says.

About 2 pounds of filling is spread onto each piece of dough, measuring about 2 1/2 feet long by 18 inches wide, and then the tablecloth is used to roll the povitica into a long cylinder.

"In the old days, the ovens were larger and could accommodate a long cylinder. As they got smaller, home cooks had to figure out how to bake their povitica. Some made it in a "U" or horseshoe shape but Dad wanted to do it one better, so he shaped it into an "S" and baked it in a loaf pan," O'Leary says.

The povitica is milk washed and baked. It cools overnight and is packaged and shipped the next day in the signature gift box with the strawberry logo.

Strawberry Hill Povitica Varieties

Now located in Lenexa, Kan., in 7,800 square feet of space, the company features seasonal flavors like cranberry for fall and winter and blueberry cream cheese for Mother's Day, in addition to the English walnut, cream cheese, strawberry cream cheese, chocolate chip cream cheese, raisin walnut and apple cinnamon.

"We started to offer different flavors because people wanted something else from us like apple strudel but we didn't want to get into the strudel business. So we took my grandmother's apple strudel filling recipe and put it in our povitica dough," O'Leary says.

The Tradition of Povitica Giving

"I’m really proud of my heritage. I think Eastern Europe has some of the best food in the world. When grandma would sit in the kitchen and make 12 loaves of povitica, she would have them earmarked for family members, but there were always four or five extra loaves. When she shared them with friends or extended family, it was the ultimate sign of respect. So when you get the gift of povitica, you should feel honored," O'Leary says.

As a child, O'Leary loved to make a ham sandwich on povitica -- the sweet and salty flavors were perfect, he says. If you have a povitica story you'd like to share, email him.

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