Don Emerson knows his povitica, and he says the best is made in a garage converted into a commercial kitchen in Liberty.“It is absolutely the best I’ve ever tasted,” Emerson said about the six types of povitica that is hand rolled and baked by Larry Madson at his house near the Liberty Community Center.“My favorite used to be the black walnut blend, but now my favorite is the cinnamon, raisin walnut,” Emerson said. “I really love the end pieces. I could eat a whole loaf all by myself but I don’t.”Emerson said he grew up in the Strawberry Hill area of Kansas City, Kan., where his grandparents once owned a corner grocery store. His Croatian grandmother closely guarded her secret povitica recipe. The swirled, dessert bread is traditionally made during the holidays in Polish, Slavic and Croatian neighborhoods, he said.Madson said he originally planned to sell his povitica at farmers’ markets in the area, but decided to do it online — at www.papaspovitica.com — to better control what he made with what he sold. Each 2-pound loaf sells for $16.95 and is shipped out the day it’s made. The six kinds Madson offers are walnut, walnut/pecan, cream cheese, cream cheese/chocolate chip, black walnut blend and cinnamon, raisin walnut. Occasionally a customer will request poppy seed povitica.“About 75 percent of my business is between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Madson said. “So far I’ve sold it in 46 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.”In his sparkling kitchen — it’s approved and inspected by the Clay County Health Department and the FDA — Madson made 1,500 loaves of bread last year. After making the soft dough, it is allowed to rise before he rolls it out paper thin and spreads it with filling. Rolled up jelly-roll style and folded in half, into a bread pan it goes for a second rising before it’s popped into a convection oven to bake for 55 minutes. Once it cools, the povitica is packaged and sent on its way. He said it usually arrives within a day or two.Madson said the bread stays fresh for seven days on the counter, two weeks in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer. He said all except the cream cheese poviticas freeze well.Although he has only been making the bread commercially for about 18 months, his love affair with povitica goes back years, when he first tasted it at a Croatian wedding.“I thought it was delicious,” he said. “My favorite is walnut/pecan. I make a loaf for us about once a week.”Retired from Southwestern Bell and after a stint as a sports photographer, Madson, who always enjoyed baking, decided about two years ago to add a kitchen in his garage and start his povitica venture. Getting approval from the city took months.“I paved the way,” he said. “Now I think there are a few other people making stuff out of their home.”Madson said he does participate in some tastings at weddings to get his name out but mostly relies on word of mouth or customers finding him on his website, papaspovitica.com.“This keeps me busy. I want to grow the business but not too much more than I can handle,” Madson said. “I don’t bake unless someone orders.”Madson said his 9-year-old grandson, Gage Callaghan, helped him come up with the name for his business.“He said ‘Papa, why don’t you call it Papa’s Povitica,’ so I did,” Madson said.
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