In 2009 I posted about Festive Easter Breads and Cheese. My cookbooks are full of margin notes, so I thought I would update the recipes a bit.
For the Ukrainian Easter Bread, Paska, I now use Celebration Breads: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions by Betsy Oppenneer. I highly recommend this cookbook– it is very detailed instructions and diagrams.
I find one of the most difficult aspects of baking cultural recipes is finding the right tools. This is an example — “Paska molds are somewhere between the height of a souffle dish and a 3-pound coffee can.” So this recipe uses either two 3-pound coffee cans or two 8-inch souffle dishes. I have neither on hand, and always forget this until it’s too late. So I’ve made due either with a Pyrex or Corning Ware casserole dish that is 8 inches across, or a wider mouthed (clean) flower pot that is also 8 inches across. (More on the flowerpot down below.)
The details on the recipes are two pages long, but basically you can compare the previous recipe for Paska. Here’s my adapted ingredient list:
Paska, Ukrainian Easter Bread
For the Dough:
1 scant Tablespoon or 1 (1/4 ounce) package of active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1/2 cup warm milk (about 100 degrees F)
8 large egg yolks, beaten
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange peel, zested
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon brandy or rum
4 to 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 to 1 cup golden raisins (soaked in brandy or rum)
For the Pan:
1 cup dried bread crumbs (I skip this and just use butter)
For the Topping:
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon cold water
Using a mixer: Sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften in the mixer bowl. Add the milk, yolks, butter, sugar, zest, vanilla, salt, brandy and 2 cups of the flour. Beat on medium-low for 2 minutes, adding the flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides. Change to the dough hook and and continue kneading on medium low, adding a tablespoon at a time.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl and coat the ball of dough with oil. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (This is one of my frustrations with my kitchen. This always takes longer for me, almost double the amount of time. I’m hoping my “proof” setting in my new oven will change this.) Meanwhile, heavily grease the pans, and if desired sprinkle the sides and bottoms with bread crumbs.
On an oiled surface, turn out the dough and set aside about one-fourth (1/4) of the dough and cover it. Divide the remaining dough and shape each piece into a smooth ball. Place the dough in the prepared molds. Divide the remaining piece of dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each one into a short dough equal to the diameter of the molds. Snip the ends of each rope about 1 inch. Lay 2 ropes at right angles to each other (the shape of a cross) on each loaf and curl the ends outward.
The decorations on top of the loaf are very individual, and can be ornate. These hints from Ukrainian Easter by Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn are extremely helpful. I did a simple cross and made an Alpha and Omega on either side of the cross, reminiscent of the Paschal Candle decorations.
Cover allow a second rise for about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. with 10 minutes remaining. Right before baking beat the egg with the cold water and brush over the top of each loaf.
Bake for 25 minutes until the internal temperate of the bread is 190 degrees F. Remove the bread from the pans immediately let cool on a rack.