As many of you know, I like to challenge myself in the baking department. Since writing this blog I have tried many recipes and had great success in expanding my baking repertoire. None of that practice prepared me for this recipe.
I was co-hosting an Easter Brunch for some Ukrainian friends of mine last week. One of the recipes for the brunch required the baking of the traditional Ukrainian Easter bread called Paska. My friend’s sister, Nina, was kind enough to share this recipe with me that was handed down to her by her late Godmother, who came from a village not far from where their father was born. in the region of Halychyna.
The Paska is part of the traditional brunch that is served after the Eastern Orthodox Easter Liturgy on Easter morning. The food is packed up in a decorated basket and taken to the church to be blessed before it is served.
I had lots of help from my friend’s daughter, Katarina, and her beautiful children in the baking process. At each stage of the process when the bread was rising we found ways to entertain ourselves by going out for ice cream or just relaxing with a glass of wine. Traditional baking like this brings families together and creates lasting memories. I am sure that is why many women still choose to bake the Paska at Easter, rather than buying it.
I will tell you a secret. It was the most amazing egg loaf that I have ever tasted! It was dense and rich and flavourful. Paska would make great sandwiches or French toast the following day, if there were any leftover.
I want to thank my friends for letting me share in this wonderful tradition with them and for teaching about their customs.
It was an honour to be able to host the brunch.
Ukrainian Easter Bread- Paska
2 Fresh Yeast Cakes (17g cubes)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 cup milk, scalded & cooled to lukewarm
1 cup lukewarm water
8 cups sifted all-purpose flour
10 egg yolks
1/4 lb. softened butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Directions:Add 1 cup of milk to a saucepan and heat to scalding. Remove from heat and cool until lukewarm. Scalding the milk is important and adds a distinctive flavour to the Paska.
Dissolve: yeast cakes, sugar, water & milk in a medium-sized bowl. Gently mix in 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time, until smooth. Cover bowl with a tea towel & let rise for approximately 11/2 to 2 hours.
In a large bowl beat together until creamy egg yolks, butter, 2 cups sugar, salt and remaining 5 cups of flour.
Gently pour in above yeast mixture. Mix well until blended then add the 5 cups of flour, one cup at a time.
Pour mixture out onto a generously floured surface and knead well, letting the dough rest a couple of times between kneading to help the gluten work. Continue kneading until the dough no longer sticks to the hand. This will take some time.
Place dough in a well-greased bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise until it doubles in bulk, approximately 2 hours.
Punch down dough to let the air out. Grease hands with butter and shape into loaves. Set aside 1/3 of the dough for decoration.
Please in greased round baking dishes – filling only 1/3 full. It is best to use deep dish ceramic or glass round casserole dishes as they hold the heat better.
Cover again with tea towel until they double in bulk. Place decorations on top.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and brush with egg yolk beaten with a tablespoon of milk – return to over to bake 5 more minutes until golden and shiny.
Invert out of baking containers, test if the loaf is done by knocking the bottom; a hollow sound indicates it’s ready.
Handle gently, until cooled.
Pasky are always decorated beautifully and it is recommended that you save 1/3 of the dough for decoration. I found this illustration on Ukrainian Classic Kitchen with some traditional designs that were easy to follow: