Traditional Ukrainian Easter Bread Podil’ia Style (Podil’ska Paska)

Happy Belated Easter! We were very lucky to enjoy beautiful weather yesterday. 🙂

I like to bake new Easter breads to serve for our holiday breakfast. This year, I looked through my Ukrainian cookbook collection for a paska (Ukrainian Easter bread) recipe.

My mother-in-law has given me several Ukrainian cookbooks and there were many variations of paska to choose from- all quite different from one another depending upon the region of their origin. Traditionally, a paska or babka is an essential part of an Easter breakfast. Many are beautifully decorated with a cross, braid, or birds. This version is more of a cake, with batter, and did not have dough that could be used to decorate the top.

The recipe was adapted from Festive Ukrainian Cooking by Marta Pisetska Farley. According to the book, this paska recipe, from the northwest province of Podil’ia, is at least a hundred years old! It is a golden paska, reminiscent of the sun, and is similar to a sponge cake.  It was very rich and indulgent.

Yield: One 9 or 10-inch cake

  • 1 cup dry white bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 10 large or extra-large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 to 4 T powdered sugar
  1. Line the bottom and sides or a 9, 10 or 12-inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Because I used a 9-inch pan (smaller than the original recipe suggests), I cut 7-inch tall pieces of parchment paper to line the sides of the pan, buttered on the portion lining the walls of the pan and sprayed with cooking spray above the walls of the pan.)
  2. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  3. Sift the bread crumbs until fine, then sift again with the flour baking powder, and spices.
  4. Add the grated lemon and orange zest.
  5. Separate the eggs.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the egg yolks with the granulated sugar until thick and pale, about 3 minutes.
  7. Add the vanilla and beat again.
  8. Fold the bread crumb mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
  9. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold them into the batter until no white streaks can be seen.
  10. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until set or a toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour. (I was afraid that the cake would fall if I checked it too early- and baked it for 1 hour.)
  11. When fully baked, keep the cake in the oven with the door ajar, and allow to cool slowly. (The cake may fall slightly. Mine did!)
  12. When cool, remove the parchment paper and sprinkle the top with powdered sugar. Serve.

Cinnamon-Date Sticky Buns with Vanilla Glaze

The photo of this special breakfast is on the cover of the April issue of Bon Appétit. I made it almost immediately after seeing the magazine! I really liked the idea of using dates in the filling to add a little bit of natural sweetness and fiber- and to reduce the amount of sugar. Yum.

This recipe is from Bon AppĂ©tit, contributed by Molly Baz, Sohla El-Waylly, and Sarah Jampel. It was included in an article titled, “Butter, Sugar, Flour, Magic: A Basically Guide to Better Baking.” There are a lot of other delicious treats included in the article. 🙂 I made the dough and the date filling the day before assembling and baking.

It would be a lovely breakfast to serve on Easter morning.

Yield: 9 sticky buns

For the Dough:

  • 3/4 cup buttermilk or whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 7 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4-oz (2 1/4 tsp) envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Filling and Assembly:

  • 1 cup (180 g) packed Medjool dates, halved, pitted
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (83 g) Confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 T buttermilk or plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract

To Make the Dough:

  1. Combine the buttermilk and 6 tablespoons of oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. (It won’t get smooth.) Heat in the microwave in three 10-second intervals until just about body temperature, or when it registers 98°F with an instant-read thermometer. (Alternatively, the mixture can be heated in a small saucepan on medium-low for about 1 minute.)
  2. Whisk egg, brown sugar, and yeast in a liquid measuring cup to combine, then whisk in the buttermilk mixture.
  3. Pulse the flour, baking soda, and salt in a food processor to combine.
  4. With the motor running, stream in the buttermilk mixture. Process until about 80% of the dough comes together in a ball, about 2 minutes. (The mixture will look very wet at first, then the sides will begin to pull away.)
  5. Using a bowl scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the dough onto an unfloured surface. (It will be wet and sticky.)
  6. Knead, pushing it away from you, then pulling it back toward you, until a smooth ball forms, about 3 minutes. (You can lightly oil your hands if the dough is too sticky.) The dough will grow silkier, tighter, and easier to work with as you knead.
  7. Roll out the dough into a rough 8-inch square.
  8. Fold dough over onto itself to make and 8×4-inch rectangle, then flatten it slightly and fold over once more to make a 4-inch square.
  9. Roll dough back out into an 8-inch square.
  10. Repeat the folding process (Step 8); you will finish with a 4-inch square.
  11. Pour remaining 1 tablespoon of oil into a medium bowl and add dough (still folded); turn to coat.
  12. Cover bowl tightly and chill dough until doubled in volume, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. (I refrigerated my dough overnight.)

To Make the Filling and Assemble:

  1. Place dates in a small bowl and pour in 1 1/2 cups hot water to cover. Let soak until softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Drain dates and transfer to a food processor; discard soaking liquid.
  3. Add cinnamon, salt, and 2 tablespoons of oil.
  4. Purée, scraping down sides as needed, until smooth, about 4 minutes. (You should have about 1/2 cup purée.)
  5. Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
  6. Transfer dough to a clean, unfloured surface and roll out to an 8-inch square.
  7. Fold in half into an 8×4-inch rectangle, then fold rectangle over itself to form a 4-inch square. If dough feels tough and uncooperative, let it sit for about 5 minutes to relax and try again.
  8. Roll out dough into a 12-inch square, about 1/4-inch thick.
  9. Dollop date purée all over. Using a small offset spatula, spread evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border without purée along edge farthest from you.
  10. Sprinkle brown sugar over purée.
  11. Starting at the edge closest to you, roll up dough into a tight log.
  12. Using a sharp serrated knife and long sawing motions, trim about 1/2-inch of dough from both ends. (These ends can be discarded, but I baked them in a separate small ramekin.)
  13. Slice log crosswise into 3 sections, wiping knife clean between cuts.
  14. Slice each section crosswise into 3 buns. (I used a ruler.) You should have 9 buns total that are each about 1-inch thick. Transfer buns to prepared pan as you go.
  15. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Place in a warm, dry spot. (I used plastic wrap so that I could monitor the rising process. I also placed the pan in a warming drawer.)
  16. Let buns rise until they’re doubled in volume and spring back when poked, leaving only a small indentation, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on the humidity and warmth of your kitchen.
  17. Remove plastic wrap, if using, and cover pan with foil.
  18. Place a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350°F, preferably on convection.
  19. Bake buns, still covered, until puffed, pale, and mostly set, about 20 minutes. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces, covered with foil, at the same time.)
  20. Remove foil and continue to bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes if you prefer a soft and squishy bun and up to 25 minutes for a more toasted bun. Let cool slightly. (I baked the small ramekin with the extra end pieces at this point for about 5 minutes- uncovered.)
  21. Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla in a medium bowl to combine.
  22. Brush glaze over warm buns and serve in skillet.

Do Ahead: Purée can be made 3 days ahead. Place in an airtight container, cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.

Banana Bread with Crunchy Sugar Topping

I have one more recipe to share from the special baking book, Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland by Shauna Sever. (for now!) In the book, this recipe is titled “The Only Banana Bread You’ll Ever Need.” That is a little over the top for me- I always welcome new recipes for banana bread. 🙂

In this version, the super moist bread is topped with crunchy, snowy granulated sugar. The sugar is dampened and clumped together before sprinkling it over the prepared batter. I had never used this technique and I loved it. The topping looked beautiful and had a wonderful contrasting texture.

I weighed the bananas and all of the dry ingredients. I modified the recipe by baking it in a Pullman loaf pan, adjusting the baking time accordingly. We loved it!

Yield: One loaf, Serves 8 to 10

  • nonstick cooking spray for the pan
  • 1 3/4 cups (400g) mashed, very ripe bananas (I used 3 1/2 bananas)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 T (196g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (112g) vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup (75g) well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 T dark rum, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plus 2 T (272g) unbleached all-purpose flour, spooned & leveled
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 T (38g) granulated sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 325 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Spray a 9×5-inch or Pullman loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line it with parchment paper with a couple of inches of overhang on the long sides. Lightly coat the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the mashed bananas, brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, eggs, rum (if using), and vanilla.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and fold until just blended.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Place the granulated sugar in a small bowl.
  8. Using your fingertips, sprinkle water over the top of the sugar. Work the water into the sugar, pinching it together, until it begins to resemble snow. (It should barely hold together when it is pinched together.) To add additional water, sprinkle water over the top using the opposite (clean) hand.
  9. Sprinkle the dampened sugar over the batter, aiming to get it clumped up together in spots.
  10. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes in a Pullman pan or 60 to 70 minutes in a standard loaf pan.
  11. Let cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then use the parchment paper to lift the loaf out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: Bread can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap and/or placed in an airtight container, for up to 5 days.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts & Raisins

One of my mom’s best friends shared her recipe for this special pumpkin bread with me. I first tried it last year over the holidays and absolutely loved it. She recommended using olive oil and whole wheat flour. I used olive oil and half whole wheat pastry flour this time. 🙂 It was incredibly moist and delicious.

I made one loaf in a standard loaf pan and the other in my new Nordic Ware fluted loaf pan to make it that much more special. I froze the special loaf to serve over Thanksgiving weekend. I love recipes that make one batch to enjoy right away and another for later- or to share.

Yield: 2 standard loaves

  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil or olive oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 15 to 16 oz can pumpkin purĂ©e (about 2 cups)
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sifted whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Butter two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pans. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  3. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl with a spout.
  4. Blend in the oil and water.
  5. Add and whisk in the pumpkin purée.
  6. In a separate large bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder.
  7. Add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves; whisk to combine.
  8. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the pumpkin-egg mixture. Mix until just combined.
  9. Fold in the nuts and raisins.
  10. Using a ladle, disperse the batter between the two loaf pans.
  11. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the bread tests clean in the center. (I baked mine for 62 minutes on convection.)
  12. Cool on a rack in the pans; remove when cool.

Zucchini Bread

As if my CSA zucchini wasn’t enough, my friend brought me more beautiful zucchini from her garden. I made four loaves of this bread (two batches) with a single zucchini! Amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen. I incorporated whole wheat flour. As suggested, I used less sugar and also omitted the add-ins. We ate some, shared some, and froze some for later. This loaf improves with time- perfect to make the night before serving it for breakfast. I imagine it would also be delicious lightly toasted and topped with butter.

Yield: 2 loaves or 24 muffins

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sunflower oil (can also used olive oil or another vegetable oil)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (can also used half (or even all) turbinado or half light brown sugar)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups grated, packed zucchini, not wrung out (from about 10 oz zucchini)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional
  • 1 to 2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or chocolate chips (or a combination), optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Generously grease 2 loaf pans (8×4 or 9×5) with butter and flour or with nonstick spray. Alternatively, grease 24 standard muffin cups or line with paper liners.
  3. Whisk eggs, oil, butter, sugar, and vanilla in the bottom of a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt over the wet ingredients and whisk them in well.
  5. Stir in zucchini.
  6. Gently stir in flours, mixing only until incorporated.
  7. Fold in any add-ins, if using.
  8. Divide between prepared pans and bake for 55 to 65 minutes for a loaf, 20 to 25 minutes for muffins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let cool for 10 minutes on a rack before inverting and removing from the pans. The loaves can also cool completely in pans.
  10. Store wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to 5 days. Loaves also freeze well.

Italian Easter Bread Wreath

Happy Easter! I made this sweet and tender orange-scented bread to serve for breakfast with our hard-boiled Easter eggs. The texture was similar to panettone without the dried fruit.

As an aside, I have to share a photo of my Easter cat with his catnip carrot. ❤ We are all very festive in my house!

Because I live in fear of overbaking my sweets, I was disappointed that this loaf was slightly overdone after I had already significantly reduced the baking time in the original recipe. :/ Don’t worry! We still gobbled it up, but, I modified the recipe below. The sweet orange glaze made it a crowd-pleaser.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour. I weighed all of the dry ingredients and used vanilla and orange extract instead of Fiori di Sicilia. I also reduced the baking time and tented the loaf during baking. Pretty.

Yield: One 10-inch round loaf

For the Starter:

  • 120 g (1 cup) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) cool water
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

For the Dough:

  • 269 g (2 1/4 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 67 g (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract + 1/4 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed, optional (I omitted it)
  • grated peel of 1 large orange

For the Glaze:

  • 113 g (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • sprinkles or nonpareils, for decorating
  1. To make the bread: Mix together the starter ingredients, cover the bowl, and let rest at room temperature overnight, or for up to 15 hours.
  2. Next day, combine the bubbly starter with all the remaining dough ingredients. Mix and knead, using a mixer or bread machine, until the dough is elastic and satiny. We don’t recommend preparing this dough by hand, as it’s quite sticky and challenging to bring together. (I used the beater until the dough came together and the dough hook for about 7 minutes on medium speed to knead the dough.)
  3. Grease a large bowl and let the dough rise for 1 to 2 hours, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I used a proofing oven.)
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased surface, divide it into three pieces, and shape each piece into an 18″-long rope. Braid the ropes together, and connect the two ends to form a wreath.
  5. Cover the wreath and allow it to rise until puffy, about 1 to 2 hours. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F, preferably on convection.
  6. Bake the wreath for 10-15 minutes, then tent the loaf with aluminum foil and reduce the oven heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 8-15 minutes. The finished loaf will be golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will register at least 190°F. (I baked it at 375°F for 15 minutes, and 350°F for 10 minutes and the internal temperature of the loaf was 205°F.)
  7. Remove the wreath from the oven, and transfer it to a rack to cool.
  8. To make the glaze: Stir together the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the milk or orange juice. Add more liquid 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is thin and pourable.
  9. Drizzle the glaze onto the cooled braid, then decorate with sprinkles, if desired.

Streusel Banana Bread

As my son said after gobbling up his first piece, “This is GOOD banana bread!” 🙂 Really good. It’s probably because it’s actually more of a banana coffee cake. The streusel was amazing.

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living. I incorporated whole wheat flour. It made a very special breakfast but would also be a wonderful snack or dessert.

For the Streusel:

  • 6 T unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for the pan
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup banana purĂ©e from 2-3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  1. Place an oven rack in the lower third. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan or Pullman loaf pan with butter or cooking oil spray; line with parchment, leaving a 1-inch overhang on long sides.
  3. Make the Streusel: In a bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the butter and pecans until small clumps form and mixture is evenly moistened. (I used a pastry blender.) Set aside.
  4. Make the Cake Batter: In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt.
  5. In another bowl, whisk together butter, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk; stir in mashed bananas.
  6. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour banana mixture in. Stir together until just combined making sure not to overmix.
  7. Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Sprinkle half of the streusel evenly over the batter.
  9. Add the remaining batter, then sprinkle remaining streusel over the top.
  10. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes in a standard loaf pan (tenting with foil after 1 hour if browning too quickly), or 1 hour in a Pullman loaf pan.
  11. Let cool in pan 20 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely before serving.

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