Easter Paska

Happy Belated Easter! We had unseasonably warm weather and bright sunshine on Easter Sunday in New York. 🙂 In the afternoon, we visited a local swan to admire her impressive nest.

I made this buttery and eggy Eastern European Paska to enjoy for breakfast over Easter weekend. My daughter braided the dough for the decorative cross. She did such a great job! 🙂 It was such a light and fluffy loaf- really delicious. We ate it topped with butter and jam. It was also recommended to eat with kielbasa or leftover Easter ham.

This recipe was adapted from King Arthur Flour.com. I used a bread machine to knead the dough and omitted the sugar topping. It could have been used as a beautiful centerpiece as well.

Yield: 1 large loaf

For the Bread:

  • 1 cup (8 oz) lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups (21.25 oz) all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt

For the Topping:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • coarse sugar, like turbinado, optional (I omitted the sugar)
  1. To make the dough: Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough. (I used a bread machine.)
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy. (I placed it in a warming drawer on the “proof” setting.)
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan.
  4. Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand; use the three strands to create one long braid. 
  5. Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough. 
  6. Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. (I used a proofing oven.)
  7. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, preferably on convection, with a rack in the center.
  8. To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.
  9. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it’s a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

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Easter Babka

My mother-in-law makes a traditional Ukrainian babka for Easter every year. I have always felt that I would like to do the same- but I felt intimidated. This year, I finally pulled out my Ukrainian cookbooks to search for the perfect recipe… and became even more intimidated!! :/ First, I looked through recipes for Traditional Easter Paska, beautiful round loaves topped with elaborate dough ornamentation; they seemed more of a end-point than a starting point for my first attempt to make a special Easter bread.

When I saw this recipe for “Country” Babka, I knew it was more fitting. Rich, simple, and still festive. I was happy that it included raisins in the dough. We ate it lightly toasted with butter and/or jam with our colorful hard-boiled eggs for breakfast on Easter morning. This recipe was adapted from Traditional Ukrainian Cookery by Savella Stechishin. Happy (Belated!) Easter!!

For the Sponge:

  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp yeast
  • 1/2 cup scalded whole milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the Dough:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 2 3/4  to 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. Make the sponge: Dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water, sprinkle the yeast over it, and let it stand until softened. Combine with the lukewarm milk and 1/2 cup flour. Beat well, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until light and bubbly. (I placed mine in a proofing drawer for about 15 minutes.)
  2. Make the dough while the sponge is rising: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs with the salt.
  3. Add the sugar gradually and continue beating until light.
  4. Beat in the butter and lemon rind.
  5. Combine the dough mixture with the sponge.
  6. Stir in the flour and knead in the bowl (with the dough attachment) for about 10 minutes. The dough should be thick. Add more flour if needed to make it less sticky.
  7. After the 10 minutes, knead in the raisins until evenly incorporated.
  8. Cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place (I used a proofing oven) until double in bulk. (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours)
  9. Punch down, knead a few times, and let it rise again until double in bulk. (In a proofing drawer- about 1 to 1 1/2 hours)
  10. Generously butter a tall, round baking pan with soft butter (or spray with cooking spray). (I used an angel food cake pan.) Place the dough in the pan (It should fill 1/3 of the pan.)
  11. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled or tripled in bulk (or until the dough reaches the brim of the pan- not the case in my angel food pan). (about 1 1/2 hours in a proofing oven)
  12. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, then cover with foil to prevent over-browning. (I did 15 min but would do 10 next time…)
  13. Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes.
  14. Lower the oven temperature again to 275 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer. (I omitted this step, as my loaf baked more rapidly in the angel food cake pan.)
  15. Let the dough stand in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes; remove to cool.

Note: Traditionally, Babka is sliced in rounds across the loaf. The sliced bottom crust serves as a protective cover, and it is put back to prevent the loaf from drying. (We deviated from this tradition, as I baked the loaf in an angel food pan, and, therefore cut more traditional slices.)

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Bread Machine Brioche

IMG_8209

Why hadn’t I ever thought of this before? What a heavenly breakfast!! My friend asked for help searching for a bread machine brioche recipe- I found this one from Fleichmann’s yeast, via Food.com, all over the blogosphere. My friend tried it first and couldn’t even wait for the bread to cool before digging in- the smell was so amazing. 🙂 I had to make it myself, of course! It was eggy and tender. We smothered it with Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Jam (which we have been rationing since last June!) and enjoyed it as we watched the snow pour down outside…. on the last day of March!! I may add raisins next time- GREAT!

Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf

  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine, softened, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup milk (70º to 80ºF) (I used 1% milk)
  • 3 tablespoons water (70º to 80ºF)
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  1. Measure all ingredients into bread machine pan in the order suggested by manufacturer.
  2. Process on sweet or basic/white bread cycle; use light or medium/normal crust color setting.
  3. Remove bread from pan; cool on wire rack.

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If you like this you may also like:

Apple Cinnamon Pull-Aparts

apple pull-aparts

This was too big of an undertaking to make for Easter breakfast. I thought I was a few steps ahead by making the brioche dough the day before – this sweet bread was ready to eat by Easter afternoon! It smelled GREAT, and looked beautiful. The recipe does make 2 cakes, and instructions for advance preparation which would have been a much better plan! (next time….) It was worth the wait- no complaints from the family. This recipe is from More from Macrina: New Favorites from Seattle’s Popular Neighborhood Bakery by Leslie Mackie with Lisa Gordanier. We ate it with our hard-boiled Easter eggs and fresh fruit.

For the Baked Apples:

  • 3 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 T unsalted butter

For the Cinnamon Sugar:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 recipe Sweet Brioche Dough

1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water, for egg wash

For the Buttermilk Glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2-3 T buttermilk

Yield: Makes Two 9-inch cakes

  • Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly grease two round 9-inch cake pans with canola oil (I skipped this step!). Cut out two 10-inch parchment paper circles and place them in the bottom of the pans, creasing the outer edges so that the paper goes up the sides. Next, cut four 2-inch strips, each 15 inches long, and place along he insides of the pans (2 per pan), slightly overlapping, to ensure the pull-aparts don’t stick. Set aside.
  • To make the apples, toss them with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmet in a medium bowl. Spread them on the prepared baking sheet and dot with the butter. Bake for 10 minutes, then toss the apples to redistribute them on the baking pan. Bake for another 5 minutes, until the apples are soft to the touch but still a little firm and their juices have thickened somewhat. Cool for 10 minutes, then chop coarsely and set aside.
  • To make the cinnamon sugar, combine the sugars, cinnamon, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  • Using a rubber spatula, pull the brioche dough onto a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out into an evenly thick 7-by-16-inch rectangle; keep the longer side toward you. Spread the apple filling evenly over the dough, going clear to the edges. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the apples, reserving 1/4 cup for garnish.

IMG_3069

  • Starting with the edge farthest away, begin rolling up the dough toward you. This dough is fairly soft, so be patient as you are rolling. The log will naturally stretch as you are rolling it, which is good. You want it to stretch to a final length of 24 inches. (Do your best to keep the log the same diameter from one end to the other.) When the log is finished, let it rest seam side down for a few minutes.
  • Halve the log so you have two 12-inch logs. Then cut each log into seven 1 1/2-inch pieces- they’ll resemble cinnamon rolls. Set 6 pieces on end around the perimeter of one prepared pan (I had 7 pieces), then place the last one in the center. Make sure they are evenly spaced – they will need room to rise. Do the same with the second pan. Lightly brush the egg wash on top, and sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon sugar. Let the dough rise until it’s level with the top of the pan and has expanded to fill it, about 1 1/2 hours.
  • About 20 minutes before baking, position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees.
  • Bake the pull-aparts for (28 minutes on convection) 30 to 35 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Cool them in the pan for just 20 minutes (don’t let them cool completely as the sugars will set up and stick). Flip the rolls onto a plate and remove the parchment paper. The place your presentation plate on top of the rolls and flip again, presenting them right side up.
  • Make the buttermilk glaze by  sifting the sup gar into a medium bowl. Add the vanilla and buttermilk and whisk to remove any lumps. Stream the glaze over the top of the pull0-aparts in a zigzag pattern. Serve warm.
  • Since this recipe makes 2 pans, you can freeze one and have it ready for impromptu company or Sunday brunch with your family: wait until the glaze has hardened, then wrap the entire pull-apart in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 4 weeks. To serve, remove from the freezer and let the pull-aparts thaw at room temperature for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place the pull-aparts on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and reheat for 10 minutes.

apple pull-aparts

Sweet Brioche Dough

brioche

This is the most delicious dough that exists! It develops an even deeper and more complex flavor if made a day in advance– this is fortunate because it needs to be made a day in advance as it needs 3 hours to rise. 🙂 I made it to use for Apple Cinnamon Pull-Aparts. This recipe is from More from Macrina: New Favorites from Seattle’s Popular Neighborhood Bakery by Leslie Mackie with Lisa Gordanier.

  • 1/4 cup luke warm filtered water (about 80 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm whole milk (about 80 degrees)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups (1 pound) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Yield: Makes One 9-by-5-inch Loaf

  1. Lightly oil a medium bowl with canola oil. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the water with 2 teaspoons sugar (taken from the 1/2 cup sugar). Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water. Mix until the yeast is dissolved, then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
  3. Add the milk, vanilla, eggs, flour, and salt. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes to bring the dough together, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Increase to medium speed; pinch off grape-size pieces of butter and drop them one at a time into the dough as it mixes (this should take no more than 2 minutes). Continue mixing for 2 to 3 more minutes (don’t shorten the mixing time!). Now gradually add the remaining sugar (1/2 cup minus the 2 teaspoons) and continue mixing for a final 4 minutes. With floured fingers, pinch a big piece of dough and pull it away from the mass. IT should stretch about 3 inches without tearing- it will feel a bit like a rubber band. If it tears, mix for another 1 to 3 minutes.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the dough from the bowl onto a floured work surface. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. (I put it in a proofing oven.)
  5. Once the dough has risen, you are ready to proceed with any recipe that requires Brioche.
  6. If you’re making the dough a day ahead- either for convenience or to develop more complex flavors- simply deflate it after its initial rise, then re-cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. The next day, pull it out 2 hours before you want to use it, and allow it to come to room temperature. The dough should be doubled in size and feel slightly warm to the tough. This dough is best used by the second day. If you’d like to freeze brioche dough, it’s best to form it into the desired shape, brush it with egg wash, wrap it well, and freeze for up to a week.

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