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

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

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¬įF, 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.

German Lebkuchen

I love having at least one spice cookie in my Christmas cookie assortment. This year, I selected Lebkuchen¬†because I know my mom is a fan of them. I only made one batch- what a mistake! I should have¬†doubled it (at least)… Next time. ūüėČ

This recipe is from Hannah of the beautiful blog Domestic Gothess. I glazed the finished cookies and omitted dipping them in chocolate. I weighed the dry ingredients and freshly ground the spices in the dough. They were wonderful!

For the Lebkuchen:

  • 150 g (1/2 + 1/3 cup) dark brown soft sugar
  • 150 g (5.3oz) runny honey
  • 50 g (4 T, ¬†1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • finely grated zest of 1 naval orange
  • 300 g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose¬†flour
  • 150 g (1 1/4 cups) ground almonds
  • 1 T cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 large¬†eggs

For the Glaze:

  • 150 g (1 1/2 cups) Confectioners’¬†sugar, sifted
  • 2 T water

  1. Put the sugar, honey, butter and orange zest in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder, spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda; set aside.
  3. Beat the eggs into the sugar mixture one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. In two or three additions, mix in the flour mixture until well combined.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least half an hour or (ideally) up to overnight.
  6. To Bake: Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 (on convection) and line three baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Scoop out portions of the dough using a large cookie scoop (1 1/2″ in diameter) or measuring spoon (about 1 1/2 tbsp at a time), and roll between slightly damp hands into smooth balls.
  8. Place them well spaced apart on the baking sheets and flatten them slightly with your fingers.
  9. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes until firm and lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  10. Transfer the Lebkuchen to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
  11. To Make the Glaze: Place the confectioners’¬†sugar in a small bowl and gradually mix in enough of the water to form a slightly runny icing – not too wet though or it will all run off. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet.
  12. Dip the tops of the Lebkuchen in the glaze, allow the excess to drip off then place them right-side up on the wire rack to set.
  13. Once set, store in an airtight container. The cookies improve over time. An apple placed in the container may keep them more fresh.

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Ina Garten’s Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Most people make carrot cake in the springtime… I make it in the fall to celebrate my mom’s birthday. ūüôā It’s one of her absolute favorites. I have made this yummy version several times- they are special and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! Ideas and Recipes for Easy Parties that are Really Fun by Ina Garten. I cut the recipe in half to make 12 cupcakes, adjusted the baking times for a convection oven, and used the orange cream-cheese frosting from my favorite (springtime) orange chiffon bunny cake.

Fabulous! A true gold standard. Happy Birthday, Mom. ‚̧ ‚̧

Yield: Makes 12 cupcakes

For the Cake:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large¬†egg plus 2 T beaten egg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp¬†baking soda
  • 3/4¬†tsp coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots (less than 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For the Orange-Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 stick, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I used light cream cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated orange zest, from about 1/3 of a large orange, about 3/4 tsp
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the egg, mix to combine. Repeat with the additional 2 T of beaten egg.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  5. With the mixer on low-speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.
  6. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.
  7. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  8. Using a cookie scoop,  scoop the batter into 12 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.
  9. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  10. Cook an additional 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack.

To Make the Frosting:

  1. Cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  2. Add the zest and salt, beat to combine.
  3. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
  4. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Note: If the recipe is doubled, 3 large eggs can be used to make 22 to 24 cupcakes.

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Single-Crust Damson Plum & Apple Pie

I “had” to make this¬†wonderful weeknight pie with the Damson plums I received in my CSA share. ūüôā Apparently, they are too tart to be eaten raw and must be cooked. Lucky for me, I received over two pounds of them and was able to enjoy them in two different desserts!

The combination of tart fruit with a sweet cookie-like crust in this pie was absolutely delicious. Blending plums with apples was a wonderful bridge from summer to fall as well.

This recipe was adapted from The Guardian, contributed by Nigel Slater, via Smitten Kitchen. The original recipe used prune plums. It was almost a cobbler with its crumbly lid and oozing filling. Amazing.

I’m sharing my pie at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #138 this week, co-hosted by my friends Mollie @The Frugal Hausfrau and Johanne @French Gardener Dishes. Enjoy!

For the Pastry Lid:

  • 7 tablespoons (100 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (I used the zest from about 1/2 a naval orange.)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup plus 6 1/2 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse or flaky salt
  • milk or heavy¬†cream, for brushing crust
  • turbinado or granulated sugar, for sprinkling crust
  • softly whipped, lightly sweetened cream, or vanilla ice cream, for serving, optional (unnecessary!)

For the Filling:

  • 1 pound ripe Damson plums or Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
  • 1 pound apples, peeled, cored and cut into smaller chunks (I used Pink Lady apples.)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • squeeze or two of fresh orange juice
  1. Make the pastry lid: In a stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy.
  2. Mix in the lightly beaten egg and scrape down sides.
  3. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat until combined.
  4. Scrape dough into a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap, and stick in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes, or until firmed up.
  5. Assemble the pie: Preheat oven to 350¬įF (180¬įC or gas mark 4).
  6. Butter a pie dish. (I used cooking oil spray.)
  7. Add the fruit and sprinkle it with the sugar, cinnamon and orange juice. Gently toss the ingredients together once or twice. 
  8. Roll out the firmed-up lid dough between sheets of plastic wrap or on a very well floured counter.
  9. Gently lift it onto the pie and fold the edges underneath to fit the dish. Crimp the edges, as desired. (Note: The crust may tear- all the better to let juice erupt through.)
  10. Cut 4 vents in the top to allow steam to release and additional juice to bubble through.
  11. Brush the crust with milk or cream, sprinkle with sugar. 
  12. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly golden on top, covering the edges after the first 15 minutes of baking to prevent over-browning.
  13. Scoop onto dishes and serve plain or with whipped cream or ice cream, as desired. (I thought it was perfect on its own!)

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