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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