For most of Ukrainians Easter is a very important religious holiday. It is celebrated in every Ukrainian region and has traditions and customs which have been kept up from ancient times.
The Christian faithful in many Eastern Christian countries eat this bread during Easter. Christian symbolism is associated with features of paska type breads. The inside of paska can be a swirl of yellow and white that is said to represent the resurrection of Jesus while the white represents the Holy Spirit.
For Ukrainians bread is one of the essential foods, it is true for Easter foods, too. Paska is large bread of round form made of white flour and often decorated with a cross and other suitable Easter ornamentation (pine cones or rosettes) created with dough. Paska is sometimes studded with raisins. In some paskas there is a hole in the middle for a candle which is put in the hole during blessing at church.
On Easter morning Ukrainians get up early and go to church. They bring big Easter baskets with them which are to be blessed. Food that is put in baskets is symbolic; every item has its meaning and reasons to be brought to church.
Traditional Easter basket usually contains:
- eggs (krashanky and pysanky);
- dairy products;
- salt and horseradish.
Easter Bread Paska (Recipe)
- 2 cakes fresh yeast (or substitute 2 packets active dry yeast – 4½ teaspoons)
- 2 cups whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
- 7 to 8 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 ¼ cup granulated sugar*
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- 5 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups golden raisins (optional)
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1. In a large bowl, stir the yeast into the warm milk to dissolve and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Add 3 cups flour and mix with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area until the dough has doubled in size.
3. If you choose to use the golden raisins, soak the raisins for 30 minutes in warm water, then drain and pat dry with paper towels before using. This will keep the raisins soft in the bread and hard.
4. Transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric stand mixer and add the sugar, melted butter, egg yolks, salt, vanilla, and golden raisins. Mix to just combine.
5. Add the 4 cups of flour, one at time; mixing between each cup.
6. Mix on low to medium-low speed until the dough comes together, adding more flour one tablespoon at a time, if needed. The dough will be a bit sticky.
7. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth dough, about 5 minutes, again adding more flour one tablespoon at a time, if needed.
8. Divide the dough into three equal sections and shape into loaves, then transfer to three 8×4-inch greased loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size.
9. When the dough has about 10 minutes left to rise, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. **
10. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash.
11. Bake the loaves for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F** and bake for an additional 40 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown.
12. If the loaves are beginning to get too dark, place a tented or loose piece of foil over top.
13. Let the bread to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, then turn the loaves onto a wire rack to cool completely.
14. ***Store leftover bread in a re-sealable plastic bag and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.
15. Recipe from Ukrainian Cookbook by the SS Peter and Paul Church
The original recipe used only 1 cup of sugar. It wasn’t as sweet as I wanted it to be so I increased it by ¼ cup. Don’t add more than ⅓ cup extra sugar or you will risk the dough not rising properly to bake.
*If you are using dark, non-stick loaf pans, be sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F. I used dark, non-stick pans so I preheated my oven to 375 degrees F and baked for 10 minutes, then reduced the temperature to 325 degrees F for the remaining 30-40 minutes.
***If you are using dark, non-stick loaf pans, be sure to reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F. I used dark, non-stick pans so I preheated my oven to 375 degrees F and baked for 10 minutes, then reduced the temperature to 325 degrees F for the remaining 30-40 minutes. This bread freezes well.
It is just delicious!