Paska is a traditional Easter bread originating in countries with predominant Eastern Orthodox religion or cultural connections to the ancient Byzantine Empire and are a traditional element in the Easter holidays of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and Slovakia among others; countries well represented in the Coal Region.
The liquid drained from another Eastern European traditional Easter food, Hrudka (Egg Cheese) is often saved and used in the making of the Paska bread (using this liquid as the “water” in the recipe). Hrukda is often served on Paska bread with kielbasi or ham, topped with red beet horseradish, Cwikla.
Christian symbolism is associated with features of paska breads and the dough is usually shaped into round loaves decorated with religious symbols made of dough. The bread is often made on Good Friday, placed in a basket along with other items like hrudka, butter, eggs, horseradish, kielbasi and ham to be taken to church and blessed on Holy Saturday, then enjoyed at Easter morning brunch. These items were forbidden in the Middle Ages during the Lenten fast.
When the feast of Easter brought the rigorous fast to an end, and these foods were again allowed at the table, people showed their joy and gratitude by first taking the food to church for a blessing. Today the Easter blessings of food are still held in many churches in the Coal Region and across the United States, especially in parishes with Eastern European roots.
This recipe uses raisins; some family recipes do not. None are “right” or “wrong”, do what suits your taste! This recipe has directions for using a stand mixer, it can also be made by hand.
Paska BreadCourse: BreadsCuisine: Eastern European, Coal RegionDifficulty: Intermediate
This traditional Polish egg bread is light with a slight sweetness.
1/2 cup whole milk
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup lukewarm (100 to 105F) water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
5 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
OPTIONAL – 1 cup golden raisins
Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon cold water
- Heat the milk, butter sugar and salt in a sauce pan over low heat until the butter and sugar are melted. Do not boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm (100 – 105F).
- Place the lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Leave for 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.
- Add 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture and mix on low-speed until combined.
- Add the lukewarm milk mixture, eggs and the remaining flour. Mix until combined. The dough should be pulling away from the sides of the mixer bowl. If the dough seems loose add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until it pulls away from the sides of bowl.
- Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 -8 minutes until you have a soft smooth dough which springs back slowly when you poke your finger into it. If adding raisins, knead them in now.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm spot for 60 to 90 minutes, until puffy.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other.
- Form the larger piece into a ball and place it into a well-greased 9″ x 2″ round pan or springform pan.
- Divide the remaining piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20″ strand. Create a braid with the strands. (Or create other decorations in the shape of your choice.)
- Place the braid on the round main loaf around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough.
- Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 – 60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center.
- Brush the egg wash mixture gently over the top of the dough.
- Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove it from oven, turn out of the pan, and cool completely on rack.