Paska - Ukrainian Easter Bread
Originally posted April 22, 2011. Updated 1/26/2021
As I mentioned in my "How to make Pysanky" blog post, my absolute favorite part of Easter - growing up - was my neighbour’s Easter bread, called Paska.
My grandmother's neighbor would bake it every year and share it with us. After the egg hunt was over, I knew this delicious, citrussy bread would be waiting for us.
What is Paska?
Paska is a Ukrainian Easter Bread, but it’s also popular through a lot of Eastern Europe, as well as areas with a lot of Ukrainian immigrants.
You know, like my hometown - Winnipeg!
Paska is traditionally served at Ukrainian Easter celebrations, and the bread is often braided or decorated with Christian symbolism - crosses, etc - baked right into the design.
As I’ve always known it, it's sweet, almost like a cross between a cake and a bread, and my neighbour used to bake them in coffee cans.
Now that I think about it, I guess they’re a bit like panettone, though the panettone’s I’ve had are quite a bit more dry in texture than the paska I’ve had.
Anyway, I tend to think of it as a breakfast bread, though if it’s in my vicinity, it’s fair game at ANY time.
There are some wildly different ideas of what Paska entails - many don't have citrus, some have raisins or a frosting - but this is what I was raised on, and it won't disappoint!
My Paska Recipe
Anyway, the memories of that bread were so vivid, when that Pysanky post brought them up, that I decided to get the recipe from my grandmother.
It's always interesting when you're trying to get a recipe through a game of telephone - especially when the first two passes are through old ladies 🙂
As usual with my family, the recipe came as more of a formula - no instructions... and I adapted it a little (increased the flour and zest, changed lard to butter, ditched the coffee can in favor of decorated style), figured out what the directions would be, and made it last night.
I had planned to make this as a blog entry only, pass the finished product off to my husband to share at work, and behave myself.
Gluten allergy be damned, I dug into that sucker AS I was taking it out of the oven! Whatever fallout should happen as a result, it'll be worth it!
I prefer this bread served warm, either fresh out of the oven or microwaved. It's a very tender, moist bread, so be sure to keep it from drying out.
Also, it makes a TON of bread, so be prepared to make some friends VERY happy.
I'm thinking that this will make some AMAZING French toast this weekend. Oh yeah. With a little vanilla, orange zest, and a splash of OJ in the custard... MMMmmm...
PS: I am glad that I double checked Mary's last name for this post. For some reason, I originally typed "Mallon" instead of "Morin".
Mary Mallon. Yes. How's that for a food blog screw up? Typhoid Fever is the new Truffle Oil?
More Easter Content!
Looking for more fun / tasty ways to observe Easter? Here are a few suggestions:
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Well, the published nonsense, anyway!
- ½ cup Warm Water
- 1 teaspoon Granulated Sugar
- 2 packets Active Dry Yeast 4.5 teaspoon
- ¾ cup Butter softened
- 2 cups Granulated Sugar
- 8 Large Eggs beaten
- Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange
- Zest of 1-2 lemons and 1-2 oranges
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 ½ cups Scalded Milk Cooled
- 12 cups+ All Purpose Flour Divided
- 2 Large Egg Yolks
- 1 tablespoon Water
- Stir sugar into warm water. Sprinkle yeast on top of sugar water, gently incorporate. Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, until bubbly.
- In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, continue to cream until well incorporated and fluffy once more.
- Add juices, zest, and salt to the mixture, mix until combined. Add scalded milk, continue to mix until well incorporated and smooth. Add 4 cups of flour, combine well. Add yeast mixture, mix until well incorporated.
- If you have a dough hook attachment for your mixer, affix it now.
- Slowly add remaining flour until a good, coherent bread dough comes together. It should be only very slightly sticky to the touch – not super sticky, and not really DRY.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for a few minutes. Dough should be smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky when it’s been kneaded enough.
- Put dough into a lightly greased bowl or pot, cover top with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm area until doubled in size, about 1 ½-2 hours. Once doubled, beat down the middle of the dough and allow to rise another hour.
- Now here’s the fun part. Reserve about ⅓ of the dough for decorations, and divide remaining dough out among the pans you’ll be using (grease them first!). For reference, we used a 9″ round pyrex pot, a large loaf pan, and 3 mini loaf pans to bake ONE batch of this. It makes a *LOT* of bread… this is a good thing!
- For the main body of your breads, you’ll want the dough to fill about ⅓ of each baking pan – they’ll rise like crazy. Halfway full if you’re adventurous, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Cover loosely pans and reserved ⅓ dough loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise another 30 mins.
- Once your 30 minutes are up, use the reserved dough to make designs on the top of each loaf. Braids, twists, curls, crosses and rosettes are popular/traditional, but have fun with it. (Google can be a great source of design inspiration.) Toothpicks can be used to help secure designs in place until after baking. Cover loosely with plastic, allow to rise one last time, 30 minutes.
- While your dough is rising, whisk together the remaining egg yolks and water to create an egg wash. This glaze will give your finished Paska a shiny, dark brown finish. Beautiful!
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Once final rise is finished, brush entire top of each loaf with egg wash. Bake loaves for 10 minutes. Without opening the oven door, lower the heat to 325°F and continue to bake for another 40 minutes.
- Cool Paska for 10-15 minutes (if you can handle the wait), then gently remove from pans and tranfer to a wire rack or wooden cutting board to continue cooling.
- I recommend wrapping and hiding a loaf or two, before cutting into any of them. If you’re planning to bring them somewhere, or share with ANYONE, this step is kind of essential.
- Cut into one of your warm loaves, slather with butter, and … don’t plan on going anywhere for awhile. It’s easy to plow through a ton of this, and it will give you a bread coma. SO WORTH IT.
- This is even great the next day, reheated with butter. Yum.
More Recipes that Remind me of Gramma
Since originally writing this post, my gramma has sadly passed... but her memory lives on.
Here are a few recipes that remind me of her, whether as something she taught me to make, a replica of a retail treat we used to enjoy together, or one of my own recipes that she would request whenever I’d visit, as an adult.
Gramma's Perogies Recipe
Homemade Marshmallow Cones
Homemade Clodhoppers Candy
Puffed Wheat Squares
Honey Dill Dipping Sauce
Baking Powder Biscuits
Grandma's Potato Salad
Easy Butterfly Cupcakes
Breakfast of Champions
French Canadian Pea Soup
Beep Drink Recipe