Paska Baking

IMG_1098.jpgI have been procrastinating over this post as it is not an easy one. The paskas (traditional Ukrainian Easter bread) have been baked, two of them gifted to family members and my kids are finishing up the last slices, made into a French toast, as I am typing this. Were my paskas everything I wanted them to be? Yes and no. Yes for the taste goes and no for the look. They committed a cardinal sin of cracking and their tops were not perfectly smooth and round. The reason for it is that I did not give them enough time to rise before putting them in the oven, and they grew too quickly, which lead to cracking. Important lesson learned: be patient and wait for the dough to properly rise prior to baking. I used two smallish cooking pots, a metal mug, and a small silicone pastry form to bake my paskas. You can also get a special panettone pan, but I find that regular cooking pots or small baking dishes work very well for me (just make sure that they don’t have plastic handles!).

To achieve the best flavour I decided to make my paskas as a somewhat of a cross between a panettone, an Italian holiday bread, and a brioche, a French pastry containing a lot of eggs and butter. I borrowed the base recipe from the King Arthur Flour website as I used it last year and quite liked the result. This time around I modified it by doubling up the butter, eggs, adding extra egg yolks, and alcohol. I also made one of my rises happen in the fridge overnight to deepen flavour. Just to give you a better understanding of the timeline, I made the starter on Thursday evening and baked paskas on Saturday morning. No wonder this is one of those ‘once a year’ dishes!

As I have mentioned in the earlier post, I soaked my dry fruit in rum for a week prior to baking. It was a mixed 300g bag of peaches, apricots, pineapples and raisins; I put them in a jar and poured enough alcohol to cover the fruit. I used approximately 1/2 of the fruit (about 1.5 cup) and 5 tablespoons of rum in my paskas,Ā  and put the rest to good use by making sangria for the Saturday dinner (sangria turned out great!).

The recipe below will yield two small and two medium paskas.


The ingredients:

For the starter:

  • 1.5 cups white flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2/3 cup lukewarm water

For the dough:

  • 4.5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks + 1 egg yolk for egg wash
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cups melted butter
  • 1.5 cup dried fruit soaked in rum
  • 5 tablespoons rum


The steps:

  1. Make the starter by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover with plastic film and let it sit overnight in a warm corner of the kitchen
  2. To make the dough, mix the starter with flour, water, eggs, egg yolks, yeast, vanilla, salt and sugar until it forms a more or less consistent ball
  3. Slowly start adding butter, approximately 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing it in well in between the additions. This is the most labour intensive part of the process, taking 15-20 minutes. Your dough will end up sticky and stretchy. If you find it a bit too goopy, add more flour, but no more than 1 tablespoon at a time, you do not want it to get tough
  4. Cover the bowl with a plastic film and let it raise for 1.5-2 hours, until doubled in size
  5. Deflate the dough by punching it down, cover again and put it in the fridge overnight
  6. The following morning take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to come to the room temperature (it will take at least 2 hours)
  7. Prepare the baking dishes by generously rubbing them with butter and sprinkling them with flour. If you want to be extra cautious, line the dishes with greased parchment paper
  8. Knead in the fruit and 5 tablespoons of rum into the dough
  9. Shape the dough in the balls and put them into the baking dishes. Press the dough down and smooth out the tops. The dough should fill approximately 1/3 of the form
  10. Let the dough rise for another 1.5 to 2 hours
  11. Preheat the oven to 375F
  12. Brush the tops of the bread with egg yolk
  13. Bake the paskas on the middle rack for 45-60 minutes, until they turn golden brown. You can test for doneness by inserting a thin wooden skewer into the middle of your bread. If it comes out batter-free, your paska is ready. If not, give it a few more minutes. Ovens vary, so check on the bread every now and then, just avoid opening the oven door for the first 25 minutes of baking
  14. Gently turn the baking dish upside down and let the paska slide out. If the bread is a bit stuck, run a thin knife around it to loosen it up
  15. Cool paskas off on the wire rack and put the prettiest one into the Easter basket
  16. You are now ready to show it off at the church. Or to take a pretty pic for the Instagram. Or both šŸ™‚



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