Is it really Good Friday already?!! Where has the time gone? It seems that I just finished writing about Malted Scáiltín Cupcakes on the last day of my St. Patrick’s Day blog-a-polooza. I guess my little blogging vacation is over. Time to get back in the kitchen! And on this Good Friday I’d like to tell you all about a delicious bread, Paska, which is traditionally enjoyed at Easter in many Eastern European countries.
Baking bread around Easter is certainly not new for me. Every Good Friday you will find me in the kitchen baking up a batch of Apple & Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns. These buns are delicious and because I am always very careful to bake them on Good Friday, they have some magical powers.
It’s true. I always save at least one bun from my yearly batch. That bun, if you hang it in your kitchen, will not only protect your household from fires but will also work as a charm to ensure all of your bread baking endeavours will be successful. Indeed, a dried bun from the previous year, also has medicinal properties. You can grate a bit of it into the liquid of your choice to make a restorative elixir that will help sick folks regain their health. This powder can also be applied directly to wounds with the same curative results. So yup, I always bake up a batch on the appointed Friday. Not to mention I Love me some Hot Cross Buns and really, to be honest, I just love bread. Pretty much all bread. The only exception I can think of is Rye bread…I’m not too keen on that. Oh yeah and Irish Soda Bread which contains caraway seeds…but I’ve already told you how much I loathe that. Otherwise, bread is always welcome at my table. A couple of Easter’s ago I tried my hand at a Russian Easter Bread called Kulich. Kulich is a sweet yeast bread filled with spices, rum drenched raisins and apricots and topped with frosting and sparkling sugar.
Todays Easter Bread, Slovak Paska, is an egg and butter rich bread which is light, fluffy and slightly sweet. The loaves are often decorated with Christian symbolism. As I mentioned, it is enjoyed in many eastern european countries with each country’s version slightly different, some with raisins, some without, some with cheese in the bread, or sour cream. Actually I’m sure Paska recipes vary from Granny to Granny, regardless of country borders. The recipe I chose is a Slovak Paska. I am not of Slovak descent, but did run the recipe by my friend John, who is and he definitely remembers his Granny making just such loaves of bread for Easter.
Slovak Paska was easy to make. I couldn’t believe how high it rose! It really looks amazing and if you can believe it, it tastes even better! And while it is delicious all on its own, really you don’t even need to butter it….but hey – I will never pass up butter…
we’re already drooling just thinking about it wrapped around a few slices of Easter ham. Not to mention the Easter morning Paska French toast! There’s still time for you to get in on this action. Bake up a loaf for your Easter table today.
Slovak Paska (Easter Bread)
recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour
For the Dough:
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup luke warm (98° – 105° F /36.5° -40.5° C) water
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 5 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 2 large eggs + 2 egg yolks
For the Topping:
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon cold water
- coarse white sparkling sugar, optional
**The King Arthur Flour site, where I first saw this recipe, simply instructs one to “Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients – by hand, mixer, or bread machine – to make a soft, smooth dough.” This sounds very easy and straightforward to me. However, although everything I have ever made from a King Arthur recipe has been a success, that is not how I make the dough for yeast bread. I proceeded to make it how I am accustomed to doing it, which takes a few more steps. I have written them out below. Feel free to proceed with whichever method you prefer to arrive at a soft, smooth dough.**
Heat the milk, butter sugar and salt in a sauce pan over low heat until the butter and sugar are melted. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to luke warm.
Place the lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Leave for 5 minutes or so until the yeast is foamy.
Add approximately 2 cups of flour to the bloomed 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 too “loose” slowly (1 tablespoon at a time) add flour until you see it pulling away from the sides and bottom of the bowl and adhering to the beater.
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.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s noticeably puffy.
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.
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.
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.
Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center.
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.
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.
Slovak Paska brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)