Ukrainian Easter Paska


Happy Easter

I wanted to try my hands on this beautiful bread last #Easter when Korena from Korena in the kitchen posted it for one of the Daring Bakers' challenges. But I would have probably forgotten about it if it wasn't for another blog run by an Ukrainian ex-pat, that I stumbled upon and saw the recipe. When I compared the two recipes, I realized (although Korena's version comes from Martha Stewart's site) that they were pretty much the same version of one of the best recipes of it's kind, of what we call enriched bread, ala German Milchbrot and French Brioche (not to mention my Nan's milibrod). And the lady in question took that enrichment seriously by incorporating 3 whole eggs and 8 egg yolks into the mixture. I didn't want to downsize the recipe before I tested it, but you can, by all means because the recipe is very generous and produced 3 different sized loaves. Since I divided the dough into 6ths, 3 parts (one half went to make the biggest one) I would say it's safe to half the amount of the ingredients prescribed and bake one lovely Paska.
The recipe that follows is heavily adapted from Korena's blog:)

Ukrainian Easter Paska


35g fresh yeast
15 g  flour
1 tbsp  sugar
3 tbsp warm water
Let the mixture rest until it is all foamy, then add

550 gsifted flour 
455 ml warm milk
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the sponge rise for 30 minutes, until doubled in size.


In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine:
3 whole eggs
8 egg yolks
140 g sugar
Beat until pale and thickened, then add the risen sponge mixture and stir to combine.
Mix in:
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
the grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
3 tbsp rum
115 g melted unsalted butter
110 ml  oil
and up to 1050 g sifted plain flour

Transfer the dough to a very large bowl and work in enough flour with your hands until you have a soft dough that doesn't stick to the bowl .Turn out the dough onto a work surface and knead the dough, until it is very smooth and elastic.Oil the bowl and place the dough inside, turning it over to coat it lightly with oil.Cover and let rise until doubled in volume( for up to 2 hours)
Prepare your baking tins (two 20 cm round springform pans would be enough) by buttering the bottom and sides, then fold a piece of parchment paper in half lengthwise to make a collar around the inside of the tin. Press it to stick to the buttered sides of the tin.
Gently punch down the risen dough and reserve 1/3 of it for the decorations.
Portion off the remaining 2/3 of the dough (depending on how many tins you have) and form it into balls by pinching all the edges in towards the centre. Poke the dough all over with a skewer  to remove any air pockets.Place the dough smooth side up in the prepared baking tins. Cover the formed dough and the reserved dough with a tea towel and let rise for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, shape the reserved dough into decorations for the Paska. Mix together an egg wash of 1 egg + 1 tbsp water and use it to glue on the decorations.For each loaf, make a twisted rope around the edge by rolling out two long snakes of dough and twisting them together. Form the rope into a circle and lay it around the edge of the loaf.To make the 4-cornered cross, roll out a log of dough with fat ends. Split each end of the log into two strands, then roll them into tapered lengths and coil up each one.For a sun-motif, roll out a strand dough into a thin snake. Coil the ends in opposite directions and attach to the top of the Paska. Repeat with another strand of dough (up to 4 strands total) and arrange on top of the Paska.
To make a flower/rosette, roll out a long snake of dough, then flatten it with a rolling pin. Make little notches down one side with a knife, then roll it up from one end, letting the notched side fall open to form the petals. Pinch the closed end together to secure.
Secure all decorations with toothpicks so they stay put while rising and baking. Cover with a tea towel and let the decorated dough rise for about 30 minutes or until it is a few centimetres from the top of the parchment paper collar. While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 175 C (fan assisted oven) Brush the risen dough with the remaining egg wash.Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 160 C and bake another 50 minutes or until well-browned on top and hollow-sounding when tapped. Leave in the tins until almost cool, then remove while still slightly warm and place on a rack. Remove the toothpicks, and cool completely before slicing.

 To all my friends are readers celebrating this weekend I wish a very Happy and joyful Easter :))

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