Paska ~ aka Easter Bread!

I love traditions… and one that is heavy on my mind right now (probably because i’m literally heavier for enjoying it) is the making, and of course, the eating of Paska! For the last 35+ years, my mom has added to our Easter celebrations by creating literally the best Easter bread ever. I’d love to say she whips up a batch, but it’s much more of a labor of love than that. Both the method of cooking and the time required (plan on hanging around home for the day), make the speed at which the paska disappears almost shameful! And, admittedly, i do believe i am somewhat of a paska snob….i won’t waste the calories on dry or heavy varieties! The key word here is “lukka”: soft, airy, but still full of texture.
As all traditions must get passed along, Pam and i spent the day learning the art of making traditional Mennonite Paska:
Here’s the Cole’s Notes:

PASKA 
** dough to be made in a mixer, such as a KitchenAid or Bosch. Start with using the whisk attachment

#1. Beat 1 cup warmed milk, add 1/2 cup flour. Make smooth paste and let stand several minutes.

#2. Mix and let rise: 2 Tbsp yeast, 2 tsp sugar and 1/2 cup water

Rapid or Quick-Rise yeast

#3. Beat 10 eggs yolks and 2 whole eggs til light and fluffy.

#4. Add 1 tsp salt.

#5. Slowly beat in 1 cup sugar and 2 tsp vanilla. Beat well

I HAD to take a pic of my mom’s “measuring cup”. Wow..this brings me back to my childhood…she has used this china teacup to measure since i was a babe…only thing that’s changed? It’s minus the handle!

#6. Melt and cool 3/4 cup butter. Add butter to egg mixture.

#7. Add rind of 1 orange and scant bit of lemon rind.

#8. Add yeast mixture and milk mixture.

#9. Add 5 plus cups of flour and knead. ***BEFORE this step, switch to dough hook attachment!

As you add the flour, the dough will eventually pull away from the sides of the bowl and become one ball of dough…the texture will be very sticky.

Once the dough is the right consistency (pulled away from the sides of the bowl, yet still very sticky), knead it in your machine for approx 10 min (each mixer varies slightly).

#10. Empty into a large bowl sprayed with Pam or Canola Oil. Move dough around, spray it with Pam again so it’s covered with oil. Cover bowl with towel and plastic wrap. Let rise for at least 1 hour.

Make sure dough is well coated with oil

Cover with a dishtowel and plastic..use a dry cleaning bag! This will generate some heat to aid in the rising.

#11. Punch down and let rise for at least another hour.

Beautifully risen dough!

Work it, mom!!

Ready to be covered and let rise a 2nd time

#12. Punch down again and form into loaf “balls” on a pan and let rise for an additional hour

Divide dough into approx 4″ balls..you’ll be surprised how big they will end up being..

Place dough balls on greased cookie sheets

Cover and let rise a final hour…the end is near!

#13. Bake at 300 degrees until rising well (about 10 minutes) and then at 275 degrees until done (about 20 min more)

 

 

Add a cup of coffee or tea and it’s a little “escape from the day”

And, with any Mennonite recipe, there are many “unwritten” instructions! Here are the extras, that make ALL the difference according to our mom, who learned from generations before:
~Leave the eggs out the night before (GASP!).. you want to use ingredients on the side of being warm for the bread to rise better.
~Do not use brown coated loaf pans…well, that is, unless you love for your beautifully risen bread to sink after baking!
~If possible, make paska on a sunny day…the dough will rise better. Backup plan? Run your dishwasher so the countertop above it warms…then put the bowl with the rising dough on the warm surface! Or turn your oven on for awhile, then turn it off and put the dough in there to rise.
~Don’t ever double the batch
~Use fresh jumbo farm eggs
~Use whole milk….listen, you’ve already cheated on the diet…go big, or go home!

Wish me luck…i’m giving this recipe a go all by myself tomorrow…i’m a big girl now!!

 

**UPDATED  PASKA ICING

I’ve had many requests for the icing we use on our paska. My mom has always made it and i’ve nabbed some of hers each year!! The icing i posted in past is my moms BUT i made a fatal error in accidently omitting the most important ingredient: BUTTER. So here it is in its beautiful correct entirety!!! It is the best!

ICING for PASKA

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

2 egg whites (egg whites keep the icing fluffy)

1 – 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp cream

4-6 cups icing sugar

Beat butter in mixer until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and beat until completely incorporated, smooth and fluffy. Be sure to keep icing in the refrigerator.

 

  • Lori

    Looks and sounds just like my mom’s, minus the orange rind. Sooo good

    Lori

    • Some people don’t add the orange rind… i quite like it! Do you make your own??

  • Cora Ellis

    This looks great and I love how you put pictures of each step. That’s something that I would find really helpful. Does your mom use a regular butter icing, like the one from the Betty Crocker cookbook or is their a special recipe for that too? I’m totally going to do this! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Glad this inspired you…i ended up baking my paska today! And it turned out:) The only thing i wasn’t happy with was that my loaves came out a little more brown that i would like. If you experience this, turn your oven lower…and don’t bake on dark colored pans. Also, my first rise took almost 2 hours, so don’t worry if it takes longer (i called my mom in a panic!) For the icing…i love her recipe..she said combine icing sugar, milk, vanilla and a couple egg whites. Love the measurements hey?? Anyways, the egg whites make the icing fluffier…it will need to be refrigerated after its made. Hope that helps!!

      • Cora Ellis

        That sounds just like how my mom would give me a recipe. A little this and this and mix. Thanks.

  • One other note…when making the yeast mixture, use only “barely warm” water. The first time around, my water was too hot..the mixture grew quite large. This essentially kills the yeast. Lesson learned:)

  • Prudence

    Fantastic! A no fail recipe. As nervous as I was for the first time making and baking ‘Easter Bread’ – it turned out perfectly.

    Your instructions, hints and photos – were written so concisely and clearly. Many times, I looked at your photos to use as a guideline. It was almost like the 3 of you were there, coaching me on.

    Laurel, good hint about the yeast, and the 1st – rising time. Mine also took at about 2 hours too. I thought I did something wrong. Nope, as long as your Mom said, this is normal, I felt fine 🙂

    Ladies, continue with the great work.

    Thank you so very much again, my husband ate up 1 loave & slathered with icing & sprinkles – yup, all for dinner time!. Now, I have to share the rest with my friends. 🙂

  • Carolyn

    Hi ladies, Just wondering how this bread is used for easter dinner. Is it part of your meal, a dessert or just something to enjoy throughout the day? It looks wonderful………..

    • Pam

      As a child, I remember having it after Easter dinner as a sort of dessert! We usually didn’t have other desserts after Easter at our grandparents. I also love it toasted with some butter for breakfast…soooo good!

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