Ukrainian Easter bread or paska (which means Easter) is a slightly sweet egg bread that can be decorated with religious symbols.
It's taken to church on Easter morning in a special basket with other foods to be blessed. Slovaks also serve paska at Easter but this is not to be confused with the molded Easter cheese dessert of the same name.
Ukrainians also feature another type of sweet bread known as babka for Easter but instead of the fluted shape favored by the Poles, theirs looks more like a Russian kulich which is tall and cylindrical in shape.
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 1/2 cups plus 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 beaten large room-temperature eggs
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- For the Egg Wash:
- 1 large room-temperature egg
- Scald the milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
- Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon sugar in water and sprinkle yeast over it. Mix and let stand 10 minutes.
- Combine yeast mixture with cooled scalded milk and 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Cover and let rise until light and bubbly.
- Add eggs, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, melted butter, salt and 4 1/2 to 5 cups of the remaining flour to make a dough that is not too stiff and not too slack.
- Knead until dough no longer sticks to the hand and is smooth and satiny (about 7 minutes in a mixer, longer by hand).
- Place dough in a greased bowl, turn to grease both sides, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again.
- Reserve 1/3 of the dough for decorating (see Note below). Shape the rest into a round loaf and place in a 10- to 12-inch greased round pan.
- Now shape the reserved dough into decorations of choice -- a cross, swirls, rosettes, braiding, etc. -- and arrange on top of the dough.
- Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled.
- Heat oven to 400 F. Brush bread with 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water. Bake 15 minutes.
- Reduce temperature to 350 F and bake an additional 40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190 F. If necessary, cover the top of the bread with aluminum foil to prevent over browning.
- Remove from oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Note: Some cooks make a stiffer, non-yeast, sculpting dough for the decorations so the shapes won't distort when baked. You can use the one as described in this Serbian cesnica recipe.