Paska – Ukrainian Easter Bread

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Paska (which means Easter) is a slightly sweet egg-laden Ukrainian bread recipe that is traditionally served every Easter morning. It is typically decorated with religious symbols, such as the braided cross in the picture featured above, and is then taken to church on Easter morning in a special basket with other foods to be blessed. Being of Ukrainian heritage, this is one of my favourite slavic recipes, and I’d like to share our family’s age-old recipe with you.
This recipe makes 1 large loaf.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Sugar + 1 tsp Sugar
1/2 cup luke-warm Water
1 package Active Dry Yeast
1 & 1/2 cups 2%-3% Milk
2 & 1/2 cups all-purpose Flour + 5 cups all-purpose Flour
3 beaten large Eggs
1/3 cup melted Butter
1 & 1/2 teaspoons Salt

Scald the milk in a pot. Set aside to cool to a lukewarm temperature.

Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon sugar in water and sprinkle yeast over it. Mix and let stand 10 minutes.

Combine yeast mixture with scalded milk and 2 & 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Cover and let rise until light and bubbly.
Add the eggs, 1/2 cup of sugar, melted butter, salt and 4 & 1/2 to 5 cups flour to make a dough. It should not be too stiff, but not too loose either. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to your hand and is smooth and satiny (about 7 minutes in a mixer, longer by hand).

Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease all 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. Shape the rest into a round loaf and place in a 10- to 12-inch greased round pan.
Shape the reserved dough into decorations of choice — a cross, swirls, rosettes, braiding, birds, letters, figurines, etc. Cover the pan with greased plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush bread with 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water. Bake 15 minutes.
Reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees.

If necessary, cover the top of the bread with aluminum foil to prevent over-browning.

Remove from oven and turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.
Serves well with warm butter or ricotta cheese and jam.
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