Ukrainian Easter Bread
To make one of Martha's favorite sandwiches, serve leftover bread with slices of liverwurst and a slathering of Homemade Mayonnaise.
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 12 cups plus 1 tablespoon sifted all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 to 3 tablespoons warm water, 100 degrees to 110 degrees
- 2 cups warm milk, 100 degrees to 110 degrees
- 6 large eggs, 3 whole, 3 separated, room temperature
- 8 large egg yolks, room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- 3 tablespoons rum or brandy
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
In a medium bowl, combine yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and warm water. Mix until smooth. Set bowl aside until mixture is bubbly, 10 minutes.
Add 4 cups flour and milk to yeast mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 3 whole eggs, 8 egg yolks, and sugar until light and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add the yeast mixture. Add salt, vanilla extract, lemon and orange zests, rum or brandy, melted butter, and vegetable oil. Whisk on medium speed until combined.
Remove whisk attachment from machine, and fit with the dough-hook attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, gradually add enough of the remaining 8 cups flour until dough comes away from side of bowl. Transfer dough to a clean work surface. Knead dough, adding any remaining flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer dough to a large bowl, and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot away from drafts, and let it rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Place rack in lower two-thirds of oven, and heat to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch ovenproof saucepans. Cut a piece of wax paper about 2 inches longer than the circumference of the saucepan. Fold this in half crosswise to make a double thickness. Place inside the saucepan, patting it to adhere to the butter. The collar should extend 3 to 4 inches above the rim of the saucepan. Seal the 2-inch flap with more butter.
When dough has doubled in bulk, punch down, and set aside one-third of dough in a medium bowl covered with plastic wrap for decorations. Divide remaining two-thirds dough evenly between saucepans. Place bowl and saucepans of dough in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes.
On a clean work surface, shape reserved dough into desired motifs: suns, crosses, rosettes, birds, braids, scrolls, etc. Keep any dough that is not being used covered with plastic to prevent it from drying out. Brush surface of risen dough in saucepans with 3 lightly beaten egg whites. Attach decorative dough ornaments, using a toothpick if necessary to secure to loaves. Place in a warm place to rise until it reaches almost the top of pans, 20 to 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 3 egg yolks with 1 tablespoon water. Brush egg wash on surface of loaves. Bake for 10 minutes; lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for an additional 50 minutes. Cool paska in pans for 30 minutes. When bread has cooled but is still warm, gently remove from pans, and transfer to a rack to cool.