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Easter Paska

Ornately decorated paska bread is customarily prepared for Easter in Ukraine. The dough is marked with a four-sided cross design and often used as the central focus of Ukrainian Easter baskets.

  • Yield: Makes 2 loaves
Easter Paska

Ingredients

  • 1/3 ounce active-dry yeast (from two 1/4-ounce envelopes)
  • 6 2/3 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 1 1/3 cups high-gluten bread flour
  • 1 2/3 cups milk, warmed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup canola oil, plus more for bowl and brushing dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon spiced rum
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 large egg white, beaten

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together yeast, 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, and warm water; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, high-gluten flour, and milk; stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until bubbles form, about 30 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in the 5-quart bowl of a professional-size 10-speed mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together eggs, 6 egg yolks, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar on high speed. Slowly add canola oil and mix until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add vanilla, lemon zest, and rum; mix to combine.

  3. Attach the dough hook attachment to mixer. Add salt, 4 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, and yeast mixture. Mix on low speed until dough comes together. Slowly add butter; continue mixing until dough is no longer sticky, 10 to 15 minutes, adding remaining 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, a tablespoon at a time, to prevent sticking. Alternatively, you can knead dough by hand until smooth, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a large lightly-oiled bowl; shape into a ball and lightly coat top with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel, followed by a layer of plastic wrap, and then a second clean kitchen towel; let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

  4. Line the bottom of two 6-quart ovenproof saucepans with waxed paper rounds. Line sides with waxed paper, leaving an overhang of 3 inches; spray paper with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

  5. Weight out two 1 1/2-pound pieces of dough; pinch and shape each piece into a flat disk and transfer to prepared saucepans. Using a toothpick, pierce the dough to remove air bubbles. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let stand in a warm place while preparing decorations.

  6. Form remaining dough into suns, cross shapes, and fertility symbols for decoration. Brush tops of each loaf with egg white and top with decorative dough; secure using toothpicks. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let loaves stand in a warm place until dough comes to top of pan, about 2 hours.

  7. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 2 egg yolks with 2 teaspoons water. Brush tops of loaves with egg yolk mixture and transfer to oven; bake until tops are golden brown, about 1 hour. If paska begins to brown too quickly, cover with parchment paper-lined aluminum foil.

  8. Remove paska from oven. Immediately remove from pans and gently remove toothpicks from bread. Transfer to clean kitchen towel and cover with a second clean kitchen towel to cool. Paska can be frozen for up to 6 months.

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