Traditional Easter Paska is a round shaped Easter bread, much richer than ordinary bread. The top is elaborately decorated with fancy dough ornaments, having a cross as the central motif. The ornamental finishes on paska are given much attention because this bread is taken to church on Easter morning in a special basket along with small portions of other Easter foods. The priest blesses the filled baskets, while the choir sings the traditional Ukrainian Easter hymn "Christ is Risen."
Warning: These measurements are based on the old North American Cup which is 8 oz.
1 tsp sugar 5 ml 1 cup lukewarm water 250 ml 1 Tbl dry granular yeast 15 ml 3 cups scalded milk, lukewarm 750 ml 5 cups flour 1250 ml 6 eggs, beaten 6 1 cup sugar 250 ml 1/2 cup melted butter 125 ml 1 Tbl salt 15 ml 9 - 10 cups sifted flour 2250 ml - 2500 ml 1 cup raisins 250 ml
Dissolve the sugar in the lukewarm water and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Combine the softened yeast with the lukewarm milk and 5 cups / 1250 ml of flour. Cover and let the batter rise in a warm place until light and bubbly. Add the beaten eggs, sugar, melted butter, and salt; mix thoroughly. Add raisins. Stir in enough flour to make a dough that is neither too soft nor too stiff. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to the hand. Turn the dough on a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny. Place in a bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Punch down and let it rise again. This amount will give two large loaves of paska.
Divide the dough into 3 parts. Reserve 1 part for ornamenting the loaves. Shape the other 2 parts into 2 round loaves. Place each in a greased (spray), round pan. (1 Kg coffee cans work well.) Now cut the reserved part in half to ornament the 2 loaves. The central ornament on paska is usually the cross. Roll 2 long rolls and trim the ends. Place the rolls over the top of the loaf, crossing one another evenly. Tuck the ends of the rolls under the loaf. Shape the trimmed dough into twisted swirls or rosettes, and arrange them symmetrically between the arms of the cross. Use sharp scissors to make fine petals on the rosettes. Once the cross is placed on the loaf, the remaining ornamentation is left to one's imagination and artistic ability. This is one of the simpler ways of ornamenting paska.
Elaborate ornaments require experience. Some home makers make a separate stiff dough mixture for ornaments to assure their shape. The cross may be made of entwined or braided rolls for a better decorative effect. Among the usual ornaments there may be a bird with eyes of peppercorns or cloves, nestling in a bed of rosettes. These additional ornaments are placed on a loaf when it is about half risen.
Set the loaves in a warm place until they are almost double in bulk. Take care not to let the loaves rise longer than necessary because the ornaments will lose their shape. Brush very carefully with a beaten egg diluted with 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of water. Bake at 350F /175C for about 40 minutes until done. Avoid browning the top too deeply. If necessary, cover with aluminium foil. Remove the loaves from the pans and allow them to cool. If you are not taking the paska to church, you might want to cut the recipe by ½ or 2/3 and omit the decorations. Either way, it is delicious.