Island Randalia

Shorty Get Down

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I realize it was days ago, but this Easter was a busy one—and so were the days following.  But yes, Easter… Very busy!
It’s weird for me to write that out.  Mostly because I’m not a religious person anymore.  I used to be.  In fact, I grew up in a pretty Catholic household, in a mostly Catholic area.  I’d even go so far as to say that I was raised in the church—even if I did received reconciliation and communion at a date later than what is considered standard.  I was also confirmed.  Eventually I would leave the church; it wasn’t an instantaneous thing.  And it would be almost ten years before I decided to be an atheist.
But the changing of the seasons always brings back a sense of nostalgia, and a longing for the past (even if we view the past with rose colored glasses).  This year at Easter was no different.
For the Ukrainians, Easter is a big deal—maybe even slightly bigger than Christmas.  When I was a young girl, my Mother and I would spend a few days preparing for Easter.  Not just dyeing eggs, but assembling a basket to be blessed at our local Ukrainian-Catholic church—which involved baking one of my favorite Easter treats, paska.  Other items in the basket include sliced kielbasa, some of the dyed hardboiled eggs, a molded butter sculpture (usually a lamb), cream cheese, and a candle.  After it was assembled, we’d take it to church to be blessed, and then usually these items would be consumed at the Easter Brunch/Dinner with our family.  
These days, things are a little different, but I still manage to have most of those things on my table (provided we’re at home).  This year, instead of a butter sculpture, we had Irish Butter—Kerrygold for the win!—and instead of cream cheese, we had an assortment of fine cheeses.  But there was kielbasa (that actually got eaten yesterday as there was so much food on the table), and hardboiled eggs (I deviled them with avocados and some Dungeness crab).  We also had rack of lamb and oven-roasted rabbit.  So while I think it’s important to hold onto tradition, I also think it’s important to establish your own; even if everyone isn’t down with the shopping-cart mentality, this is what works for me.
At this Easter dinner though, the star of the show was the paska.  I was little nervous, as our two guests for dinner this year are both very accomplished bakers and the first attempt I’d made on my own out in here in Oregon wasn’t exactly a success.  For those of you who don’t know, paska is a traditional Easter bread made in Eastern European countries including Poland, Ukraine, and Slovakia.  For Ukrainians celebrating Easter, Paska is a big deal—at least for all the Ukrainians I knew growing up.  It is said that “the baker of the bread must keep her thoughts pure and the household must remain quiet for the bread to retain its fluffy texture while in the oven.” {Kubuilis}  Also the bread is usually adorned with a braid (the three braids are often said to represent the trinity) and/or a cross, though the pagan symbols of spring celebration mean that you can also find paska adorned with flowers, leaves, birds and suns.  I put a big flower on mine, and a braid (because I like the way it looked, less because of symbolism).  
I’m including my recipe with some notes at the bottom of this post, but if you’re going to attempt it on your own, it’s worth noting that this is a time consuming endeavor—the bread must rise twice, which adds about two hours to the actual time it takes to make.  So unless you want to get up very early on Sunday morning (like I did this Easter), I recommend making it a day ahead of time.  Also, there seems to be some debate about whether or not paska is a sweet or savory bread—I don’t think it’s particularly sweet, but depending on where you’re at geographically, paska can be almost a desert bread; variations include adoring it with fruit—raisins or maraschino cherries—and/or icing.  My recipe is not for a sweet bread.  And please forgive the picture.  It’s the only one that was taken before the bread got devoured…
And now?!  The recipe!  I wish I had one handed down throughout the generations, but I don’t! I’ve tried several and this is pretty much the recipe from “Charlotte’s Slovak Easter Bread Recipe” but scaled down and with some notes added by me.
The Ingredients:
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces (1 1/2sticks) butter
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees)
2 large eggs at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
Milk or beaten egg yolk
The How-to:
In a small saucepan, heat milk, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and butter over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm (no hotter than 110 degrees).  – Make sure you’re mindful of the temperature.  You don’t want to kill your yeast!
Dissolve yeast and 1/2 tablespoon sugar in warm water placed in a mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl that has been warmed. Let proof for 5 minutes. Add eggs, milk mixture and half of the flour. With the dough hook attachment, mix on speed 2 for 1 minute. 
Continue mixing on speed 2, and add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix about 2 minutes or until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowel. Continue mixing 2 minutes longer or until dough is smooth and elastic. It will be sticky to the touch.  – It’s worth noting that even with this recipe being half of the original, the flour suggestions for all paska recipes are RIDICULOUS.  I kept about 2-3 cups at the ready because my dough wasn’t coming together enough for my liking.  So I kept adding until it all pulled off the sides of the mixing bowl, but was still plenty sticking.  Also, I used my KitchenAid mixer, and if you decide to go that route, it’s really important that you don’t over-mix and end up with super elastic dough; this makes the braiding/decorating process a nightmare.
Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place about 1-2 hours or until doubled. Punch down dough and divide into one larger bread portion and a smaller portion for decorating. Shape the bread half into a round loaf and place in a greased round (7x3-inch) bread pan. Using reserved dough, decorate with cross in center or braids around the edge. Cover and let rise in warm place 1-2 hours or until doubled.  – Okay, confession time.  I skipped the second proof.  I was tired and getting anxious about the timing of all the other stuff we were gonna cook that day.  So my second proof only lasted long enough for my oven to heat to 350.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Gently brush tops of risen dough with milk or beaten egg yolk. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire rack. – I didn’t have any more raw eggs in the house, so I used milk which was a first for me.  But it came out perfect!  And like I said, our baking-inclined pals LOVED it, my partner loved it and it was all I could do to not devour the whole thing on my own!

I realize it was days ago, but this Easter was a busy one—and so were the days following.  But yes, Easter… Very busy!

It’s weird for me to write that out.  Mostly because I’m not a religious person anymore.  I used to be.  In fact, I grew up in a pretty Catholic household, in a mostly Catholic area.  I’d even go so far as to say that I was raised in the church—even if I did received reconciliation and communion at a date later than what is considered standard.  I was also confirmed.  Eventually I would leave the church; it wasn’t an instantaneous thing.  And it would be almost ten years before I decided to be an atheist.

But the changing of the seasons always brings back a sense of nostalgia, and a longing for the past (even if we view the past with rose colored glasses).  This year at Easter was no different.

For the Ukrainians, Easter is a big deal—maybe even slightly bigger than Christmas.  When I was a young girl, my Mother and I would spend a few days preparing for Easter.  Not just dyeing eggs, but assembling a basket to be blessed at our local Ukrainian-Catholic church—which involved baking one of my favorite Easter treats, paska.  Other items in the basket include sliced kielbasa, some of the dyed hardboiled eggs, a molded butter sculpture (usually a lamb), cream cheese, and a candle.  After it was assembled, we’d take it to church to be blessed, and then usually these items would be consumed at the Easter Brunch/Dinner with our family.  

These days, things are a little different, but I still manage to have most of those things on my table (provided we’re at home).  This year, instead of a butter sculpture, we had Irish Butter—Kerrygold for the win!—and instead of cream cheese, we had an assortment of fine cheeses.  But there was kielbasa (that actually got eaten yesterday as there was so much food on the table), and hardboiled eggs (I deviled them with avocados and some Dungeness crab).  We also had rack of lamb and oven-roasted rabbit.  So while I think it’s important to hold onto tradition, I also think it’s important to establish your own; even if everyone isn’t down with the shopping-cart mentality, this is what works for me.

At this Easter dinner though, the star of the show was the paska.  I was little nervous, as our two guests for dinner this year are both very accomplished bakers and the first attempt I’d made on my own out in here in Oregon wasn’t exactly a success.  For those of you who don’t know, paska is a traditional Easter bread made in Eastern European countries including Poland, Ukraine, and Slovakia.  For Ukrainians celebrating Easter, Paska is a big deal—at least for all the Ukrainians I knew growing up.  It is said that “the baker of the bread must keep her thoughts pure and the household must remain quiet for the bread to retain its fluffy texture while in the oven.” {Kubuilis}  Also the bread is usually adorned with a braid (the three braids are often said to represent the trinity) and/or a cross, though the pagan symbols of spring celebration mean that you can also find paska adorned with flowers, leaves, birds and suns.  I put a big flower on mine, and a braid (because I like the way it looked, less because of symbolism).  

I’m including my recipe with some notes at the bottom of this post, but if you’re going to attempt it on your own, it’s worth noting that this is a time consuming endeavor—the bread must rise twice, which adds about two hours to the actual time it takes to make.  So unless you want to get up very early on Sunday morning (like I did this Easter), I recommend making it a day ahead of time.  Also, there seems to be some debate about whether or not paska is a sweet or savory bread—I don’t think it’s particularly sweet, but depending on where you’re at geographically, paska can be almost a desert bread; variations include adoring it with fruit—raisins or maraschino cherries—and/or icing.  My recipe is not for a sweet bread.  And please forgive the picture.  It’s the only one that was taken before the bread got devoured…

And now?!  The recipe!  I wish I had one handed down throughout the generations, but I don’t! I’ve tried several and this is pretty much the recipe from “Charlotte’s Slovak Easter Bread Recipe” but scaled down and with some notes added by me.

The Ingredients:

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

6 ounces (1 1/2sticks) butter

1 1/2 packages active dry yeast

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees)

2 large eggs at room temperature

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon sugar

Milk or beaten egg yolk

The How-to:

In a small saucepan, heat milk, 1/4 cup sugar, salt and butter over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm (no hotter than 110 degrees). – Make sure you’re mindful of the temperature.  You don’t want to kill your yeast!

Dissolve yeast and 1/2 tablespoon sugar in warm water placed in a mixing bowl or stand mixer bowl that has been warmed. Let proof for 5 minutes. Add eggs, milk mixture and half of the flour. With the dough hook attachment, mix on speed 2 for 1 minute. 

Continue mixing on speed 2, and add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix about 2 minutes or until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowel. Continue mixing 2 minutes longer or until dough is smooth and elastic. It will be sticky to the touch. – It’s worth noting that even with this recipe being half of the original, the flour suggestions for all paska recipes are RIDICULOUS.  I kept about 2-3 cups at the ready because my dough wasn’t coming together enough for my liking.  So I kept adding until it all pulled off the sides of the mixing bowl, but was still plenty sticking.  Also, I used my KitchenAid mixer, and if you decide to go that route, it’s really important that you don’t over-mix and end up with super elastic dough; this makes the braiding/decorating process a nightmare.

Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place about 1-2 hours or until doubled. Punch down dough and divide into one larger bread portion and a smaller portion for decorating. Shape the bread half into a round loaf and place in a greased round (7x3-inch) bread pan. Using reserved dough, decorate with cross in center or braids around the edge. Cover and let rise in warm place 1-2 hours or until doubled. – Okay, confession time.  I skipped the second proof.  I was tired and getting anxious about the timing of all the other stuff we were gonna cook that day.  So my second proof only lasted long enough for my oven to heat to 350.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Gently brush tops of risen dough with milk or beaten egg yolk. Bake 40 minutes or until golden brown and instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire rack. – I didn’t have any more raw eggs in the house, so I used milk which was a first for me.  But it came out perfect!  And like I said, our baking-inclined pals LOVED it, my partner loved it and it was all I could do to not devour the whole thing on my own!

Filed under bread baking paska paska bread ukrainian tradition easter recipe cooking easy diy corvallis oregon

161 notes

kateoplis:

Mr. Golper, like many comrades in the revolutionary salt-flour-water brigade, is engaged in an ancient and ceaseless battle: against the whims of working with fermenting dough whose personality can shift on a daily or even hourly basis; against the high costs of making bread in what he considers the purest manner; against decades of commercialization that have trained the American eye and palate to expect bread that is soft, gummy, pale and tasteless.

'Most people are trying to make bread as quickly as possible… I don’t think it’s healthy.'

Instead, Mr. Golper, 36, wages a loving blitz upon the miche dough, fermenting it for up to an epic 68 hours and hardening the crust with a bake that goes on for almost double the time (at a slightly lower temperature) than you would find in the average shop. The dough itself contains six different types of flour.”

Small independent bakers in New York, California, Oregon, Virginia and North Carolina (and many points in between) are going to great lengths to approach an ideal of bread that is simultaneously cutting-edge and primordial. They’re hunting down heirloom grains, early forms of wheat like emmer and einkorn, and milling their own flour. …

They’re using unusually wet dough and stretching out fermentation times. They’re trying to conjure up the baker’s version of terroir, creating sourdough starter in the classic manner: simply by letting it sit, welcoming the bacteria in the air so the bread presumably tastes like the place where it was made.”

Read on: Against the Grain

To cook and bake all day… 

Filed under bread The New York Times fermentation fermentation science food porn