Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter Everyone

Flikr photos

Easter ("Paska") is a big holiday in Ukraine, bigger than Christmas. It combines pagan and Christian traditions. Pysanky eggs, Easter bread and pussy willows are part of the Ukrainian Easter tradition.

The bread is round and tall, decorated with symbols of spring, rebirth, resurrection. Luba is baking the bread right now, filling the house with a comforting aroma that reminds me of my Grandmother Curro, my dad's mom. I added a Paska recipe below but there are lots more online.

Pussy willows, rather than palm leaves, which would be hard to find here, welcome new life and joy. And to me, the colorful Easter eggs, Pysanky, are among the most beautifully decorated eggs in the world. Luba boiled onion skins for an hour, put in the eggs and, viola, beautiful deep red Easter eggs, au naturale (no dyes used here!).

Ukrainians fill pretty straw baskets with the eggs and bread and bring them to church to be blessed by the priest, assuring good luck for the new year. Luba won't let Sergei or I touch the bread until after it is blessed! I look foward to filling a basket and joining Luba at church this Easter Sunday. Happy Easter to all.

Paska: Makes 1 large Ukrainian Easter Bread
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
1/2 teapoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups plus 5 cups all-purpose flour
3 beaten large eggs
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Scald the milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm. 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 eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, melted butter, salt and 4 1/2 to 5 cups flour to make a dough that is not too stiff and not too slack. Knead until dough no longer sticks to the hand and is smooth and satiny (about 7 minutes in a mixer, longer by hand). Place in a greased bowl, turn to grease both 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. Now shape the reserved dough into decorations of choice -- a cross, swirls, rosettes, braiding, 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 overbrowning. Remove from oven and turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

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