Ukranian Easter Bread--"Paskha"
Growing up as the grandaughter of Ukranian immigrants, this was a staple every time we visited. As relatives have died off, this isn't made in my family (in its true form) anymore. I have a sister that makes it in a bread machine every so often, but it isn't the same. I figured I'd make some practice loaves since Easter is coming up. This is my first brioche since I started baking about 14 months ago. The bread came out exactly as I remember from my childhood--a wonderful incredible crumb...yeasty, slightly sweet, delicate, tears in nice strands. However...the crust is yucky. Way too tough (as it always was growing up!). The big loaf with the braid was HUGE....4.5 pounds after baking. It took about 1 3/4 hours to bake (to 200 degrees internal)...I think that's what leads to the tough crust. I don't know...maybe old-time Ukranians love the tough crust. I'd like to learn how to avoid that next time---ideas? Oh...due to the overly dry crust, I find this bread tends to go stale really quickly, at which point it makes absolutely wonderful bread pudding. The recipe is below the pics
Done...what you can't see is the bread split on the other side of the braid due to it's massive size and lack of support, so the braid ended up off-center
Original Recipe: (Caution...this makes a massive amount of dough! The first step can be done in your mixer, but is too big after that)
1 tsp sugar
1 c lukewarm water
2 packages dry yeast (note: yeasty flavor is desired)
3 c scalded milk
Tons of flour (14 c)
6 eggs, well beaten
2/3 c sugar
1/2 c melted butter
1 T salt
1 c raisins
Scald milk and let cool to lukewarm. Dissolve 1 tsp sugar in water, add yeast and let stand 10 minutes. Add milk to yeast and 5 c flour (I used 150 g. of KAF AP per cup). Beat well until smooth. Cover and let rise in warm place until light and bubbly (for me, in Denver, this only took about 45 min due to high elevation). Add eggs, 2/3 c sugar, butter, salt, raisins. Mix well. Add about 9 cups of flour or enough to make a moderately stiff dough (note: I only used about 7.5 cups). Knead until dough no longer sticks to hands. Turn dough out on floured board, knead until smooth and satiny. Place in bowl to rise until double. Punch down, let rise again to double. Shape enough dough into round loaf to fill greased dutch oven about 1/2 full (I baked on my stone). Let rise until double. From remaining dough roll out ropes for braids. After pinching off dough for braids, remaining dough can make another loaf. (note: you can easily get 3 large loaves from this recipe). Let ropes for braids rise (covered). Just before dough is ready to be baked carefully place braids or ropes arranged in a cross on bread. Use an egg wash over the entire loaf. Bake in preheated oven--400 degrees for 15 minutes then lower oven to 350 for at least another hour. Loosely cover loaves with foil to prevent overbrowning. (I found I needed to move these to the lowest rack due to their height). Let cool in pans about 15 minutes before removing. To facilitate removing loaf from dutch oven, wrap a damp, cool cloth around pan during cooling period.