The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Anyone here baking Easter Paska or Babka?

kozulich's picture
kozulich

Anyone here baking Easter Paska or Babka?

I'm elbow deep in my annual Paska baking.  What is Paska?  Its the traditional Ukrainian Easter bread.  Its very highly decorated.  The dough is most similar to Challah - an eggy, buttery, enriched bread.  Traditionally it is baked the day before Easter, and taken in the Easter basket to church, where it is blessed by the priest, then it is eaten to break the strict Easter fast after mass on Easter morning.  Just wondering whether anybody else does this or has tried it?  These pictures are not mine, by the way, since I can't seem to find photos from previous years' efforts.

jcking's picture
jcking

My wifes' mother is Romanian (since passed) and in the 80's (New Jersey) I helped her make the Paska. We took it, along with Ham and butter (butter molded to look like a sheep), to midnight mass (11:30 PM Saturday) where it was blessed. Upon arriving home (Sunday) we had a small feast. Today I baked the Paska in Memory of my Mother-in-Law. Sadly we live in Georgia now and there is no Byzantine Church here.

Jim

kozulich's picture
kozulich

Yes, the same traditions.  Ham, colored eggs, molded butter, delicious smoked sausages, farmer cheese, horseradish.  All arranged artfully in the basket, covered by an embroidered linen, and taken to church. 

jcking's picture
jcking

I almost forgot the basket and linen, and a bottle of uncorked wine.

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

What a lovely way to honor the memory of your wife's mother. She must be very pleased.

eliabel's picture
eliabel

I bake Paska or Kulich, like it is called in Russian, every year. I think that according to the tradition of the Eastern Christian Church it should be baked on Friday, to be taken to a church to be blessed on Saturday and eaten after the Easter Liturgia at the dawn of Sunday, when the Lent ends. I think that this bread is richer than a Challah, at least the recipes I've used.

I was born in Moscow and part of my family came from the Ukraine.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

I think that is often the way it is done.  That is the way our church does it here.  When I was in Ukraine, in the countryside, they baked on Saturday, and took it to church on Sunday morning.  The entire village surrounded the church on the outside while it was still dark, oh about 2:30 or 3:00 a.m.. The priest blessed the baskets, then the service started.  Service lasted about 4 hours.  Then everyone went home, had a short nap, and then ate Easter breakfast together at about 9 am.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

I agree that it is richer than Challah.  I have some old recipes that call for 12 egg yolks, milk, sugar, butter, sometimes saffron, sometimes raisins.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

They just came out of the oven.  Here are my results.

gmabaking's picture
gmabaking

Your braiding is so well done, it almost looks like it shouldn't be cut into. I can just imagine how great your kitchen must smell. Thanks for sharing, maybe next year I'll give it a try. (Need to practice not stretching the dough when I braid though)

kozulich's picture
kozulich

Thanks.  This year I made a special effort to roll out the strands in stages, letting the dough rest and relax 10 minutes between each rolling session.  That works much better than trying to do it all at once.  I still have problems getting the ends of my braid to stick to each other and not pull apart though, especially when the bread rises so much.  These are borderline, almost rose too much.  There is some minor cracking in the top, which shouldn't be.  Well next year I try again, hopefully I'll remember the lessons I learned this year.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

WRT the smell...

My wife is begging me to let her cut into one of them.  However, they are off limits until tomorrow after church.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

not sure why that image isn't showing up anymore. Anyone have any ideas how to get it back?

Floydm's picture
Floydm

I'm seeing the pictures fine.  Lovely!

-Floyd

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Wow your kulichi are beautiful! I'm honestly very jealous (in a good way :)) Mine haven't even risen yet (a bit late this year) but I'll never be able to replicate your beauties. This is only my second?third? ever attempt at making them. Maybe I should defy tradition and try practising outside of the Easter season...

I call them kulichi (coo-lee-CHEE, singular kulich coo-LICH) because that's what they are known as in my native Moscow... Paskha (PASS-ha) is what we call a rich dairy Easter treat made with (unsalted) cottage cheese, cream and/or butter, sometimes raw eggs and sugar. Often nuts, raisins and/or candied fruit are used. I haven't got a photo of my own (actually I can't remember the last time I had the thing!) but here are some examples.

In fact, Paskha is the Russian for Easter. But as you can see, ritual foods associated with Easter have also taken on the name.

Like cheese paskha, Russians often make kulichi with a generous amount of nuts (usually almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts, or a mixture of those), raisins and candied fruit. Beside braiding, they can be decorated with a white glaze, piping, pieces of fruit and nuts, or dusted with icing sugar. "Proper" glazing is made with egg whites whipped with sugar and dried in the oven, but these days you see a lot of kulichi glazed with ordinary sugar icing, particularly commercially baked varieties.

Would you people care to share your recipes? I'm trying two different ones this year, one significantly richer than the other, and I'll blog about the results or post in this thread.

 

kozulich's picture
kozulich

Ukrainians also call it Kulich in some regions.  For us, the richer, sweeter easter cake/bread with nuts, dried fruit and glaze is called Babka.  I usually don't make Babka but some day I will try it.  I have many different recipes for Paska.  The one I used this year is only moderately rich.  Last year I used twelve yolks, and it was very good.  This year I am only using 6 whole eggs.  Sorry, no weights or baker's percentage.

Traditional Easter Paska

Paska is a round shaped Easter bread, much richer than the 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".


Serving Size: 2 large loaves
Cuisine: Ukrainian
Main Ingredient: Wheat

Source:  Savella Stechishin; Traditional Ukrainian Cookery, pgs 332-333 

-= Ingredients =-
1 teaspoon Sugar
1 cup Water ; lukewarm
1 package Dry granular yeast
3 cups Milk ; scalded and cooled
5 cups Flour
6 Eggs ; beaten
1 cup Sugar
2/3 cup Butter ; melted
1 tablespoon Salt
9 1/2 cups Flour

-= Instructions =-
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 of flour. Beat well until smooth. 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. 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.
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, round pan. Now cut the reserved part in half to ornament the 2 loaves. The central ornament on Paska is usually a cross. Roll 2 long rolls and trim the ends. Place the rolls over the top of the loaf, crossing each other evenly. Tuck the ends of the rolls under the loaf. Shaped 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 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 of water.
Bake in a moderately hot oven, 400°, for about 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350° and continue baking for 30-40 minutes longer until done. Avoid browning the top too deeply. If necessary, cover with aluminum foil. Remove the loaves from the pans and allow them to cool.

 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

The Russian Museum of Ethnography's website says that kulich is a canonical word and comes from Greek, whereas paska~paskha is a folk name. Apparently, the word kulich was mostly used in towns whereas paska/paskha was a country version.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

The confusion here is at least partly because we are mixing languages.

Paska-
Ukrainian; semi-sweet, rich Easter bread with dough ornaments

Paskha-
Russian; Sweet pyramid-molded cheese dessert with dried fruit and nuts served at Easter

Syrna Paska-
Ukrainian; similar to Russian Paskha above

Babka-
Ukrainian; sweet rich Easter cake-bread with dried fruit and nuts, usually tall with icing glaze on top and no dough ornaments

Kulich-
Russian; Easter bread, usually similar to Ukrainian Babka above

Many Ukrainians speak Russian, especially in Eastern Ukraine, so terminology gets confusing.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

The two recipes I'm trialling today both came from my granny's old cookery book. They are both called kulich. One is very very rich, with 1 1/2 cup cream, 1 cup butter, 8 yolks and 5 cups flour, raisins, almonds and candied fruit. The other is a little leaner, with  2 cups milk, 1 cup butter, 7 yolks, 7 cups flour and no fruit or nuts (looks quite similar to your recipe). My mum and granny ahve always used the latter recipe but added lots of raisins and nuts to it. My mum sometimes also uses dried apricots. The recipes call for both to be glazed but my family tend to skip this step.

To my knowledge, babka is a very general term and is used in many Slavic languages for a variery of baked goods.

Names probably vary a lot with locality, symbolic meaning of the food and its end use. For example, I've just come across several recipes for Paskhalniy Venok (a kind of Easter kalach) which is made from essentially the same dough as kulich but is shaped into a large, round braided bread which is much wider than it is tall. Whereas kulichi are always distinctly tall.

 

kozulich's picture
kozulich

I should say that I've been baking these for at least a decade now.  My first few weren't much to look at either, but every year they get a bit better.  I use a similar recipe for Christmas bread too, and make it into a round Kolach, which is shaped like a ring with a braid or two on top. So really, I get two chances to practice this bread per year.  The biggest problem is when the bread rises unevenly, or the decorations rise too much.  So I pay special attention that the bread is even in the pan, and not over-proofed.  I also work quite a bit of extra flour into the dough used for the ornaments so that it isn't too spongy and doesn't rise too much.  Of course, the egg wash is key for that glossy, golden finish.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

BTW forgot to say, only fresh yeast is meant to be used in kulichi. But mine are dried yeast again :(

Yevgenia's picture
Yevgenia

I live in Ukraine and I bake Kulichi every year. Orthodox Christians don't usually bake Kulichi on Friday or Saturday before Easter. It's more common to bake them on Thursday. 

 

 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Hi Zhenya,

I think there's no hard and fast rule these days. I came across some info that eggs are boiled and decorated on Thursday but kulichi are baked on Friday. I think whether you bake your kulichi on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday largely depends when your local church organises the blessing of Easter foods. Some churches do that on Holy Saturday. Some incorporate the blessing of foods into one of the Sunday services.

Yevgenia's picture
Yevgenia

You are absolutely right. It also depends on whether you have to work on weekdays or not. It's pretty difficult to bake  kulichi on Thursday (considering that you can only start baking after 6-7 p.m.)  if you have to go to work the next day.

 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

yeah... especially when you consider the time it takes for a rich dough to rise! I forgot how long it took last year, and having little experience with very rich doughs generally, I was hoping to bake late last night. Yet it took all evening to knead the dough and all night for it to rise (that's just the first rise, and my recipe calls for three!) It's probably my yeast, though, too.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

Here is a link to video of a blessing in Uzhorod, Ukraine (near Hungary and Slovakia)  It takes place just after midnight on Easter morning.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apmMRyAdWV4

 

laron's picture
laron

My fathers family is from the Ukraine (both sides)  I have only heard "Easter Bread" called Babka.  My grandparents always made a cheese and raisin sweet bread and it was always baked upright in a large can.  My husbands Italian family also bake a variation of the bread (with no cheese) and they put colored eggs on top for decoration. 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Hi there,

I just looked up babka on a Russian-language search engine and a host of suggestions came up, from savoury baked dishes made from potatoes or pasta + meat, mushrooms (somewhat similar to what you would call a pie, e.g. cottage pie, fish pie, shepherd's pie, etc.) to desserts baked from whipped egg whites, very little flour or breadcrumbs and served with sauce. That's just in the Russian language (and only in culinary sense), I'm sure I've heard of a Polish babka, whatever that may be, and there are probably many more versions in many Eastern European cultures as that's a very generic word. In Russian, babka means "granny" or simply woman (the meaning in other Slavic languages is probably very similar) and it's, in essence, a universal name for things that don't have a name pf their own.  I've also come across small, crude wooden toys, the kind my great-great-grandparents would be playing with when they were kids, also called babki (plural for babka). In modern Russian slang, babki is also a word for money. It's a very, very common word.

    Submitted by laron
FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

in fact if you google "babka" and click images, all sorts of things come up, including breads, cakes, buns, rolls, a few photos of elderly ladies and something that lookes like a classic English pudding...

eliabel's picture
eliabel

In the classical book on Russian culinary tradition, written in the XIX by Elena Molokhovets, there are recipes of baked sweet yeast or sourdough breads, very similar to kulich, but probably even more rich, called "baba" and easier, less richer versions, frecuently made with a chemical raising agent or egg whites, called "babka" (small baba). I've read also in the Russian sources that the name of these brioches comes from a metaphor: these tall cilidrical brioches remind peasant women's skirts. One of the meaning of the word "baba" is a peasant woman.

 

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

oh, forgot to ask. I've never heard of a cheese version, would you have a recipe by any chance? Thanks.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

I've never made it, but I'm sure I have a recipe somewhere. Maybe best to get a tried and true recipe from someone who makes it regularly?

eliabel's picture
eliabel

That's mi paska or kulich of the past Easter: http://eliabe-l.livejournal.com/53790.html

Cheese paska is usually made from a fat white cheese, yolks, sugar, vanille, raisins. It is easy to make and easy to eat, but it is not exactly what you can call "light".

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Ah yeah, tvorog, yolks/eggs, sugar, flavourings, fruit, nuts. Some recipes call for cream or butter. But it's not baked (although some methods involve a heating stage). Laron mentioned a baked cheese bread. I've never heard of one. So I was wondering.

eliabel's picture
eliabel

In Russian tradition, at least, there are several possibilities with cheese paska. Most of the people  make a syruiu paschu, a raw paska, just mixing tvorog with yolks, sugar, flauvoring, raisins, nut or chocolate. But there is also a varennaia pascha, which means that the product or part of it is cooked and pechennaia pascha, which is baked. I usually prepare a frozen pascha, which is sort of semifreddo o ice cream. That is not traditional, but it it the only way to make my daughter eat the pascha.

A friend of mine form Ukraine baked a special kulich, or a bread paska. The dough contained tvorog. I baked it once and it was quite good.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Оля, а ссылку на творожный кулич не кинете, если не сложно? Очень интересно. Спасибо.

Никогда не слышала про печеную пасху, честное слово. Век живи, век учись :-)

eliabel's picture
eliabel

I have to search the recipe in my notes. Write me a personal message (lichka), please, and a copy a recipe for you.

kozulich's picture
kozulich

very nice!