Bread 9: Paska Easter Bread

2006-03-12

Chef announced that the bread we were making would be a complicated recipe with lots of steps. She described paska as a cross between a hot cross bun and panettone, but the Internet says it's a traditional Ukrainian bread. In any case, we begin with a sponge made from warm milk. While that rested, we scaled the remaining ingredients for a dough enriched with butter, eggs, vanilla, rum and mace. We creamed this mixture with a paddle before switching to the hook when the flour and sponge were added. Before it was completely kneaded, we removed a small portion to use for decoration, then added the raisins and dodged the occasional one that flew out of the bowl.

Paska Easter BreadAfter rounding, resting and portioning, we gently rolled the dough into a greased and lined 7" cake tin, then made thin braids out of the reserved portion of dough. To get a long and even strand, I rolled my dough in stages, letting the gluten relax a bit before I tried to lengthen it. For a tight and even braid, I made sure to cross the ends of the strands far apart from each other, almost at a 90° angle. We used an egg wash to help adhere the decorative cross on the bread. The finished bread was quite delicious without any of that yeasty taste. My only alteration would be to increase the sugar somewhat.

We also made a nice cinnamony raisin bread that went into the oven after the paskas, but when Chef called us back into the classroom, we stared into an empty oven. What happened? Did someone steal our loaves? It turns out the oven had broken down during baking! Not only were the loaves partially cooked, there wasn't even power to turn the oven's decks so we could move them into another oven. Chef complained that the ovens needed replacing as they tend to break down monthly. Oh well, she said we would redo these loaves next week.

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