My sister Carol is a lover of tradition and history. As a result, Easter is a favorite time for her. She LOVES cooking and baking traditional foods from Europe. She also is engrossed in the little traditions that make this religious holiday special.
One such tradition our family has partially engaged in is the Easter Paska bread. I say partially because we never made the bread, we simply bought it.
This year, Carol said she wanted to make the bread but didn't have time. I decided to try my hand at it alone at home before announcing it to the family. I didn't want to bring a hockey puck to dinner. Armed with a recipe, I started baking. I had a BLAST!!! It was so much fun baking this bread. Especially doing the braids on top.
Even though Easter is over, try this bread recipe and have some fun making the prettiest bread on the block!
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon quick rise instant or dry active yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
1 cup scalded milk
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
1 small egg
1 tablespoon water
Turn your oven on to 350 (or so) and let the oven begin to heat up for 5 minutes then turn the oven off. Now you have a great place for warming the bread. You do not need to do this step if you have a warm place or if you are baking other items and the top of the stove is nice and warm.
In a small pot over medium-high heat, scald the milk. Add 1/4 cup sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add water, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and yeast. Stir gently until yeast is combined and then let mixture sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, your yeast mixture should have grown and become frothy. If not, either your water was too hot or the yeast is old. I used yeast from over a year ago and it still worked.
** Frothy Water and Yeast looks like this.
In a small bowl, lightly whisk 2 large eggs. Add oil and melted butter and mix until combined. Add the egg mixture to the milk mixture.
To the yeast mixture add 4 cups of flour and the salt. Use the dough hook attachment. Turn mixer on low unless you want to shower the kitchen with flour. Increase speed to medium/low and mix until dough is well combined.
Continue mixing for several minutes. Your dough should begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky and does not pull away from the sides, add an additional 1/4 cup of flour at a time until it begins to pull away. Be careful here. The more flour you add, the heavier the bread will be. You do not want the dough very sticky so you cannot handle it, but you don't want it heavy. Add additional flour in small increments.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl, lightly coated with oil. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and place in the preheated oven. Do not turn the oven back on. Insert a wooden spoon or similar object in the oven door to prevent it from closing all the way. This will allow a small amount of the heat to escape. You don’t want to cook the dough yet, just warm it enough for it to rise. Let the dough rise for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Once it has risen, punch it down, and cover it with a tea towel and place it back in the oven to repeat the process.
**I have this awesome pastry board that I use for anything that requires rolling. Once done, I simply clean the pastry board and there is very little cleanup on the counters!**
Transfer the ball of dough to a well-greased dutch oven or oven safe pot. Place one of the braids over the dough ball, tucking the ends under the ball, pinching if necessary. Place the second braid in a cross pattern over the first, tucking and pinching if necessary. Cover the dough with a tea towel and let it rise and rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
While dough is resting, whisk together 1 small egg and 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash. Once dough has rested, use a pastry brush to brush the top of the dough with the egg wash. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the bread is golden brown and your kitchen smells like Heaven. Remove from the oven and let cool before removing it from the pan.
Once removed, bring to Easter dinner and enjoy!!!