Paska

The symbolism of bread is commonly observed by Christian cultures throughout the world. During Easter, bread takes many decorative shapes and forms; one of the most beautiful is the egg- and butter-rich Paska, traditionally eaten in Eastern European countries.

Paska is often paired with "hrudka" (hur-UT-ka), a custard-like cheese; or a delicious sweetened cream cheese spread (see the recipe in "tips," below). You might also enjoy thick slices of bread sandwiching kielbasa, or your leftover Easter ham.

If you have a bread machine, use its dough or manual setting to make the dough, then shape and bake the bread out of the machine for a stunning Easter table centerpiece.
Prep
20 mins
Bake
35 to 45 mins
Total
2 hrs 55 mins
Yield
1 large loaf, 20 servings
Paska

Instructions

  1. To make the dough: Mix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.
  2. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and let it rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it's noticeably puffy.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide it into two pieces, one twice as large as the other. Take the larger piece, roll into a ball, and place it into a well-greased 9" x 2" round pan.
  4. Divide the other piece of dough into three equal pieces, and roll each out into a 20" strand; use the three strands to create one long braid.
  5. Place the braid around the inside edge of the pan, or use it to form a cross over the top of the larger piece of dough.
  6. Cover the loaf and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center.
  7. To make the topping: In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the mixture gently over the top of the risen loaf, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar, if desired.
  8. Bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until it's a rich golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool before cutting.

Tips from our Bakers

  • To make Paska cream cheese spread: With your mixer set on low, gently beat together 3/4 cup (340g) cream cheese and 4 tablespoons (57g) room-temperature unsalted butter. Stir in 1/2 cup (113g) sour cream and 1/4 cup (50g) sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with sliced paska.