Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria

The bakery that I work at in London, is quite well known for its doughnuts. When I first tried one without any filling, just the doughnut, I could only think of one thing. PASKA! They use lemon zest in the dough, and the combination of yeast and citrus just brought back memories of paska. It’s not really strong enough to come through when there is a filling in it, but on its own it’s like warm memories of my childhood.

For those of you who don’t know what paska is, it’s a yeasted Ukrainian Easter bread, flavoured with lemon and orange. It’s usually served with sweetened cream cheese – or at least that’s what my grandma always made with it. And if you grew up in a Mennonite family, then you’re probably used to seeing paska with some simple icing on top, sprinkled with rainbow sprinkles… like this!

Ukrainian Easter bread inspiration | Hello Victoria

paska photo via Natasha’s Kitchen

But I wanted to make something different this year! So with those doughnuts as my inspiration, I decided to make paska flavoured doughnuts! Using a recipe from Justin Gellatly’s cookbook Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding – I adapted it to include the paska flavour. All it took was increasing the amount of citrus zest exponentially, and changing the water to citrus juice. (I also used active dry yeast instead of fresh, as it’s kind of hard to find.)

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria

These doughnuts aren’t too hard to make, but as with most good things, they do take time. The dough needs to rest overnight, before you can work with it, so plan ahead! As it’s an enriched dough, the amount of butter and egg makes it quite sticky to work with, which is why overnight is best.

The original recipe said to shape the dough on a really floured tray, but I learned a trick in baking school! If you place the doughnut rounds on trays covered in parchment paper, simply cut the paper around each one! When you fry them, you use the paper to lift the doughnut into the oil, which prevents you from accidentally deflating them. Then, when you flip them over, the oil allows the paper to simply slide off.

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria

doughnut rounds before proving, and after

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria

fry doughnuts paper side up, then flip to remove

For the doughnut filling, I wanted to include the cream cheese flavor of the spread my grandma made. So I made a simple pastry cream, and folded in cream cheese and whipped cream. I included some vanilla bean, for flavour, but it’s just optional. It’s a pretty subtle cream cheese flavour, so feel free to increase the amount if you wish, or even add some mascarpone for additional zing!

To finish these off, I decided to play homage to the old school paska of my youth, and topped then with sprinkles!

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria

Of course, if you wanted these to look more grown up, you could always top them with some finely sliced citrus zest!

Paska doughnuts: Ukrainian Easter Bread | Hello Victoria

So what do you think? Will you ditch the traditional Easter bread in favor of something a bit adventurous this year? If not, and you’re still wanting to make a traditional bread, I’ve got some recipes coming up later this week… but for now, doughnuts!

Paska Doughnuts: A Modern Take on Ukrainian Easter Bread

Yield: 20 Doughnuts

Recipe adapted from Bread, Cake, Doughnut, Pudding (https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/193271/bread-cake-doughnut-pudding/)

Ingredients

  • Doughnut Dough:
  • 500g white bread flour (strong white)
  • 60g caster sugar (berry sugar), plus extra for coating
  • 10g salt
  • 7.5g active dry yeast
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • zest of 3 lemons, plus 75ml juice
  • zest of 3 oranges, plus 75ml juice
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2ltrs neutral vegetable oil, for frying
  • Doughnut Filling:
  • 250ml milk
  • 50g sugar
  • 20g cornstarch
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 0.25 vanilla bean (or 0.25 tsp vanilla paste/extract)
  • 150g cream cheese
  • 250ml double cream (whipping)
  • 45g caster sugar

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl in the microwave, warm the orange and lemon juice to 46°C (115°F), and whisk in the yeast. Allow the mixture to sit for 5-10 minutes, until all the yeast is dissolved.
  2. In a large bowl*, combine the yeast mixture, citrus zest, sugar, eggs, flour, and salt (layered in that order). Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough starts to come together, then turn out onto a clean work surface.
  3. Knead the dough at a medium pace, for about 8 minutes, being careful not to add any extra flour. This dough will be very sticky, so use a bench scraper to help you knead.
  4. Allow the dough to rest for one minute.
  5. Start kneading again, and add the butter in small amounts - kneading in each one before adding the next. Once you have added all the butter, knead at a fast pace for 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
  6. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film, and allow to prove for 1-1.5 hours. Punch the dough down, recover, and place in the fridge overnight.
  7. While the dough is resting in the fridge, make your pastry cream.
  8. In a medium bowl, mix together your egg yolk, cornstarch, and enough of the milk to thin it out a little.
  9. Heat the remaining milk, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan, over medium heat, until just simmering. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to infuse for 20-30 minutes.
  10. Bring the milk back up to a low boil, and slowly pour it into the egg yolk mixture, whisking the whole time to prevent the egg cooking.
  11. Return the whole mixture to the pot, and cook over a medium heat, whisking constantly.
  12. Once the mixture begins to thicken, remove from the heat for 10 seconds, and whisk vigorously. Return to the heat and allowing to come to a full boil, for 10-15 seconds- keep whisking.
  13. Strain mixture onto a large piece of cling film, and wrap to make a little pillow. Chill in the fridge until cold.
  14. The next day, remove the dough from the fridge, and divide into 50g pieces. You should get 20. Shape each of them on a table (you may want to lightly flour your hand) into a tight bun shape. Do this by cupping your hand over the piece, and moving your hand circles.
  15. Place the rounds on parchment lined trays, and lightly cover with cling film sprayed with cooking oil to prevent sticking. Allow to prove in a warm place for 1.5-3 hours, or until doubled in size.**
  16. When the dough is almost ready, begin heating the oil in a large pot over medium heat, until the temperature reads 180°C (356°F). You will need to be very careful working with the oil (it's hot!), and try and check the temp. between each batch. Cut the parchment paper around each doughnut.
  17. Fry the doughnuts in groups of 2 or three, for about 2 minutes on each side. Place them in the oil gently, by the parchment paper, and remove it once you have flipped the doughnuts.
  18. Remove the doughnuts to a paper towel lined plate, to soak up any excess oil. While still warm, toss the doughnuts in a bowl of caster sugar.
  19. Once all the doughnuts are fried, allow them to cool while you finish the filling.
  20. Remove the pastry cream from the fridge, and warm for about 10-20 seconds in the microwave, then beat until smooth. Mix in the cream cheese. (taste and see if you want to add more)
  21. Whip the double cream, and 40g caster sugar until stiff, then fold in the cream cheese pastry cream. Fill a piping bag, fitted with a small round nozzle, with the mixture, or a ziplock bag with a small hole cut in the corner.
  22. Using a paring knife, cut a small hold in the side of each of the doughnuts, to allow you to fill them.
  23. Stick your piping bag in the hole, and fill the doughnut, then pipe a small amount to cover the hole. Decorate with sprinkles, or citrus zest!

Notes

*Feel free to make in a stand mixer if you have one, using your dough hook. Simply mix on medium speed for the time shown. It's much easier to use a machine with such a sticky dough. **I always prove in my oven, which I briefly warm before turning off. If you add a dish of boiled water in the bottom of the oven, you won't need cling film, as the steam keeps the dough from drying out.

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