Are you lucky enough to find yourself with an excess of lemons and oranges this Easter? Looking for something to make with them all? This was the bounty that I had the other weekend, and I was quite keen to use them all.
The other day I posted about the more unique take on Paska that I made this past weekend, and I promised more. I decided to try making a regular paska recipe that my aunt gave me, as well as using a challah bread recipe to make a paska flavoured challah. I had remembered paska dough as being quite wet, and wanted something I could braid into shapes. However, after making my Aunt’s paska recipe, I realized it wasn’t as wet as I thought. I could have easily braided it into wreaths etc.
But you want to know what this huge amount of paska means, besides being something Richard can take to work? Paska French toast!! Awesome Easter breakfast… if I do say so myself.
So my reasoning behind wanting to make paska challah bread, was that I wanted a more decorative Easter bread. As much as I like the simple icing with sprinkles, as far as nostalgia goes, it doesn’t really say “Easter centerpiece”. I decided to make both the regular recipe (in unique tins), and the challah recipe. Perhaps these will inspire you to make a showpiece bread of your own?
What I found after making both recipes, was that the paska was a bit on the dry side compared to the challah bread, but sweeter. Maybe I used too much flour in the original paska recipe, but I think that the use of oil as opposed to butter was the main factor. As controversial as it may be, I think in the future I may make the challah recipe instead of traditional paska, but increase the sugar. I did the math and the original paska recipe had about 9% sugar, while the challah was only 6%. So if you feel like trying the challah one, I have included another sugar amount, that should hopefully give you the same sugar level.
Paska Challah Bread:
Okay, so first up, we have the challah bread. I had made this recipe before, and knew that it would make ah-mazing french toast. This bread is moist, and subtly sweet… perfect to turn into paska! I made a double batch, in order to create two different shapes – a braided crown, and a five-strand braid.
If you don’t already know how, a five-strand braid is actually quite simple. You can see in the photos below, but I will try to explain. Number the strands left to right, 1 through 5. Cross 5 over 2, 1 over 3, then 2 over 1. And repeat! Make sense?
At the end of the braid, simply pinch the ends together and tuck it under. Unfortunately, my baking sheet wasn’t quite long enough to fit the bread. It caused it to flop over a bit while proving, and ended up looking less than perfect.
For the braided crown, it’s a simple 3 strand braid, which I won’t bother explaining here. Just finish the braid, and connect the ends together! Luckily, this one fit my sheet, so there were no problems proving.
Paska Challah Bread
- 500 g bread flour strong white
- 1 orange zest and 85 ml juice
- 1 lemon zest and 85 ml juice
- 2+1 eggs (one is for egg wash)
- 110 ml neutral oil such as canola
- 8 g salt
- 55 g sugar (65g if making as sweet as MGCC version)
- 7 g active dry yeast
- In a microwave safe bowl, warm the lemon and orange juice to 46°C (115°F) and whisk in the yeast. Allow to prove for 5 minutes, or until fully dissolved and foaming.
- In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, citrus zest, sugar, oil, 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.
- Knead the dough at a slow pace, for about 4 minutes, being careful not to add any extra flour. This dough will be very sticky, so use a bench scraper to help you knead. Increase the speed to medium for an additional 5 minutes.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for 80 minutes, or until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and divide into pieces (3 or 5). Shape them into baguettes, and roll out to 10-20" long for the 5 strand braid, and 30" long for the crown. If the dough doesn't roll out long enough, allow it to rest for a minute or two, then try again.
- Braid the dough pieces and place on a parchment lined tray, cover loosely with plastic wrap (oiled to prevent sticking), and prove in a warm place for 50-60 minutes*. Your paska should be at least doubled in size, and if you gently press a finger in the dough it should slowly fill back in.
- When the dough is almost proved, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F, fan 4).
- Whisk up another egg until it's nice and loose (adding a splash of milk/water if required), and gently brush over the whole surface of the bread (sides and all).
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the dough has an even golden colour all over and an internal temp registers 88 °C (190 °F). Tent with foil if it's browning too quickly.
- Allow to cool before glazing.
Traditional Paska Bread:
Now on to the traditional paska recipe! I had originally wanted to make these in little financier tins, but couldn’t find any before I had to make these. I tried to make mini tins by dividing a regular loaf pan using tin foil, and it kind of worked. The edges weren’t perfect, but they ended up small, which was the goal.
For the rest of the dough, I used a decorative bundt pan, but decided to decorate it differently. I added a small dish in the middle of the bundt opening and then filled it with fruit.
So, whether you want to use less flour than I did, or not, it’s a pretty good recipe to try! Just make sure to whip up some sweetened cream cheese to serve with these.
Traditional Paska Bread
- 1 orange
- 1 lemon
- 125 ml water
- 2 tbsp. active dry yeast
- 57 g butter
- 156 ml milk
- 1 egg
- 90 g sugar + 1 tsp.
- 600-690 g flour
- 0.5 tsp salt
- Warm the water to 46°C (115°F) and whisk in the sugar and yeast. Allow to prove while preparing the next items.
- Peel the lemon and orange, and remove any pith from the peel and fruit. Cut into quarters, and place all in the blender.
- Warm milk and butter together, until the butter melts. Add to the blender and blend on high for 3 minutes.
- Add sugar, salt, and egg and blend for another 2 minutes. Measure the mixture – it should be 625ml. If not, add more citrus juice to compensate.
- Pour the mixture into a large bowl, and add the yeast mixture to it.
- Stir in the flour, about 100g at a time, until the dough becomes a shaggy mass. Turn it out on to the table, and continue adding flour as you knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. It should be smooth and soft.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to prove 1-1.5 hours, until doubled.
- Punch down the dough, and let it rest 10 minutes.
- While dough is resting, prepare your tins by greasing them or lining them with parchment paper.
- Shape your dough, and place in the tins. Cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1-1.5 hours.
- When the dough is almost done proving, preheat the oven to 176°C (350°F).
- Bake the loaves in the preheated oven for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your tin.
- Remove from the pan, and allow to cool.