In my family, we’ve always celebrated Easter with a big Ukrainian meal. After moving to Los Angeles, I’ve continued the tradition with a rotating cast of friends and family. Paska, a sweet bread studded with golden raisins, is a staple. Kielbasa was dropped from the meal (ceasing to eat meat and a lack of nearby Polish delis being the two biggest factors) but when my sister moved to California, she decided to add pierogies to the menu. Traditionally, we’d eat pierogies throughout the year but never specifically on Easter; however, I jump at the chance to eat homemade pierogies — they’re truly one of my favorite foods. Over the years, I’ve added a few more elements, such as the often-demanded kale and brussel sprout salad. I’ve also made the same cake for the last few years — a cross between coffeecake and cheesecake studded with raspberries and lemon zest. And of course, hard-boiled eggs are a must. A piece of paska topped with a sliced egg and sprinkled with coarse salt is a treat I look forward to eating every single year.
It’s hard being away from home for the holidays, but I’ve found that resurrecting old traditions and creating a few new ones of my own is a good way to maintain that holiday high I inevitably experience. And I guess I’ve known this all along, but I really do love hosting guests! Cooking for a group (or even just another person) is a lot more fun than cooking for one. Somehow, the meal always tastes better when there are more people enjoying it.
Ukrainian Paska Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast
- 6 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup golden raisins
- 3 whole eggs
- 1 egg yolk
- In a small saucepan, heat milk until bubbles form around the edge of pan; remove from heat. Stir in 1 tbsp. sugar and the salt; let cool to lukewarm.
- Sprinkle yeast over water in large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add lukewarm milk mixture and 2 1/2 cups flour; with wooden spoon, beat until smooth — about 2 minutes.
- Cover bowl with towel; let rise in a warm place free from drafts until double in bulk, about 1 hour. Batter will be light and spongy.
- In large bowl, with electric mixer at medium speed, beat butter with 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in whole eggs, one at a time, until smooth.
- At low speed, beat in 1 cup flour and the risen batter until smooth and well-blended.
- With wooden spoon, stir in the remaining flour and 1 cup golden raisins; mix in with hand until dough leaves side of bowl. Knead until dough is smooth — about 5 minutes.
- Cover with towel; let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 1 1/2 hours.
- Grease 8-inch springform pan.
- Punch down dough. Cover again with towel and let rise for another 50 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400F. Place dough ball into greased pan. Brush top with egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp. water. Place on bottom shelf of oven and bake 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350F. Bake 45 to 50 minutes longer, until richly browned.