This pretty and delicious paska bread (Easter bread) is the perfect gift or addition to the holiday table.
Paska is an East European Easter bread who's name literally translates to "Easter" or "Passover". It often includes sweet raisins and a delightful frosted top decorated with sprinkles.
This bread is traditionally baked during the Easter holidays in the countries of Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, and Romania, to name a few. Thankfully, those who immigrated to North America brought this delightful tradition with them so we might all enjoy.
My version sticks fairly closely to the traditional recipe. It was shared with me many years ago by a good friend and I'm oh so grateful I can now pass it on to others. I have made a few tweaks to reduce sugar, replacing it with natural sweeteners, and provided alternatives for the dairy ingredients. It should be noted that this bread rises very slowly. So, if even after the 3-hour rise times it isn't quite as risen as expected, just give it a little more time.
Paska bread can be made in any size or shape. Just adjust the baking time based on the size of the loaf. I like making smaller loaves to give as gifts and to place in different spots around the table like edible decoration.
(Makes 16 servings)
1 cup 2% milk, warmed (~ 110°F / 43°C) (lactose-free if required, or non-dairy milk)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast, divided
1 tablespoon monk fruit sweetener (or granulated sugar)
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream (or non-dairy alternative)
1/3 cup plant-based butter, melted
1 cup monk fruit sweetener
3 tablespoon avocado oil (or light vegetable oil)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins
zero-calorie cooking spray, as needed
2, 1/2 cups baking monk fruit sweetener (or confectioner's sugar)
scant 1/2 cup 2% milk (lactose-free if needed, or non-dairy milk)
sprinkles and miniature candy eggs (optional)
Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the warm milk, half of the active dry yeast, and the single tablespoon of sweetener. Bled on low for a minute then let sit for 15 minutes to proof.
Once the mixture becomes foamy, add the egg yolks, sour cream, melted butter, sweetener, oil, salt, and pure vanilla extract. Blend on medium speed to combine well. Reduce speed to low and slowly begin adding 3 of the 4 cups of all-purpose flour. As the mixture starts turning into a dough, switch to the dough hook attachment and continue on medium speed until the dough is well formed (about 5 minutes). A sticky, yet pliable dough will have formed. Remove the dough hook and cover the bowl with clingwrap or a tea towel. Move to a warm location and let rise until the dough has doubled in size (about 3 hours).
Using the remaining flour, lightly dust a flat worksurface. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto the floured worksurface. Flatten out the dough and add some of the raisins. Kneed then flatten out again an add more raisins. Do this a couple of times until all the raisins are incorporated into the dough, dusting with more four as needed. As the dough becomes silky, form it into a smooth ball.
The size and shape of the loaf pans used to bake the bread can vary. Anything from traditional loaf pans to cake pans to disposable cups and panettone moulds can be used. The loaf pictured was made in a 4-inch x 3-inch-deep cake pan. Whatever pan is used, spray it well with cooking spray then flour lightly, shaking out any excess. Fill the pan(s) half-full of dough then cover with clingwrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for another 3 hours, or until the dough doubles in size. It should just about reach the rim pf the pan(s).
Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C and bake until the top of the loaf/loaves are browned (about 45 to 50 minutes). Remove the bread from the oven and set to cool in their pans for several minutes. Then, using a knife, release the bread from the pan(s) and turn upside-down to pop them out and set to cool (If a panettone or paper mould was used, there is no need to remove it. Simply cool, decorate, and cut through when serving. The paper can be peeled off at that time.).
In a medium mixing bowl, add the sweetener, and whisk in the milk a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached. The frosting should be liquid enough to pour and spread slowly. When decorating, the bread should still be a little warm to help the frosting spread. Sprinkle with coloured sanding sugar, sprinkles, etc. (optional). Let the bread cool and the frosting set before serving.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
total calories = 204 | total fat = 6.21g | saturated fat = 1.74g | cholesterol = 49.13mg | sodium = 115.86mg | net carbohydrates = 65.9g | dietary fibre = 1.16g | sugars = 4.81g | protein = 5.63g