How to Make Polish Easter Bread—Paska

When it comes to Easter food traditions, we all know about dyed eggs, ham and even the classic bunny cake. But you might not be as familiar with paska. This rich braided bread is served up on Easter Sunday in many Eastern European homes from Poland to Ukraine to Slovakia to Belarus. Growing up in a family with Polish roots (and not the greatest Polish language skills), we just called it Polish Easter bread—simple enough!

Wherever you hail from and whatever you call it, this bread is a beautiful centerpiece for your Easter table. And while it might look tricky, the decoration is really simple. If you can make a basic yeasted bread (and I know you can), you can definitely make paska. Let me show you how.

Check Out These Gorgeous Easter Breads, Too

 

How to Make Polish Easter Bread (Paska)

Taste of Home

To make paska, you can follow our five-star recipe right here. Before you start, know that this recipe makes two large loaves. This works fine for me—I’ve got a big family to feed on Easter—but you may want to cut this recipe in half if you only want one loaf.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 cups warm water (110° to 115°), divided
  • 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 13-1/2 to 14-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon salt

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water

You’ll also need two 10-inch springform pans for this recipe, so ring your sister or BFF to borrow a second. Or purchase a spare here. ($13)

Directions

Form the Dough

Start this bread by proofing the yeast. If you’ve never done this before, no worries. Simply dissolve the yeast with a teaspoon of sugar and a cup of warm water (that’s about 110ºF). Let this stand for about five minutes. When you check it out after a quick break, it should look a bit foamy. For more tips, follow this quick how-to.

Once the yeast is proofed, add in the rest of the water (again, this should be about 110ºF), the milk powder and five cups of flour. Mix this together with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer until smooth. And, yes, you will absolutely need a stand mixer to tackle this dough. There’s just too much flour here to do it by hand or even with a hand mixer.

Cover this up and let rise in a warm place until the dough gets bubbly; 20 minutes—or one episode of Bob’s Burgers—should do it!

Using the paddle of your mixer again, stir in the melted butter (this should be cooled slightly), salt, beaten eggs and remaining sugar. Once that’s combined, stir in the rest of the flour a cup at a time. In total, I used 14 cups.

Knead the Paska Dough

Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home

After you’ve combined all your ingredients, you’ll have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Be sure to flour your countertop well before you start to knead, and have extra flour on hand to dust the surface as you go.

Then dive in and start kneading. Be warned: You’re really going to need some muscle for this! I spent about 20 minutes in total kneading this dough. There’s a lot of dough here, so it will take a good amount of time. By the end, the it really does transform.

Pro tip: If you’re not a regular bread baker, you can tell your dough is kneaded enough if the dough doesn’t easily tear apart. You can even try a quick “windowpane test” where you stretch the dough between your fingers to form a window. If the dough tears, keep kneading. If it forms a translucent window, you’re good to go!

Let It Rise

Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home

Once kneaded, place your dough in a greased bowl to rise. If you don’t have a bowl large enough to accommodate the paska dough, divide it in two (that’s what I did). Cover this up with a tea towel and let it rise until doubled—about an hour.

If your house is as chilly as mine, you can actually use your oven to help proof your bread.

Braid the Bread

Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home

This bread gets its signature look from its stocky round base with a braided crown. Though the twists and turns of the topper make it seem complicated, I’m here to tell you that this isn’t a difficult bread to shape at all. You can do it!

To form the base, divide the dough into four quarters. Press one quarter each into the bottom of your two greased springform pans.

For the braid, take another quarter of your dough and divide into three. Roll those pieces out into long ropes, about 30 inches long. Then braid just like you would with hair. Trim the ends so the ropes are even. Don’t toss the scraps, though, you’ll need those!

Once you have a nice braid, lay it on top of your base in the springform pan. Do your best to pinch or weave the tails of your braid together so it looks like one continuous braid. Then roll the scraps into two thin ropes and twist together. You can use this to form a simple decoration for the center of your bread. I formed this twist into a smaller circle, but rosettes and crosses are also traditional decoration. It’s up to you!

Repeat this process for your second loaf and allow the bread to rise for a second time—an hour should do it. Be sure to cover your bread so it doesn’t form a crust.

Bake

Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home

Before you pop your paska in the oven, give it a simple egg wash. To do this, whisk together two tablespoons of water and an egg and brush over the top of each loaf. This will give the bread a really pretty golden, shiny finish.

Place the loaves in the oven at 350ºF for 50 to 60 minutes. I found mine were perfectly done in 50—and the kitchen smelled absolutely heavenly.

Once baked, take the loaves out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. After about 15 minutes, you can remove the Easter bread from the springform pans.

How to Serve Polish Easter Bread

Lisa Kaminski/Taste of Home

When the bread is cooled, it’s ready to slice. I like to cut a nice wedge, though you can slice like a traditional loaf as well.

Paska is richer than a plain white bread thanks to all those eggs and the addition of milk powder. I think it tastes great on its own, but—if I’m being honest—it tastes even better with a spoonful of homemade jam. Butter—especially a butter lamb—is also a great accompaniment.

As for where this bread belongs in your Easter celebrations, I say it’s a great homemade treat to pull out before church services. I always like a little something to tide me over before a big Easter brunch. Otherwise, serve paska up alongside your ham at dinnertime and skip the traditional dinner rolls.

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Post Author: MNS Master

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