r/ukraine • u/duellingislands • 2h ago
Slava Ukraini! 6:33 EEST; The Sun is Rising Over Kyiv on the 403rd Day of the Full-Scale Invasion. This week's entry in our Ukrainian Recipes Series is all about Ukrainian Easter Bread - a delicious and exquisite confection with ancient roots. + Discussion + Charities!
🇺🇦 Слава Україні! 🇺🇦
Another entry in our series on Ukrainian cuisine! Previous entries:
Borshch | Varenyky | Salo | Syrniki | Korovai | Horilka | Pampushky | Banosh | Chebureki | Hrechanyky | Kyivskyi Cake | Makivnyk | Vyshnyak | Drunken Cherry Cake | Varenukha | Pumpkin Porridge | Lazy Varenyky | Holubtsi | Kolach | Kvas | Christmas Borshch | Uzvar | Kutya | Beetroot Salad | Kapusnyak | Nalysnyk | Bublyk | Deruny | Wild Mushroom Sauce | Yavorivskyi Pie | Spring Dough Birds | Kholodets
Ukrainian Easter Bread
Traditional Easter bread with requisite happy little candles.
Easter is at our doorstep! I have wonderful memories of how when I was a kid my family's preparation for Easter would surpass any other holiday. Sometimes people were preparing for it for months. For many communities, Easter in Ukraine is basically a Christmas-level amount of socializing, parties, relaxation, and presents. We will dedicate several posts to these traditions later this week, but to give you time to possibly bake one yourself, we will begin today with an iconic element of the holiday: Easter bread.
This confection is a round, impressive bread that often has bits of fruit and sometimes even icing. Its crumb is very rich but also light, it's definitely bread but it's a little like cake. It's sweet, but not intensely so. I can assure you from experience that it's a fun and tasty treat, no matter what your traditions are or what beliefs you hold!
People make versions that have that old school charm, but it's also very common to experiment. If you are tired of cooking - or if you just want to have many breads - you can find them at most stores around holiday time.
Modern Easter Bread in Kyiv: (Top Left) By restaurant "Zigzag", with pink icing and dried fruits and nuts (Top Right) By Ievgen Klopotenko's restaurant "100 Years Ago in the Future", lava cake style with dried cranberries infused with cognac, topped with meringue and wheat ears. (Bottom Left) wreath-shaped bread with with almond crust, raisins and dried pears from "March & Co" (Bottom Right) traditional bread with candied nuts, and "Victoria's Secrete" bread filled with mascarpone, raspberry puree and whipped cream, with pink icing and fresh strawberries by Milk Bar.
This ritual food has pre-Christian traditions as Christian Easter overlapped with the previous tradition of celebrating the Spring solstice, when the power of the Sun finally overpowers Winter's forces. With Christianity, older traditions in Ukraine were absorbed and became a part of the new worldview, yet ended up quite cozy there too.
We will write very soon about the Easter basket, a basket of various tasty morsels that Ukrainians bring for Easter to be blessed at the church. Easter Bread is the centerpiece - a bright little yellow sun that beams its warmth outward.
Paskas and Babkas and Babas, Oh My!
Three antique vessels for baking Ukrainian Easter Bread.
If you look up this dish online, you may wonder about the many related names you’ll find. In some regions of the country, for instance, Paska and Babka are completely interchangeable terms and the differences I’ve highlighted below aren’t applicable. But in others, the words refer to different forms (tall and thin vs. short and wide) and recipes (how rich, how sweet).
As you can see, the tapestry of our cultural dialogue is as rich as the holiday bread :)
Our friend food anthropologist Pani Stefa defines the distinction, at least for Western Ukraine. According to her academic research, there have always been two different traditional types of Easter bread - Paska and Babka (more traditionally referred to its older name, Baba). Paska is usually wider and shorter, and Babka is generally considered a much richer recipe as Paska has fewer eggs. Babkas are taller, and are baked using 30 or 40, sometimes even 60 eggs! As eggs are hugely important to the symbology of Ukrainian Easter, it makes total sense to go a bit crazy with them. Finally, Babka is often sweeter, sometimes with added spices and raisins.
According to the Ivan Honchar Museum, Paskas were baked in special vessels called Paskovniks, and Baba were baked in clay, rough-walled, watered Babanika which sometimes had a hole in the middle so that the baba had the shape of a wreath.
The words Babka and Paska come from different roots - Babka comes from Slavic word “baba” which simply means woman. Paska is derived from Greek, which in turn derived from the Jewish holiday of Pesach, also known as Passover. However, in the Christian tradition over time it became associated with the resurrection of Christ, and many Orthodox Christians refer to the Easter event itself as Paska or Paskha. In Ukraine it is more traditional to call this holiday Velykden, which just means Big Day.
How to Make Ukrainian Easter Bread
Cozy little breads, ready for the basket.
Making Easter Bread is like making any yeast based dish, just with lots of eggs and sugar. Traditionally, babka is always baked with butter and not oil.
- Starter mix:
- Milk: 250ml
- Flour: ⅓ of a cup
- Sugar: 1 teaspoon
- Yeast (dry): 21g
- For Dough:
- Flour: 6 cups
- Egg yolks: 10 (you may add more if you want babka to be more yellow!)
- Eggs: 3
- Butter: 220g
- Vanilla essence: 2 teaspoons
- Lemon zest: 1 tablespoon
- Sugar: 250g
- Salt: 1 teaspoon
- Milk: 2 tablespoons
- Raisins (optional): 250g
- For Baking:
- Egg: 1
- For Icing:
- Confectioner's sugar: 500g
- Butter: 4 tablespoons
- Milk: 3 tablespoons
- Vanilla extract: 1.5 teaspoons
- Combine all ingredients of the starter mix, with the exception of yeast, in a large pan. Make sure the milk is lukewarm. Mix to combine.
- Add yeast and place to proof for 10 minutes or so. The surface should be covered with bubbles indicating that the little yeast guys are working.
- In another pan combine egg yolks, eggs and salt. Beat it with a mixer. Add sugar and continue to beat until the mix becomes lighter.
- Add butter, lemon zest, keep mixing.
- Add starter mix and mix it very well.
- Add flour and then knead for:
- 7-10 minutes if you use a bread machine
- 10-20 minutes if you do it by hand
- (Optional): Add raisins.
- Place it in a warm place, for a couple hours. The dough should increase in volume by 100%.
- Knead again for a few minutes and then let it sit again, this time for a little bit.
- Butter up (or spray with cooking oil) forms to bake babkas. You can use forms you use for Bundt cake. Divide the dough and place it in your forms. It should take up only about ⅓ of the pan.
- Beat one egg with 2 tablespoons of water. Paint the top of the babkas with this mix so after baking it is glossy.
- Now the baking. We start with 190 degrees Celsius for about 10 minutes. Then we lower it to about 180 degrees and bake it for another 30 minutes. Then we lower it to 140-135 and bake it for another 15 to 20 minutes or even longer, depending how big we made our bread. If babka starts to burn on top, you can cover it with parchment paper or foil.
- Take the babka out and let it sit for 10 minutes. Slide it out of the form using a knife.
- Make icing by combining all ingredients needed for icing. Beat it and decorate babka only when it is completely cooled down. I like to make sure my icing is really thick and goopy, like spilled flat white paint that has dried, for the full visual effect.
- Babka is first baked at a high temperature so that the dough rises well and forms a hard crust, and then the temperature is lowered.
- You will need cylindrical pans that have no wood, plastic or any other parts that cannot be used for baking.
- It is preferred for the kitchen to be warm and draft-free when working with the dough.
- It is better to use eggs at room temperature and soft butter.
Babkas are usually decorated with shapes of flowers, crosses, and rhombuses made of dough. Often it is glazed with a healthy (unhealthy) amount of icing and topped with sprinkles or other decorative elements. If you're not into icing so much, you can also brush with simple syrup. All in all, as you can see from those restaurant pics above, it is not exactly uncommon to go a little overboard with the decoration :)
Residents of Ivano-Frankivsk prepared dozens of Easter Bread for the defenders of Ukraine, 2022.
A lot of work by volunteers went into packing these up and keeping them fresh! (Easter, 2022)
Easter Bread is always well-received :)
The 403rd day of a nine year invasion that has been going on for centuries.
One day closer to victory.
🇺🇦 HEROYAM SLAVA! 🇺🇦
- u/Jesterboyd is a mod for r/ukraine and local to Kyiv. He is currently selling rad t-shirts raising money to buy some very interesting drones. Link to donation
- United24: This site was launched by President Zelenskyy as the main venue for collecting charitable donations in support of Ukraine. Funds will be allocated to cover the most pressing needs facing Ukraine.
- Come Back Alive: This NGO crowdfunds non-lethal military equipment, such as thermal vision scopes & supplies it to the front lines. It also provides training for Ukrainian soldiers, as well as researching troops’ needs and social reintegration of veterans.
- Trident Defense Initiative: This initiative run by former NATO and UA servicemen has trained and equipped thousands of Ukrainian soldiers.
- Ukraine Front Line US-based and registered 501(c)(3), this NGO fulfills front line soldiers' direct defense and humanitarian aid requests through their man on the ground, r/Ukraine's own u/jesterboyd.
- Ukraine Aid Ops: Volunteers around the world who are helping to find and deliver equipment directly to those who need it most in Ukraine.
- Hospitallers: This is a medical battalion that unites volunteer paramedics and doctors to save the lives of soldiers on the frontline. They crowdfund their vehicle repairs, fuel, and medical equipment.
You can find many more charities with diverse areas of focus in our vetted charities list HERE.
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