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Paska: Ukrainian Easter Bread

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This Paska Ukrainian Easter Bread recipe is a traditional Eastern European bread made especially for the holiday. A delicious, lightly sweetened yeast bread, much like sweet dough, with beautiful Easter symbols and a sweet, tender crumb.

Ukrainian Paska on an Easter Cake Stand

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While it may look difficult, it’s very simple to make with familiar bread baking techniques.

Paska is one type of Ukrainian Easter Bread. Kulich is another favorite I make every year. It’s a taller, cylindrical sweet loaf with a decorated top. Equally delicious, this bread contains citrus and fruit.

Babka is yet another sweetened bread delicious to make for Easter or Christmas.

For yet another idea for an Easter Bread, you might also like Kugelhopf, which is popular in Central Europe during the holiday or on Sundays.

Side view of Easter Paska

What is Paska?

Ukrainian Easter bread or paska is a sweetened egg bread, baked in the round, and decorated with Christian symbols for Easter.

Traditionally, paska was taken to church on Easter morning in a special food basket that would then be blessed by the priest before bringing home for Easter dinner.

My great-grandparents and ancestors were Germans living in the Odesa region of Ukraine. When they emigrated to the United States, they carried with them their Easter traditions.

My grandmother was a bread baker, and though I didn’t know her, I’ve curated her stories from journals and memories of her from my great-uncles and aunts.

Known especially for her Easter bread and her shaped Easter bread, I love to carry forward some of her traditions that have meant so much to our family.

Ukrainian Paska Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make Paska. The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Flour: A high protein flour, like bread flour, works beautifully.
  • Active dry yeast
  • Granulated sugar
  • Warm milk
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Large eggs
  • Vanilla extract

Helpful Kitchen Tools to Make Paska

Traditional bread-making tools like:

How to Make Ukrainian Paska

This intricately braided Paska is rather simple to make. Here are the steps with photos.

More details are in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Activate the yeast

Begin by warming 1/2 cup of milk to lukewarm or 110°F. Dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar in the milk and then sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it sit and activate for 5 to 10 minutes or until the yeast is bubbly. Meanwhile, oil a bowl for the dough to rise and set aside.

Step 2: Make the sweet dough

Whisk together the flour, salt, and remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add the yeast mixture, eggs, softened butter, remaining milk, and vanilla.

Stir to combine the ingredients. The dough will be wet and sticky. Knead in the mixer or in the bowl for 4 to 5 minutes. As the bread kneads, the moisture will be absorbed into the flour.

Once the dough has been kneaded by the stand mixer, I like to turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it by hand for a few seconds.

Image of activated yeast and raw bread dough

Step 3: First Rise

Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the oiled bowl. Cover with plastic or a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm spot for an hour to 90 minutes.

Kneading the dough and first rise

Step 4: Shaping the Dough and Second Rise

Deflate the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half. Shalf one half into a disk shape and fit into the bottom of the pan.

Divide the remaining dough into 4 pieces: 1 piece for the cross and 3 pieces for the braid.

For the braid: Create 3 ropes measuring about 18 to 20 inches. Braid and place on top of the outer edges of the dough in the pan.

For the cross: Separate into two pieces, one slightly longer than the other, and create a cross pattern; place in the middle of the bread.

Cover and let rise until almost doubled. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Unbaked Easter Paska with Braid

Step 5: Bake the Paska

Brush an egg wash on top of the bread before baking. Then bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the bread is golden and baked through.

I begin checking at 35 minutes and cover the top of the bread with parchment paper or foil if it is browning quickly. Then, remove from the oven and rest in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, remove from the pan and place on a rack to cool completely.

Side view of Paska on a white stand

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Top view of Paska on Easter Stand
Ukrainian Paska on an Easter Cake Stand

Paska: Ukrainian Easter Bread Recipe

Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

This Paska Ukrainian Easter Bread recipe is a traditional Eastern European bread made especially for the holiday. A delicious, lightly sweetened yeast bread, much like sweet dough, with beautiful Easter symbols and a sweet, tender crumb.

Ingredients

  • 6 - 7 cups bread flour (or a higher protein all-purpose flour)
  • 4 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packets)
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ cup warm milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Coat a large bowl with oil and set it aside.
  2. Warm the milk to 110 degrees F (or just warm to the touch). Dissolve 1 teaspoon of the sugar in 1/2 cup of the lukewarm milk and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set it aside in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes or until the yeast is bubbly.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (or large bowl), whisk 5 3/4 cups of flour, salt, and sugar. Then add the yeast mixture, eggs, softened butter, remaining milk, and vanilla, and mix until a smooth, elastic dough forms. Add flour as needed in 1 tablespoon increments until the dough is soft, smooth, and pliable. For me, the dough is perfect at about 6 cups of flour.
  4. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes or in a stand mixer for about 5-6 minutes, or until the dough is soft and smooth. The dough will be soft and somewhat tacky. I like to then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball.

First Rise

  1. Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides with oil. Cover with plastic or a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume; about an hour to 90 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Mine is nonstick.

Shape the Loaves:

  1. Deflate the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half.
  2. With half of the dough, shape it into a disk and fit it into the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Set aside.
  3. Divide the remaining dough into 4 pieces: 1 piece for the cross and 3 pieces for the braid.
  4. For the braid, form three 18 to 20-inch ropes. Braid the ropes together and place them on top of the outer edges of the disk in the pan, leaving an open area in the middle. Pinch and seam the edges together.
  5. For the cross, separate into two pieces, one slightly longer than the other, and create a cross pattern; place in the middle of the bread.
  6. Cover and let rise until almost doubled. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the Paska:

  1. Beat an egg with 1 teaspoon of water for an egg wash. Brush the top of the bread just before baking.
  2. Bake for 40 to 55 minutes, or until the bread is done. I begin checking at 35 minutes and cover the top of the bread with parchment paper or foil if it is browning quickly. The bread is done when the crust is golden, there is a hollow sound when tapping on the bread, or when the internal temperature is 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.
  3. Remove from the oven and rest in the pan for 30 minutes. Then remove the pan and place it on a rack to cool completely.

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15 Comments

    1. Hi David! I’ve never added cheese to Paska, although “Paskha” is a cheese traditionally served for Orthodox Easter. It sounds like a great idea– if you try it with cheese, I’d love to hear how you liked it!

  1. Hi Stephanie,

    I baked this Paska last week and it turned out beautiful. However, a few things. It did brown really quickly, and I did follow your instructions about placing parchment on the top right from the beginning. I started checking the internal temp at 25min like you suggested and found it to take 50 min to reach the 190 F. Because I am new at this can you tell me how you know that 190f is the suggested internal temp. I found the Paska to be dry. Should I be doing something different? Is there a better way to check doneness besides the 190f? I don’t want to pull it from the oven and have it not be cooked or fall. Wanting to make this again in the next day or so for Easter as it was so beautiful but would really want to be less dry. Looking for some guidance here please.

    1. Hi Corrie! Thank you for making the Paska last year. I’m actually baking my loaf this morning too. Traditional recipes for both Paska and Kulich do tend to be on the drier side. Although it shouldn’t be too dry.

      Flour: I’ve been using a higher protein flour in this bread. Canadian all-purpose flour contains higher protein than U.S. all-purpose flour so I’m using King Arthur unbleached bread flour. It helps create a little more structure and a chewy texture, which is good for bread! I begin with 5 3/4 cup flour along with other ingredients. Then I add small amounts of flour until it pulls away from the machine. For me, this usually ends up right about 6 cups of flour.

      Kneading: Be sure to knead the bread (whether in a stand mixer or by hand) until the dough feels soft and smooth. In the mixer, I knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is a little stretchy. By hand, it usually takes about 10 minutes.

      First Rise: Be sure to allow the bread to rise in a warm place for 90 minutes to 2 hours. I learned a great tip for a King Arthur bread maker that I’be been using for quite a while. He fills a small container with very warm water, cover the bowl with the rising dough and places it in the microwave. It creates this warm place for the bread to rise beautifully. I do this almost every time.

      Second Rise: If it doesn’t fit into the microwave, just place it in a warm, draft free place and let rise until almost doubled.

      Baking temperature: You do want the bread is cook through. As you know, ovens vary greatly. The temperature of 190 degrees F is a standard measurement for most breads, except for baguettes which are better at 205-210 degrees F.

      I hope these tips help! Let me know if you have any other questions.

      Stephanie

  2. Can you add fruit to this paska recipe? If so at what stage and does it change the bake time? Also do you need to grease the 9 inch springform pan? Once baked do you need to remove the paska immediately so it won’t get soggy?

    1. Hi Corrie, you can definitely add dried fruit to the paska! I like to add the fruit after the dough has been combined and in the middle of kneading it so it can fully incorporate. My springform pan is nonstick so I do not grease it. If you are using one that isn’t nonstick, I would definitely grease with parchment or baking spray. After the paska is baked, I leave it in the pan for about 10-15 minutes, then carefully remove it from the pan to cool completely.

  3. I made this for Easter. I wish I could upload a picture to show everyone how beautiful it looked. I didn’t do the braid but did put the cross on. I used less than the 6 cups of flour, probably about 5 2/3 cups. I baked it 40 minutes. It browned nicely but I thought it to be a little dry. Next time I will check it at 35 minutes. I’ve been toasting it & it is delicious.

    1. It sounds beautiful! I wish you could upload a photo too! I’m actually looking into how that might be possible. And toasting that wonderful bread is one of my favorite things. Thank you so much for trying the recipe and letting me know how it worked for you.

  4. My family is also German from the Ukraine. We always called it “baska” and grandma put anise and lemon flavoring with a scent of saffron. She would bake it tin coffee cans and frost the tops and decorate. It was a wonderful tradition.

  5. the recipe has salt listed twice. is that a typo or was it supposed to be something else or duplicate? not sure so not doing this recipe. :/

    1. Hi Bridget! It’s always best the day it’s made, but with the baking process, that’s not always feasible. Last year for Easter I made it a couple of days ahead, wrapped it very well and froze until Sunday. Everyone enjoyed it immensely!

  6. I made this on 12/2/2022, good recipe. Just a few changes next time I make it, maybe a tablespoon or two sugar and some lemon rind for flavor, other than that it’s good. I am polish and slovak and my Grandma and mom always added lemon rind. I’m just used to it. Try it some time.

    1. Hi Don, thank you so much for trying the recipe. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I love your idea of adding lemon rind. My German from Russia grandmother added orange zest to her Kulich and other sweet bread recipes. I will definitely try adding lemon zest. Thank you for the suggestion.

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