According to the Julian calendar, Easter falls on the 12th of April this year so celebrations are on in full swing in Greece
this weekend. Fireworks went off at midnight around distant churches. Most Greeks are enjoying lamb or goat or pork on the spit today after 40 days of Lent. It is a big event here, far bigger than Christmas and we have delayed munching on Easter eggs until today to fit in with the locals (OK, I admit a few may have been sneaked early
A sweet yeast bread is commonly served on Easter Sunday in most countries. The British have Hot Cross Buns, the French orange blossom perfumed Pogne, the Italians Colomba, the Finnish cardamom spiced Pulla. The less well known ones are the brioche like ones from eastern Europe
. In Czechoslovakia they call this Easter bread Houska, in Poland
Chalka, in Bulgaria Kozunak, in Croatia
Sirnica, in Hungary Fonott Kalacs, in Lithuania Velykos Pyragas, in Romania Cozonac, in Russia
Kulich and in Ukraine
Paska. In Greece
the loaf is known as Tsoureki and is baked with whole eggs tucked in the braids.
I have left out a host of countries, but you get the drift. It's popular at this time of year
Each year along with Easter eggs we enjoy some type of sweet bread. When fresh these loaves are beautiful on their own, days later I toast slices and top with marmalade, and if there is any left to go really stale, it makes the best bread pudding.
The last few years in Greece I have simply bought a Tsoureki, but this year the boat has been filled with the aroma of a Paska being baked.
(edited to add: a few alterations included in bold after making a second lot)
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 heaped teaspoons sugar
7g packet dry yeast (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup warm milk
5-6 cups flour, sifted (closer to 7 cups the second time around, I may have miscounted initially)
125g butter, softened
¼ tsp salt
(omit if using salted butter)
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated lemon rind
3 eggs, lightly beaten with a tablespoon reserved
½ cup sultanas (I bumped this up to a cup the second time)
- Combine water, sugar and yeast and let sit 10 minutes or so until frothy (primarily to make sure you don't have a dud lot of yeast)
- Add to the milk and whisk in about 1½ cups of flour to form a smooth thick batter
- Cream the butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon and beat in the eggs, then stir in the sultanas
- Whisk this into the yeast mix, then add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft, very sticky dough
- Knead this for 10 minutes occasionally scraping the bits sticking to the surface with a spatula. At the end of this time the stickiness will have dramatically reduced and the dough will barely be sticking to your hands or the surface.
- Let this sit covered in a bowl in a warm spot until doubled in bulk (I enlist the aid of a hot water bottle, so it takes about an hour)
- Punch the dough down and knead a few minutes
- Again return to the warm spot an hour or so until doubled in bulk
- Punch down and place into several lined greased high tins (eg saved 800g cans or coffee tins), filling each about halfway. I just used one round silicone cake tin this time (better the second time making two).
- Let sit in a warm spot an hour or so until doubled in bulk for the third rise
- Brush the top with the reserved beaten egg to create a glaze
- Bake in a moderate oven (around 175°C or 350°F) about 40-50 minutes (depends on the size of the tins used). Muffins take just 20 min.
- Let sit 10 minutes, then gently remove from tin and cool
- Ice with a mix of soft icing sugar and water or butter, allowing the icing to run down the sides
Using a cake tin means I haven't ended up with the classic tall skinny shape to this Paska, but it still rose awesomely
. The size is deceptive, this is my monster serving platter. This was just heavenly with coffee this morning: