A Ukrainian Easter Feast

by Anya Sywulak

Khrystos Voskres! Voistynu Voskres! (Christ is risen! He is truly risen!)

Easter has always been my favorite holiday because of the amazing food my family eats every year. Growing up Ukrainian-American, I learned how to cook and bake traditional Easter foods from my mom and grandmother. My grandmother (Bobcha) used to spend hours standing over the oven to make sure all our food could be blessed by the priest before we got to enjoy it on Easter morning. From paska to kielbasa with tsvikly, I am so proud to be able to pass on the legacy of her amazing cooking. Given the current situation in Ukraine, I would love to be able to share a little bit of Ukrainian culture with the Baked community and give you all a chance to try some new recipes while I’m at it.

Paska

Paska is similar to Challah in shape and texture, but a little bit sweeter. Traditionally it is full of golden raisins, but my family is in constant debate over if they like it better with or without. Like any bread, it takes a good while to make, but the reward is worth all the time spent baking!

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1½ cups warm water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 9 cups of bread flour (used in varying amounts)
  • 1 handful of golden raisins (optional)
  • 2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water (for bread glaze)

Directions:

  1. Combine the yeast, ½ cup warm water (110-115 degrees F) and sugar; set aside.  
  2. Beat the eggs with sugar; add the 1½ cups warm water, oil and salt.  Blend in the yeast mixture, beat well.  
  3. Using 5 cups of flour, add 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition; the dough will be sticky.  If using raisins, add them now.  
  4. Now add 2 more cups of flour, beating well (wooden spoon is best), until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl.  
  5. Place the dough on a surface onto which you have shaken an additional 2 cups of flour and knead until almost all the flour is absorbed into batter.  
  6. Return to bowl.  Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size.
  7. Punch down the raised dough.  
  8. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and divide each part into 3 again for braiding. Pinch the ends of braids together or tuck under the loaf slightly.
  9. Grease the pans with butter, place dough in a pan, and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled in size – about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Before baking, brush with the egg-water mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes. Tap the loaves on their bottom, which should have a hollow sound; if not, then bake 5 more minutes.  
  11. Let the bread cool completely on a wire rack.

Syrnyk

My personal favorite part of Easter breakfast, Syrnyk is a soft, sweet cheese. I could probably eat an entire one myself, but it also lasts well in the fridge and is a great snack!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound farmer’s cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk & 1 beaten egg for egg wash 
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl using a fork. It should be moist but not watery. 
  2. Put mixture in cheese cloth or thin dish towel. Pack cheese well to form shape. Twist the towel tightly and secure with a twist tie. Press down with a cutting board and heavy book. 
  3. Let cheese dry in a sunny room or outside (if warm) for about 4 hours. It is ready when you open it and it doesn’t fall apart. You may need a second towel to absorb moisture.
  4. When ready, remove carefully from the towel and brush top with beaten egg. 
  5. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Cheese should be firm and not crumbly.  
  6. Decorate with purple flowers and serve!

Tsvikly/Khrin

Tsvikly is a beet and horseradish garnish that we serve with kielbasa. A little bit spicy and a little bit sweet, it is definitely something worth trying if you are feeling a bit more adventurous! 

Ingredients:

  • 5 large, 8 medium or 12 small red beets (smaller beets are sweeter)
  • 1½ tablespoons salt
  • 1 large horseradish root
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Scrub beets with vegetable brush until clean. 
  2. Bring water and salt to boil in a stock pot, add beets, and return to a boil. 
  3. Cook at medium heat, covered until tender when pierced with a thin knife. Allow about 25 to 30 minutes for small beets, 30 to 35 for medium beets, and 45 to 60 minutes for large beets. 
  4. Drain, then plunge into cold water to handle, slice and peel off skins with a potato peeler.  
  5. Slice off the outer skin of horseradish root with a knife. Use a fine grater to grate ½ to ⅔ of the root and set aside. 
  6. Grate the beets the same way. 
  7. Add the grated horseradish to the beets. A little goes a long way, but add more if you like it spicy, taste as you go.
  8. Add 1 tsp. sugar, 2 tsps. vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste. Combine with a fork.

Prune Jelly Cakes

You may be saying to yourself, “Prunes? Those are gross!” But I promise, these little cakes are so delicious you won’t be able to stop at just a couple. One of my cousins is notorious for sneaking them into his pockets for later. Although they are a dessert, I won’t tell anyone if you eat them as a first course.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour (some extra for assembly)
  • ½ can Carnation evaporated milk
  • 6 eggs
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tablespoon lemon rind
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (proofed with ½ cup warm water)
  • 1 jar of prune butter*

Directions:

  1. In a mixer, beat egg yolks and 3 whites. 
  2. Add the sugar, lemon rind, vanilla and melted butter until combined. Then add evaporated milk, salt and proofed yeast. 
  3. Add in flour slowly. The dough should be somewhat sticky. Set aside and let it rise until at least double in size. 
  4. Punch down the raised dough.
  5. Roll out small balls of dough with a bit of sugar and flour on a board. 
  6. Put in 1 teaspoon of filling, fold closed and then pinch the ends.
  7. Dip in canola oil and place on a cookie sheet close together. Let the cakes rise slightly.
  8. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until golden brown.

*To make homemade prune butter: Cook 2 cups of pitted prunes in just enough water to cover, plus 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Simmer for 40 min. Drain excess water off and mash until smooth. 

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