Easter has always been a big deal in my family. My Mom followed the Slovak tradition of having an Easter table full of wonderful dishes like ham, kielbasa (both fresh and smoked), hard boiled eggs, fresh horseradish (which my Dad made), Easter Cheese or Hrudka – made from eggs and milk (recipe below) and Paska, a sweet bread made with cottage cheese and golden raisins.
Mom has not been able to prepare holiday meals for several years now due to her dementia. We are blessed to still have her with us – my sisters and I have picked up the holiday meals and divide among us some of the traditions of our childhood. My sister makes the Hrudka and my job is the Paska. The recipe I use is a family recipe that’s been passed down from my grandmother.
It’s easy to make but it needs a commitment of a half day to stay home and let the dough grow.
Here we go….
Start by dissolving 2 packages of dry yeast into 1 cup of warm water. I always squirt a generous squirt of honey in the warm water to promote the yeast growth.
Melt two sticks of butter in the microwave. Yeah, you heard it right – two sticks.
Lightly beat 5 eggs with a fork.
To the yeast mixture which is hopefully growing by now in your mixer, add 1 cup of sugar and 2 tsp. of vanilla. Mix and add the butter and eggs and 1 tsp. salt.
Add 1 cup of cottage cheese to the mixture. Keep mixing…
Now for the sweet little gems of the bread…
Time to add the flour. Start with 5 cups adding 1 cup at a time…
Add more flour until the wetness is gone. This time it was another cup and a half over the first 5 cups. The dough will be slightly sticky but manageable.
Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with oil and turn over so the oiled side is up. Cover with a towel…
and place in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).
After an hour, punch down the dough and reform into another ball. Let rise again for another 45 minutes. After the second rise, you’re ready to make your loaves.
Divide the dough up into six smaller balls of dough…
Take three of the dough balls, roll with your hands into long pieces of dough and place on a lightly sprayed pan.
Pinch the ends and begin to braid as you would do a hair braid.
Work it gently so as not to over-extend the long rolls of dough.
Pinch the ends together, cover with a towel and let sit for another 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Wisk together an egg wash using two whole eggs and a ‘splash’ of water.
Once the bread is slightly risen, gently brush the bread with the egg wash…
Bake the bread in a 350 degree oven for around 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the loaf. The bread will be ready when it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when you ‘knock’ on it.
Sit back and embrace its aroma…
Bread is a gift to the table.
You can find the Hrudka recipe here.