Today, we made our bread for our traditional Polish Easter basket. Though paska is usually associated with Easter, this lovely bread is also traditional.
One of the things that’s important for this bread is for the eggs to be at room temperature.
This year, we added a new ingredient; dried orange zest. I like to dry my own zest, and this time I had some from blood oranges. I deliberately chose the reddest ones to get a much darker coloured zest.
If you have a zester, it makes it really easy to quickly zest your fruit over a paper towel. Spread the zest thinly and leave to dry. When dry, store in an air tight container.
2 cups milk
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp yeast
saffron; a few threads
optional: orange zest
5-6 cups all purpose flour
- Proof the yeast in warm water (about 1/2 – 2/3 cups) in a large bowl for about 10 minutes.
- Soften the saffron threads in a small amount of very warm water.
- Scald the milk, then add in the butter, sugar and salt. Stir until butter is melted.
- Allow the milk mixture to cool before adding it to the yeast mixture. While it’s cooling, stir in the saffron and optional orange zest, then add the milk mixture to the proofed yeast.
- Stir thoroughly, then mix in the eggs (if the mixture seems too warm still, the eggs can be added after the first cup or two of flour).
- Add 3 cups of flour and beat thoroughly with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, or by hand for about 200 strokes.
- Add more flour by the half cup-full until a stiff dough begins to form. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead thoroughly, adding more flour as needed. If kneading by hand, knead for at least 5 minutes.
- Clean and oil the large bowl. Add the kneaded dough to the bowl, turning it to coat all sides with oil.
- Cover loosely and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
- Once the dough is doubled in size, turn it onto onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently a few times. Divide the dough in half, and return one half to the bowl.
Braided loaves, after rising and ready for the oven!
- To form a braid, divide the remaining half into 3 equal pieces. Knead each piece a few times, then form into a rope about 12-18 inches. Join the three lengths together at one end, then braid the dough. Tuck under the ends to hide them, then transfer the braided loaf onto a well oiled baking sheet.
- Repeat with the second half of the dough, or use it to create other shapes.
- Cover and allow to rise again for about half an hour. Preheat oven to 350F.
- Optional: glaze the loaves with an egg wash (2 egg beaten with about a tablespoon of water) to get a nicely browned surface.
- After the loaves have risen, place into the centre of the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes.
- When done, allow the bread to cool slightly before carefully removing from the pan to a cooling rack.