The Unbearable Lightness of Paskas

 

It’s that time of year again. . .
the pressure to produce a yeast bread
for the traditional Easter basket blessing…

Our recipe calls for two packets of active dry yeast.

To test if the yeast has survived in its dry state,
it’s good to “proof” the yeast in water.

However, because yeast is a living microscopic single-cell organism,
too hot or cold temps will kill the little guy dead in the water,
leaving him unable to reproduce cells, as it were.

To even attempt an Easter paska,
one must have on hand roughly 7 dozen eggs,
24 tons of all-purpose flour, one stick of butter,
and enough zest to dam up the Panama Canal. . .

And did I mention having a lot of time, patience, forbearance,
and two willing sisters to tackle most of the nitty gritty?

 Soaking in a comfortable bath of 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit,
the yeast is a happy thriving camper thank you very much.

 

Gradually add 4 cups of flour to the “active” yeast mixture.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs senseless with softened butter.

Repeat after me:  There’s no place like home.
And there is no such thing as excessive zest.

Slide the yeast proof into the eggy butter batter.

Incorporate the orange and lemon zest.

Add more flour to the often too-sticky dough.

Here’s where it’s entirely possible to have added
42 cups of flour by the end of the kneading process . . .

Punching the stuffing out of the dough can be cathartic.

It’s impossible to over-massage the dough,
all that pummeling is to achieve a “silky” texture.

However, it is entirely possible to wimp-out

 

Needless to say, the kneader’s stamina
cannot be overemphasized…

 

Tasha stops by to observe the action

Win-win:  H’s aggression finds outlet
and silky dough benefits

 

“Com’on up for the risin’ “

The dusty chaos of baking hath no charm for Tash,
while the eagle eye views the proceedings…

 

Thanks to H’s 4G Thunderbolt,
Grandma enjoys a high-def view of the eagles
and reports witnessing a sibling fracas in the nest!

H confirms:  “Yeah, they were peckin’ each other’s heads.”

 

 

Auntie shows the little yeasty micro-organisms who’s boss. . . .

Someone was inspired to soak the raisins in rum,
just to plump ’em up you see, no other reason, mmmkay?

The dueling bakers were happy to add drunken raisins to the mix.

The dough has twice been allowed to rise,
and been smacked down for each of those efforts.
It’s time to divide the batter into the baking containers. . .

The buttering of the coffee cans. . .

(with parchment lining)

The fantastic plastic working bowl.

The sacred lowering-of-the-dough

 

Fill the can about half-way. . .
Any more, and you’re just asking for it . . .

After the dough’s last rising,
before the containers are daintily shoved in the oven. . .

. . . brush the tops liberally with egg wash.

Tash has been, truth be told . . .

. . . somewhat obstructive during the process.

Yeah you !

Irene transports the first-born out with the caution of a bomb squad tech.

Speaking of bomb squads, we almost needed one, maybe several, when Grandma’s crazy oven started smoking after like ten bloody minutes !  Turned out one of the paskas was too close to the oven wall, but still !   And the coffee can ones started rising way too fast, almost touching the gas line inside of the stove !  A short panic ensued, followed by a quick solution – maneuvering a square of foil over the towering paskas.  The other little guys were okay, no possibility of over-inflation there.

The (near) Towering Inferno Paska.
A bit on the blonde side.

Irene treats the specimens with reverence.

 

After the goods have cooled,
we slice a piece for Grandma
and await her review.

“It’s good,” she says phlegmatically…

Comin’ from her, that’s high praise.

 

By the time we’d sampled the paska, night had fallen on the city.
The two towering coffee can versions went in the freezer
to await basket blessing day on Easter Saturday.

Irene’s verdict:  “It’s good, but I would use more eggs next time.”
H is shocked, shocked to hear this pronouncement.
Paska preference is such a personal thing.

While we sleep and eagles snooze, Minneapolis’ flour mills continue to churn out pulverized flour, so processed, so white, so nutritionally deficient it’s insane.  But what are ya gonna do?  It’s tricky to tweak this high-cholesterol Easter standard.  Not like, say, Grandma’s famed holobchis – the stuffed cabbages which we figured out how to actually improve, taste-wise as well as health-wise.  Then again…why can’t we try dickering with the Paska??   hmmm?  What’s that you say?  Tradition and what?  Penalty of torture upon variation??   M-kay..  Never mind…

Sniffy McBandit comes snooping.

 

2 thoughts on “The Unbearable Lightness of Paskas

  1. Wow, gorgeous photos — I love the blurred action shots! I also love the photo of your beloved late mom watching the eagles. What a wonderful documentation of a spsecial family day together.

  2. Lovely to see you all baking a traditional Easter bread not bad praise from your mum too. I want to know what you have done to the traditional recipe for holobchis i think all these traditional dishes hark back to a much more physical way of life, but once in a while they are so comforting to have, then back to fruit and veg!

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