Paska Easter Bread Recipe – Kulich
Easter Bread recipe is just what you need this upcoming Easter. It is made of very flavorful, moist, buttery, lightly sweetened brioche, that’s studded with beautiful morsels of white chocolate and rum-soaked dried berries. You can eat it as is with coffee or tea for breakfast, or use it for the best tasting French toast.
A mix between Italian Panettone and French Brioche, this Paska is a traditional Russian Easter Bread. I hope you give it a try and fall in love with this delicious Easter tradition just like our family has!
Over the last couple of weeks, I have taken the time to test and perfect this recipe until I got exactly what I wanted and exactly what this traditional Russian Paska recipe should be. If you follow my Instagram, you’ve seen it for yourself. If you don’t you can still check it out in the story Highlights.
What is Paska?
Paska is what many Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans call their Easter Bread. In Russia, they call it Kulich. Typical Paska Easter Bread is made with eggs, flour, sugar and lots of butter and is similar to Italian Panettone. When this dessert bread is made properly it will be light and fluffy, but still somewhat moist.
There are many recipes for Paska, but one requirement that they all have is for the bread to be tall. To achieve the height, Ukrainians use tall lined coffee cans or other smaller sized cans for baking tall Paskas. Then, the bread is topped with thick white powdered sugar glaze and sprinkled with sprinkles.
The perfect Easter Bread
Not many people have the time to test the recipe dozens of times, just to make sure it’s perfect, but I have! I’m super excited for you to try a truly amazing Paska recipe since it is indeed perfect. This Easter Bread is made with lots of butter, which keeps the bread from going hard and stale for more than a week!
Soaking the dried fruits for several days before using them in the Easter Bread allows them to plump up and fill with rum or water. Then, once they’re baked in the bread they continue to give off moisture into the bread, preventing the bread itself from drying out.
Can this dough be used for Hot Cross Buns?
Sure thing! Just divide the dough into 12 round balls and bake in a 9″x12″ baking pan. Use the powdered sugar glaze from the recipe to pipe the cross pattern on top of the buns after they cool.
Bread Maker Easter Bread
Among my trial runs there was a batch made in the bread maker as well. It’s definitely possible to just load up the ingredients, mix in the butter and salt in the later stages and lastly add the dried fruits and chocolate (I describe the method in the Brioche Bread post).
But, removing the bread out of the bread maker immediately after baking can cause it to lose its’ perfect shape since the dough is extremely delicate. The flavor is all there, so it’s only the aesthetics that suffer.
If you were to make it in the bread maker, use the “white bread” 1.5 hour setting for a 2 lb loaf. Do not use the quick bread setting for this recipe.
Bread maker IS the best for mixing the Paska dough though, so if you have the bread maker use it to knead the dough, for sure! Read about how I use the bread maker in the post about making Brioche Dough.
Tips for Success:
- Make sure your yeast is active before starting. Starting with yeast that is old or inactive will not produce the needed rise for light and fluffy Paska. If you can, use the Platinum yeast. It’s very forgiving and gives the best rise in baked goods.
- Soak your dried fruits well in advance. The fruits that I soaked a week in advance were a lot better hydrated and softer in the bread than the ones I soaked only 1 hour before starting or the ones that were not soaked at all.
- Use European butter if possible. European butter has higher butterfat content, so it enhances the bread with better butter flavor. If not available, don’t fret and use the butter you typically buy.
- Bake in tall paper molds for superior results. This Easter bread uses a very high hydration dough. This means that when it comes out of the oven it is very, very tender and soft. When you bake it in a metal pan, you need to unmold the bread immediately to prevent sogginess. Doing this can cause the bread to lean to the side, or collapse from the weight of the tallness (is that a word?) of the bread.When you bake the Easter Bread in a paper mold, it allows the bread to cool down in the mold keeping the structural integrity of the bread, without getting soggy. This is more important if you want to bake a tall Paska, than if you bake the minis.
Substitute for Sprinkles
In place of sprinkles, you can use these White Chocolate Crispearls. They have a rice crispies type of center, coated in good quality white chocolate. They are sold in plain white chocolate color. Use any color of edible pearl dust to color them preferred color.
If you’re wondering how you can color the little white chocolate beads, it is super easy. Just add the crispiearls to a small container, then sprinkle some of the pearl dust over them. Next, shake it around until the crispearls are all coated.
FAQ – Why is my easter bread dough too runny? Should I add more flour?
Low protein/gluten content flour: If your flour doesn’t have a high enough gluten content your dough might look runny or take longer kneading to get to a point where it looks like it should.
If your dough still looks like batter after kneading for 20 minutes, add up to 1/2 cup more flour 1 tablespoon at a time. If it still doesn’t come together into a stretchy dough, do not worry just leave it to proof as is. It will firm up in the fridge during proofing so it will be easier to shape it and the Easter bread will be fine in the end.
Butter too warm, or room temperature too warm: If the butter was too soft when adding it to the dough, or if the house temperature is very high the dough can be on the runny side as well. Just proof and refrigerate the dough as is though, do not add more flour.
Even when adding cold but maleable butter like the recipe requires the dough is still on the softer/runnier side, but if your butter is too warm it will be even more so.
Having a runny dough is not at all a problem if you plan to refrigerate the dough (best practice). Once refrigerated, the dough will firm up considerably and will be a lot easier to work with. So, trust the recipe place your runny dough in the fridge and it will be ok.
If you don’t have the time for refrigeration, just allow the dough to proof until doubled in size as is (runny), then use very oiled hands to help you shape the dough and place it into the molds. If you do not oil your hands you will have one sticky mess.
Why my Easter Bread is not rising?
This Easter bread recipe is very highly enriched with butter, eggs and sugar. All this weighs the dough down and it can take awhile for the dough to rise. So slower rising process should be expected with this kind of dough. But, if it’s been hours and the dough is not moving anywhere, check out my troubleshooting tips below.
Old yeast: if your yeast is expired or you’ve had it for awhile it might not be as active as recently purchase yeast. If your dough is rising even a little bit, then just give it extra time and keep the dough in a warm place until it doubles in size, even if it takes you 10 hours.
Optimally though, you want to use good, unexpired, recently purchased yeast for faster rising process.
Cold temps: if your house temperature is on the cooler side, the dough might take awhile to rise as well. To aid the proofing process preheat the oven to 200F or 250F for a couple minutes, then turn it off, turn on the oven light on and place your bowl with the dough in there. Make sure the oven is not hot or it will kill your yeast and it won’t rise at all. The temp should be between 90F and 100F.
Ingredients for the Easter Bread:
This recipe uses typical Brioche Bread ingredients, such as eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and yeast. If using add-ins, choose your favorite dried fruits and decide if you want to use just one kind of several.
Traditionally Paska is made with raisins, but I add white chocolate chips for extra sweetness and flavor, as well as dried cranberries, dried blueberries, and orange zest.
How to make Easter Bread:
- Start by pre-soaking the dried fruits. You can do this even up to a couple weeks, or months in advance. Then, drain and paper towel dry.
- Start by making the brioche dough. Add all wet ingredients including sugar, top with flour and yeast. Knead until smooth and elastic, then add butter and salt and knead those in too.
- Lastly, add the dried fruits and knead them in. For best results, cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. The dough will proof/rise slightly but not too much.
- Remove from the fridge, shape the dough and place into molds. If using cans for molds, line them with parchment paper. Molds should be filled halfway with dough. Once doubled in size, brush the tops with egg yolks.
- For easier removal of the Easter Bread from the paper/carton molds you can spray the inside with the non stick spray.
- Once baked, allow to cool completely. If you baked in the cans, remove from the can immediately and allow to cool on a rack.
- While the bread is cooling, make the powdered sugar glaze / Royal Icing glaze.
- Then, dip the top of each Paka into the whipped powdered sugar and sprinkle with sprinkles right away. If you wish to have drizzles, fill a pastry bag and draw the drizzles out by going up and down where you want the drizzles to be.
How to Store the Paska Easter Bread?
You can store the Easter Bread under a cake dome or in a closed container to prevent drying out. You can also freeze it, wrapping it tightly with plastic wrap for up to a month. If freezing, do not top with glaze until after defrosted.
What to make with leftover Easter Bread?
Use the Easter bread to make this delicious French Toast Casserole (use Easter Bread in place of Poppy Seed pastries).
Are you looking for more Easter Recipes? Try these:
- Blueberry White Chocolate Bread Wreath – it makes bomb toast!
- Olivier Salad – we make this Russian Potato salad for every major holiday
Paska Easter Bread Recipe (Kulich)
Paska Easter Bread is a sweetened buttery bread filled with lots of rum soaked raisins and white chocolate. Traditionally it is eaten on Easter, but can be made any time.
Easter Bread Ingredients
- 4 large eggs (room temperature)
- 35 ml water or milk 35 ml = 2 tbsp+1tsp
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 cups bread flour works best (but all-purpose flour will work too) (350 g = about 2 1/2 scooped cups)
- 2 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast 1 packet = 2 1/4 tsp (use Platinum Yeast for best results)
- 3/4 cup soft but cold temperature butter, cubed (3/4 cup = 12 tbsp)
- 1 tsp kosher salt use 3/4 tsp if using table salt
Add-ins for Easter Bread - Paska (start this 30 minutes, up to a week ahead of time)
- 1 cup water, orange juice, rum, cognac (pick one or combine several to make 1 cup)
- 1 cup dried fruits (raisins, craisins, blueberries, peaches, etc.) rehydrate in above liquid for at least 30 minutes
- 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
- 1 tbsp orange or lemon zest
Egg yolk glaze (whisk together)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tsp water
Powdered Sugar Glaze
- 1.5 cup powdered sugar
- 1 egg white (can be replaced with 1-2 tbsp milk)
- 1 tsp lemon juice (can be replaced with milk or water, if you prefer no tang in the glaze)
Easter Bread Mold Choices (pick 1 of the choices below)
Sprinkle Choices (Choose One)
How to rehydrate the dried fruits:
Do this 1 hour or up to 1 week before:
Add the dried fruits to a jar or a bowl, then cover them with enough water, orange juice, cognac, rum, or a combination of liquids to submerge them. Cover and set aside for at least 1 hour or up to a week. Refrigerate if not used right away.
Then, drain and pat with paper towels to remove all moisture from the outside. Set aside or refrigerate.
How to make the dough for Paska
Prep: Grease a large bowl with oil or nonstick spray, and set aside.
Measure and prep all of the ingredients. Weigh the ingredients for the best results.
Check/proof your yeast if you're unsure if the yeast is still active or if you're using active dry yeast instead of instant dried yeast.
To check or activate the active dry yeast: add the warm milk (from the recipe) and yeast to a cup and stir to combine. Allow sitting undisturbed for 15 minutes. If the yeast foams up and rises, it is active and ready to use. Otherwise, do not start until you get a fresh batch of yeast.
To a bowl of a stand mixer or a bread maker add the ingredients in the following order: 4 eggs, 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla, 2 tbsp + 1 tsp of milk or water, 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 1/4 tsp of yeast and give a quick stir with a spoon until roughly combined. Then fit the mixer with a dough hook and knead on low speed until it barely comes together.
Knead on medium-low speed until the dough is smooth and stops sticking to the sides of the bowl, for about 10- 20 minutes (on a KitchenAid stand mixer - speed 3).
If using the bread machine it should be turned on to the 1.5 hour dough cycle for a 2 lb white bread loaf. The dough will be thick at this point, this is OK.
Add butter and salt:
Next, add 12 tablespoons butter in halves, in small cubes and continue kneading until the butter is fully incorporated, about 15-20 minutes. See tips below for when to stop kneading.
Tip: You might have to break the dough into small chunks to make the incorporation with the butter easier.
DO NOT ADD ANY MORE FLOUR - it's ok if the dough is on the runny/thin side in the beginning. As you continue kneading it will hold shape better, but still should not be firm. The texture of the dough should be very soft and stretchy, but it should not run through your fingers like batter. If it does, add 1-2 tablespoons of flour at a time until it gets to proper consistency.
If mixing in the bread maker: add the butter when the bread maker beeps about 20 minutes into the cycle, which indicates that any additions can be made (in our case we are adding butter).
Check for gluten development (windowpane test). To do this take a walnut-sized piece of dough, flatten it out, then slowly stretch until you can make a very thin and almost translucent window. If the dough tears instead of getting thin and transparent continue kneading until it gets to this stage. It might take more or less time depending on many factors. Go by the windowpane test and not the time.
Add add-ins (**read recipe notes)
Add 1 cup of re-hydrated, but well-drained or paper towel dried fruits, 1 tbsp orange zest, and 3/4 cup white chocolate chips into the dough. Knead until fully incorporated.
Rise and chill: Transfer the dough to the greased bowl and allow the dough to rise at room temperature (see Note 3) for 1 hour or until the dough is almost doubled in size.
Tip: To aid in proofing or rising of the dough preheat the oven to 250F for 2-3 minutes, then turn off the heat and place the bowl with the dough in the oven. Ensure that the oven is not hotter than 100F or the extreme heat will kill the yeast and now allow the dough to rise.
Then cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. Only skip the refrigeration if you are really tight on time. The prolonged fermentation aids in flavor and texture of the Easter bread.
Remove from the fridge and shape. Punch down the dough and shape it into a round ball by tucking edges of the dough all around under itself until the top looks nice and smooth.
Place inside the large 6 or 7-inch round and tall Panettone mold.
Or divide the dough between two 5-inch Panetone molds.
For mini Easter breads, divide the dough between the 3 lined with parchment paper (see pix) 32 oz cans with both ends removed.
Or divide between 9-12 small two inch round paper molds.
The dough should fill the molds about halfway.
Proof: Allow the dough to proof until it is doubled in size. To create a warm environment repeat the trick with preheating the oven to 250F for 2-3 minutes, then turn it off and place the molds with the dough in there. The oven shouldn't be hotter than 100F.
Once doulbed in size, lightly brush the tops with whisked yolk.
How to bake the Easter Bread
Place in a preheated to 350F oven and bake until the inside registers 190F degrees and the tops are golden in color. If the dough browns too fast, loosely tent the top with foil.
Bake time: times are approximate as each oven is different
For the 6-7 inch round molds - 55-65 minutes.
For 5 -nch molds - 40 minutes
For the 3.5-inch round molds - 35 minutes.
The 2-inch round molds will take about 20 minutes.
While the bread is baking, make the glaze (directions below) and cover it with plastic wrap to prevent a film from forming.
Remove the baked Easter Bread from the oven and allow it to cool completely. If you wish, you can skewer the bottom of the baked in a paper mold Easter bread with two 12-inch skewers, invert it upside down and allow it to cool.
Then, cover with glaze by spreading some of the powdered sugar glaze on top with a spoon or spatula, or dipping the smaller paska bread tops into the glaze. Sprinkle the sprinkles on top, if desired.
How to make the powdered sugar glaze for the Paska bread
Combine 1.5 cups powdered sugar, 1 egg and 1 tsp of lemon juice in a mixer and whip until the mixture is thick, but still flows in slow, lava-like motion, about 5-7 min. You can take a spoonful and allow it to drizzle down the inside of the bowl, if it flows down slow, leaving a nice drizzle, you can stop whipping. If not, just continue whipping until it's proper consistency.
The overall weight of 1 portion of the dough is 1180 grams.
This will be useful when deciding what size mold to use.