uscious cream cheese frosting topped with cheerful rainbow sprinkles, and soft, white, sweet bread.
This is the taste of Easter in my mind.
It’s PASKA season!
Forget all those chocolate eggs, this sweet bread has rocked my world, year after year, since my beginning.
If you have no idea what or who the Mennonites are, here is a brief overview. We are both an ethnic and religious group. The Mennonites are members of certain groups belonging to the church communities of Anabaptist denominations which sprung up after the Reformation. Originally from the northern German/Netherlands region, they eventually had to flee because of their firm conviction (or Bad-Ass-ness) regarding the mission and ministry of Jesus, and the believer’s baptism. They were relentlessly persecuted and had to leave to neighboring states.
You can probably guess by now that I come from a Mennonite background. I’ve spent many (many!) hours of my childhood, teenage years, and adult years listening to my Grandpa’s stories about our history. They often have revolved around fleeing from persecution and war, farming, and food. Check out how Mennonite Girls can cook for a bit more Menno-food.
Today, I want to share with you a taste of my history.
And I will do my best not to talk your ear off (like Grandpa may or may not have)…
Once a Year
Easter happens once a year and so does this bread.
Paska is not just a Mennonite bread, it’s also found in Eastern European/Russian Easter cuisine. Maybe the Mennonites picked it up in Prussia during the reign of Catherine the Great?
As I was saying, this is a once a year bread! That’s what makes it so Easter-y and special.
Year after year my grandma would bring our family a load of fresh baked loaves, complete with frosting and sprinkles. They are the juiciest, softest, and best tasting- in my humble opinion.
A Time to Remember and Share
Today my kids and I baked our yearly Paska loaves, and it was actually a lot of fun. Normally I get totally stressed out baking with the kids. I know it’s good to bake together, so I typically make an effort and restrain my anxiety. This morning was different. We had talked about it the day before and everyone was ready and excited for Paska Day.
As we prepared the yeast we talked about how the yeast reacts with the sugar, how it comes alive. We discussed Jesus warning the disciples of the yeast of the Pharisees, and how yeast makes it’s way through the whole bread.
After the bread rose, my second oldest showed me the dough and exclaimed, “It is risen!” as an obvious comparison to Jesus’ rising on Easter.
When we were shaping the loaves we all sat around the table and chatted, and enjoyed one another. I taught them how to braid loaves, and they came up with their own variations. We also made loaves for our neighbors, so they were excited to give our creations away.
Once we placed our sweet loaves into the oven, we all watched in awe as the dough gently rose, browned and finished. It was time to feast! I whipped up some quick cream cheese frosting, and it was time to taste the fruits of our labour.
Moments like these express what is fundamental to Easter.
Every year we remember where we have come from, what God did, what He is doing, what He is going to do and share that with others.
Bringing back Home
Since I live in a foreign country, my Mennonite heritage resonates with me now in a different way. Though I didn’t have to flee, I as well had to start life in a different culture, with a different language and new traditions.
Easter is for me a bitter-sweet celebration. A mixture of longing for home, and celebration.
But by baking this Paska I remember them, my ancestors, and pass the history and traditions on to my children.
In this way, we create a sense of “coming home” to my family back in Canada.
Are you away from your family? Do you have any recipes that bring you back home?
Bad-Ass Mennonite Paska
My Grandma Martha's Paska Recipe
- 1.5 tbsp Yeast I used 2 fresh yeast cubes
- 0.5 cup Potato water boil one potato in water, mash and strain and use the water
- 1.5 cup Warm Milk
- 1 cup Sugar
- .25 cup Softened Butter
- .25 cup Oil
- 3 Eggs
- .5 tsp Salt
- Vanilla to flavour
- 5-6 cup Flour
Put the flour in a large mixing bow, with salt and yeast. Whisk eggs, add strained potato water, warm milk, sugar, softened butter, oil and vanilla. Add all to flour mixture, and stir and knead until you can form it into a ball. If it's still a tad too sticky put some butter on your hands.
Shape into a ball, cover with a damp tea towel and let sit to rise in a warm place until about double in size.
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)
Then, punch down, and separate into four balls. Place on prepared (parchment paper) baking sheet. Let rise again for about an hour. Then bake for about 20-25 minutes until browned and done.
To test for doneness, tap the top of the Paska, it should be quite firm.