Ukrainian Easter breads are tasty tradition

In the Ukrainian culture, Easter bread represents Jesus Christ as the bread of life.

Babka is a light sweet bread that has a slight orange flavour and a light yellow colour.

The round paska bread is decorated with braided dough in the shape of a cross to portray the resurrection. Rosettes, swirls and doves made from the bread dough are added to adorn it.

Traditionally some of the breads are placed in an Easter basket and taken to church on Easter Sunday to be blessed before the family enjoys their special meal.

Naden Hewko’s granddaughters encouraged her to preserve the family’s Ukrainian heritage. Her cookbook, Secrets from the Ukrainian Baba’s Kitchen, describes how to prepare the traditional dishes and includes personal anecdotes about the Ukrainian faith, culture and pioneer experience.

Modern version of Babka

The dark yellow yolk farm eggs or saffron were used to give the babka its traditional yellow colour. In this modern version, pumpkin puree enhances the soft, delicate texture and colour.

  • 1/2 c. warm water 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
  • 2 tbsp. traditional yeast 30 mL
  • 2 c. warm milk 500 mL
  • or 1 1/2 c. warm milk with 1/2. c. pumpkin juice or puree 125 mL
  • 1 c. sugar 250 mL
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 c. butter, melted 250 mL
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 7 1/2 c. – 8 c. flour 1.875 – 2 L
  • grated rind of large orange
  • 1 c. raisins (optional) 250 mL

Egg glaze:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. milk 30 mL

Prepare six or eight 28 oz. (796 mL) or 48 oz. (1.36 L) tin cans. Spray inside of cans with cooking spray and then cut a wax paper circle to fix the bottom. Cut a strip of wax paper the height of the can plus an inch (2.5 cm). Place inside to cover sides of the can. Spray again with cooking spray.
Dough can be mixed using a food processor or a Bosch machine.
Dissolve the tablespoon of sugar in warm water. Sprinkle yeast over water. Let stand 10 minutes. In large bowl, mix warm milk, sugar, salt, vanilla, melted butter, eggs, orange rind, yeast mixture and pumpkin.
Add three cups flour, mix slowly until well mixed. If using, rinse and drain raisins, pat dry.
Add raisins to batter. Add three cups flour, mix at higher speed, add another cup of flour and check consistency of dough. If dough seems too soft, add another 1/2 cup flour and mix well. The dough must be soft.
Oil or butter hands well and turn dough into a large greased bowl. Cover and let rise until double in bulk. Punch down and let rise but not double.

Grease your hands. Divide the dough into eight portions. Shape each piece into a nice round ball and place in the tins. Dough should only fill one-third of tin. Let rise until about 3/4 full. Preheat oven to 360 F (185 C).
Brush tops with egg and milk glaze or after baking, brush tops with melted butter. Bake the babka for about 20 to 25 minutes or until nicely browned.
Remove from oven and let stand in the tins 10 minutes. Gently pull on wax paper to remove babka from cans. Lay on side on soft tea towels until cool. Bread freezes well.


  • 1/2 c. lukewarm water 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. sugar 5 mL
  • 2 tbsp. traditional yeast 30 mL
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 c. white sugar 250 mL
  • 1 c. canola oil 250 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 3 c. warm water 750 mL
  • 10 to 11 c. flour 2.5 – 2.75 L

Egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp. milk 30 mL

Prepare five or six round cake pans or foil pans about seven inches (15 – 18 cm) in diameter. Line bottom of the pan with wax paper and grease it and sides of pans well.

Dough can be mixed in a bread machine or food processor. The recipe can be halved, but use the same amount of yeast.
Dissolve one teaspoon (5 mL) of sugar in lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast over it, let stand 10 minutes.
Beat eggs with white sugar. Add oil, salt, water, yeast mixture and three cups (750 mL) flour. Beat well. Add three cups (750 mL) flour and mix well at high speed. Add additional three cups (750 mL) flour and mix well. Dough should come away from the sides of mixing bowl and be stiffer than bun dough. Add one more cup (250 mL) of flour if needed.
Mix dough well because the kneading makes the dough more elastic. Turn the dough out into a large greased bowl, cover and let rest until double in bulk. Punch down and let rise again to almost doubled. Cut off a piece of dough for the base. Flatten to about one (2 cm) thick and cover the bottom of pan.
Take two equal pieces of dough, roll out to about the thickness of your thumb and 32 inches (81 cm) long. Lay strips side by side, beginning in the middle, entwine, going to each end. Lay this braid all along the edge of the pan on top of the base. Cut off extra and join ends by pinching together.
Take four pieces of dough the same size, roll into strips thinner than a pencil. Cut them to fit across top of paska, going across the middle but not touching braided edges. Twist two of them together and lay in the form of a cross. The ends can be curled to decorate. Add dough roses, swirls or doves in the four spaces between the arms of the cross. Repeat for remaining paskas.
Let rise briefly so decorations won’t lose their shape. Brush top with beaten egg and milk wash.
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C). Bake 15 minutes, lower heat to 350 F (180 C) bake until browned, about 15 to 20 minutes more. Remove from oven, let stand 10 minutes. Gently remove from pans and set on soft tea towels to cool.

For more information on Secrets from the Ukrainian Baba’s Kitchen, contact Naden Hewko, Box 851, Macklin, Sask S0L 2C0.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact:

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