Friday, April 6, 2012

paska for easter

Scott tells me he remembers eating paska at his Mennonite grandma's house for Easter.

At first, he (like me) was dubious: icing and sprinkles on bread.

But then he tried it, and my half-Mennonite boy was smitten. (I'm sure the icing and sprinkles helped lure the children in.)

When we got married, he hadn't eaten paska for years because it relies on wheat flour and eggs to make a rich, soft dough – sort of like a Mennonite brioche. Scott was diagnosed as a celiac in his late 20s and that made the wheat flour a no-go.

Then he told me about paska . . . and seeing as one of my main goals in life is to recreate our grandmother's recipes, I knew I had to find a way to make it gluten-free.

I thought it would be crazy hard . . . and then I found Mennonite Girls Can Cook. Lucky for me, one of the Mennonite girls is a very good gluten-free baker and offers this version of paska.

Scott was a bit wary at first because it didn't come in the traditional free-form shape – which would be impossible with a loose, gluten-free dough that needs to be contained as it bakes. But it did have the icing and sprinkles, so he was willing to try it.

Turns out, this is one of those too-rare gluten-free breads that tastes good (i.e., not like sand – hallelujah!) and stays fresh for days.

Now that it's Easter weekend, I'm so pleased to have this pretty Easter bread around. Ever since we took a chocolate class last year with David Mincey and learned about the child slavery involved in cacao production, we're only eating fair-trade chocolate from small producers. But it tends to come in plain bars – not the shiny, foil-wrapped eggs I like to decorate with (and, uh, eat). I finally found this little bunny and it will do nicely next to the paska.

Happy Easter to you!

Last year: gumdrop cookies
Two years ago:  butterscotch pudding

If you're looking for a regular paska recipe, I'd try this.

gluten-free paska
barely adapted from mennonite girls can cook

1 tsp. + 1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. milk, heated to lukewarm
1 tbsp. yeast
2 large eggs
1/4 c. butter, melted
finely-grated peel of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon
finely-grated peel of 1 orange
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder 
1/2 heaping tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 heaping tsp. guar gum
3/4 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. tapioca starch
1/4 c. potato starch
1/4 c. almond flour

Grease an 8" cake pan or something similar. Set aside.

Mix 1 tsp. sugar into lukewarm milk. Add yeast to proof for about 10 minutes. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat the eggs. Add the 1/2 c. sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the butter. Stir in the lemon peel, lemon juice and orange peel. Add the yeast mixture and mix well. Set aside.

In another bowl, blend the salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, guar gum, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch and almond flour until well mixed. Add to the liquid ingredients and beat on high for 1 minute.

Spoon into the pan. Let rise until doubled in bulk, which should take about an hour.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes – adjust time for differently-sized pans. For the 8" pan, keep an eye on it after 15 minutes: it should be nicely browned (don't underbake).

Let cool. Remove from pan and ice. Decorate with multi-coloured sprinkles. Once the icing has set, slice like bread to eat. Store in a tightly-sealed container at room temperature.


3 tbsp. butter
2 c. icing or powdered sugar
a sprinkle of kosher salt
1/4 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat the butter until fluffy. Beat in the icing sugar and salt. Add most of the milk (because you might not need it all). Beat in the vanilla. You are looking for an icing that is easy to spread and slightly loose so it will "set" over the cake. Ice the cake and sprinkle with mulit-coloured sprinkles.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah for Paska!!! Such a wonderful childhood Easter tradition that I am excited that you and Scott are embracing :) Happy Easter!