I've used a number of different recipes over the years, but this one from the now defunct blog, Mennonite Girls Can Cook is my favourite. The recipe may be found HERE. I made a few changes starting with dairy. I used an extra creamy oat milk for this, along with a good quality vegan margarine. I wouldn't go with cheap margarine for this as they're mostly water and crappy oil. I also substituted artificial sweetener for the sugar using Swerve granulated. I used much less than the 3/4 cup called for in the recipe as artificial sweetener is so much sweeter than sugar. I also took a pass on icing it, opting instead for a more traditional, if not slightly cack-handed decoration on top.
Because paska is such a light bread I went ahead and used plain all purpose flour. Could I have gone with whole grain? Sure, but I bake these once a year, and even with all the accommodation of going dairy-free/sugar-free it is still bread. The boys know that, and are consuming accordingly. I wouldn't rule out using white whole wheat in this recipe, but that's not what I went with this year.
In years past, I didn't have a blender that could manage pureeing an orange, lemon, and their peels. This year I do, and it made very light work of the recipe. I've done it with a small food processor, in batches, but it was messy and the peels never did completely puree. That was okay, as bits of peel in a holiday bread can be nice as well, but this came up completely blended. When I started getting sick, we invested in an OSTER blender to puree food. It wasn't even that expensive-I think it was around $45 USD but it does pretty much everything I'd expect from a blender. I know people spend hundreds of dollars on blenders, but it is hard to imagine what more they could do unless they cook dinner as well. Not being paid by the company to review it, just really love my blender.
Decorating the top of a paska is a skill I've barely managed, but there's a few things you can do to make it easier. After you make your decorations place them on a tray in the fridge to stay cold while you wait for the breads to rise. This will keep them from puffing up. I used an egg wash of yolks and water to brush the loaves and affix the decorations before baking. Some people use toothpicks to hold everything in place through the first 20 minutes of baking, which would probably help with decorations sliding around. Also, these breads really rise, so lower your rack in the oven or you'll be cleaning baked dough off the top element. After the first 20 minutes, pull the loaves out, rotate them and give them another brush with the egg wash. This will make for a deeper golden colour. You could even give it a third brushing near the end if you see spots of bare dough that you missed. Or you could just ice the whole thing and save yourself the effort.
As the bread bakes the smell of citrus and egg bread fills the kitchen with the most gorgeous aroma. I'm happy to report toasting slices of the bread on subsequent days has the same effect. When it goes stale, it can be used to make eggy bread/French toast or a beautiful bread pudding. Whatever you do, don't toss it out.
Paska freezes well, tightly wrapped in a layer of wax paper covered with either cling film or foil. The wax paper/greaseproof layer is important as it protects the bread when it is time to thaw. Breads should always be thawed wrapped to keep them fresh.
I don't have round pans that would accommodate that much bread dough, so I baked in Pyrex casseroles (one round, one oval). Make sure you grease them well because these breads will stick, especially if any of the egg wash drips down the side. A sharp thin knife run around the edge helps with that. I could have lined the casseroles with parchment, but didn't think of it until later. Isn't it always like that?!
Now that you've had dessert, how about something more substantial?HERE. I skipped the extra hot pepper as the boys aren't much for them and I didn't feel like going to the store for a single pepper. It turned out well, and they enjoyed it. Instead of purchasing Berbere spice I threw together my own using the recipe HERE. Now I have extra for future meals.