Lois Severson, Marlton, New Jersey, remembers her grandmother baking an Easter bread that contained raisins and had a thick ribbon of cottage cheese down the middle of the loaf. The cheese ribbon baked into a golden treat that tasted wonderful, she says.
While several readers sent in their Paska Bread recipes — a traditional Slovak bread baked at Easter — not many of the paska recipes had anything resembling a golden ribbon running down the middle. Several recipes included dry cottage cheese as an ingredient in the bread. Most Paska bread loaves are braided and then twisted into a round pan to bake; and a variety of shapes and symbols are made of bread pieces and placed on top of the unbaked loaf.
A recipe similar to what Lois describes was located on About.com, posted by Barbara Rolek, who writes, “Romanian Easter Bread with Cheese Filling or paska appears on the table with cozonac. A Paska Bread recipe is similar to Polish kolacz. The term ‘paska’ means Easter and can be confusing because it can refer to many different Eastern European breads and cheese desserts served at Easter time. The fun is in trying them all! If you can’t find dry curd cheese, you might want to make your own farmer's cheese from scratch for this paska bread recipe.”
MORE FROM RECIPE BOX:
Romanian Easter Bread With Cheese (Paska)
Yields 1 loaf
1 1/4 cups milk, divided
2 1/2 tablespoons plus 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 package active dry yeast
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup superfine sugar
4 ounces light or dark raisins
Zest of 1 lemon
4 ounces butter, melted
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, optional
1 ounce walnuts, optional
1 pound dry curd or farmer's cheese or ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks, divided
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
3 ounces light or dark raisins
To prepare bread dough: Scald 1/2 cup milk and stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons flour until smooth. Let flour paste cool 10 minutes.
Heat another 1/2 cup milk just until lukewarm. Do not scald. Place yeast in small bowl and pour lukewarm milk over it, stirring until dissolved. Add yeast mixture to flour paste and beat until large air bubbles appear. Cover and let rise for at least 15 minutes.
Heat remaining milk to lukewarm. Do not overheat. Pour into warmed large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Add, stirring after each ingredient, egg yolks, sugar, raisins, lemon zest, yeast mixture and flour.
While still in bowl, knead for about 10 minutes by machine, or 15 to 20 minutes with buttered hands, adding melted butter as necessary to achieve a nonsticky, pliable, moist ball of dough. It will probably take about 3 ounces of butter. Reserve the rest.
Add rum, vanilla and oil, and knead for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Cover bowl with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. Punch down and, with hands dipped in reserved melted butter, knead for another 5 to 10 minutes.
Coat 2-inch-deep 10- or 12-inch round pan with cooking spray. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Line bottom and sides of prepared pan, reserving handful of dough.
With reserved dough, make 2 long, pencil-thin ropes and twist them together. Place around edge of dough lining pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let sit in warm place for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
To prepare cheese filling: Beat cheese with mixer and add butter, sugar, 3 egg yolks, flour, vanilla and salt. Beat until smooth; add raisins and mix again.
When dough has risen in prepared pan, pour in cheese filling, making sure it doesn't go over edges.
Beat remaining egg yolk. Baste cheese filling and dough border with beaten yolk. Bake for 1 hour. Cool on wire rack and then remove from pan to cut and serve.
If you wish, while the cake is still hot, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and walnuts.
NOTE: Some recipes use cottage cheese in place of the farmer’s cheese. Just be sure to drain it well to make it as dry as possible.