Romania

Dish

Pasca is a,soft, yeast braided bread baked in a 10 inch tin and filled with a sweet cheese mixture. Like a cheesecake in a bread. It is traditionally served after 7 weeks of fasting (abstinence from any kind of food derived from animals)  with Good Friday being the absolute fast (where nothing allowed is consumed the entire day) then comes Easter, one of the two most celebrated Greek Orthodox religious holidays. This sweet Easter bread is served as part of the celebration all across Romania.

Ingredients

Bread dough
  • 1 cup (120 grams) bread flour
  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) bread flour
  • 1/4 cup (56 grams) melted butter
  • 1 egg 1/2 cup (100 garms) sugar
  • 1 tsp salt 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups (360 grams) bread flour
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (you could use vegetable oil as well)
  • 1 tbsp of milk, if needed
Cheese filling
  • 1 cup ricotta/cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • few drops of vanilla extract/lemon extract/rum extract - whatever you prefer
  • lemon zest (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tbsp honey + few drops of milk for brushing

Method

  1. In a mixing bowl add 1 cup of flour
  2. 1 cup of lukewarm milk and 2 tsp of dry yeast.
  3. Stir to combine.
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of flour on top and leave at room temperature for 10-15 minutes until the mixture increases in volume and the flour on top is cracked.
  5. With the dough hook on, add the melted butter, egg, sugar, vanilla extract, salt and slowly start adding the remaining 3 cups of flour until it's all incorporated.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, keep mixing, slowly pouring the 1/4 cup of oil.
  7. When all the oil is added the dough should be smooth and elastic. I made it several times to make sure I got it right and one time it felt a little "dry" so I added few more drops of milk until it became soft and elastic.
  8. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until doubled in volume. Should be around 2 hours.
  9. When the dough is risen, divide the dough in 4. Take one piece and roll it out in a 10 inch circle. Place it on the bottom of a well buttered 10 inch springform. The remaining three pieces shape them in thing ropes, about 3 feet long each.
  10.  Braid them and gently place them in the springform pan, braiding the ends together to form a sealed circle. Cover and let rise for another 40 minutes. In the meantime heat the oven to 375F and make the cheese filling.
  11. In a mixing bowl add the cheese, eggs, sugar, raisins, vanilla exact and lemon zest if using. Stir to combine. Pour the cheese filling in the middle of the braided circle and bake for 15 minutes at 375F.
  12. Without opening the oven door, lower the oven temperature to 325F and bake for 45 more minutes, or until the crust is deep brown (it's not burned, the high amount of sugar gives it the brown color) and the aroma takes over the kitchen. Let cool completely. Just before serving brush it with honey mixed with few drops of milk. Slice and enjoy!