Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easter Baskets in Kharkiv

Here in the United States, Easter baskets are most often filled with chocolate rabbits and jelly beans.  In Ukraine, the Easter baskets--and their contents--are an important part of Easter religious ceremonies, one of the most important holidays in the Christian year, but with traditions hearkening back to pre-Christian times.  The two years I spent in Ukraine at Easter time,  the entire week between Willow Sunday and Easter was enthusiastically filled with cleaning of houses and grounds,  general sprucing up, and often, the purchase of new Easter baskets. 
Although my Easter this year was spent at home here in the US, my friend Olga Chermaska shared photos from the morning worship service for children and the blessing of Easter baskets at the Ukrainian Orthodox church her family attends in Kharkiv.
She writes,
There is a tradition on Easter basket to put all the products that have been banned in the past [for Lent].  For example, sausage, Easter cakes, dairy products and eggs. The basket should be beautifully decorated. Eggs are usually painted in different colors. Each color means something green: eternal life, yellow - joy, red - the blood of Jesus, blue - water and sky.
I'm sure the church rang with the traditional greeting, Khyrstos Vostres!  Christ is Risen! In every basket, a paska, Easter bread, is traditionally included (although I have seen Easter baskets containing Coke and other modern foods as well).   Each region has its own special paska,  but here, thanks to Festive Ukrainian Cooking by Marta Pisetska,  is a recipe from the Chyhyryn in Cherkas'ka Oblast,  south of Kyiv.

Chyhyrynska Paska

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 2/3 cups sugar
12 egg whites
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
powdered sugar

Line the bottom and sides of a 10 inch tube pan (or 2 tall cans, to be traditional) with buttered brown paper.  Sift flour and sugar separately, then sift flour with 1/2 cup sugar.  Beat egg whites with wire whip until foamy.  Add cream of tartar, fold in vanilla, almond extract, and salt.  Whip until glossy and stiff but not dry.  Gradually whip in remaining sugar, a little at a time.  Sift some of the flour-sugar mixture over egg whites, fold gently, and repeat until all flour is used.  Pour into prepared pan or cans and bake in preheated 350 degree oven.  Note:  the tube pan requires 45-50 minutes,  the cans about 30 minutes.  When done, hang pan upside down or invert cans for one hour until set.  Remove, place on platter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
You can see a full set of photos here. Thanks again to Olga and her family for sharing these!

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