Pasca - Romanian Easter Sourdough Bread

It is traditional in my home country to make Pasca for Easter. I have to recognise that I do not do this bread/cake every Easter, but every time I do it, I eat it with great pleasure.
So far, I did Pasca only with yeast (find the recipe here), but this year I tried it with sourdough.
It uses the same dough as Cozonac but the shape and filling are different. This bread resembles cheesecake or cheese pie, it has traditionally a round shape with borders made of dough and a cross in the middle. The filling is made also traditionally with unsalted cheese, raisins and aromas.

As the Cozonac, Pasca is linked to a religious Orthodox holiday. Romanians are eating Cozonac for both Christmas and Easter but Pasca is specific to the Easter holiday. Usually, this bread is made on Thursday or Saturday before Easter, and it is brought to the church before the Ressurection service to receive a blessing. It is only eaten after the service. Nowadays, some of these customs are not rigorously followed. Due to lack of time or knowledge/practice, many Romanians are just buying it and put it directly on the table. Nevertheless, made or bought, brought to the church or not, this is a bread/cake that is strongly related to the Easter celebration and everybody knows it or have it on the table for this holiday.

Bellow is my version done with sourdough. It is much more popular in the yeast version in Romania but I wanted to try it with sourdough. For Cozonac, I opted for a one day process, but for this one, I made the final fermentation overnight and I find this option a bit better in terms of schedule.



  • 150g stiff sourdough (50% hydration), scroll down to see how to make it starting from 100% hydration sourdough starter

Ingredients for dough:

  • 400g strong bread flour (14%)
  • 150ml of milk
  • 2 eggs (~120g eggs)
  • the above preferment (150g)
  • 65g butter (room temperature)
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon zest
  • 7g salt

Ingredients for filling:

  • 250g cottage cheese (well-drained)
  • 1 egg
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
  • 2 tablespoons semolina
  • 50g raisins
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon rum essence
+ 2 egg yolks for brushing


Starting from a classic sourdough kept at 100% hydration, prepare a stiff starter 3 days in advance:
[Wednesday] in the evening you transform the 100% sourdough into 50% sourdough by using:
  • 10g sourdough starter at 100% hydration
  • 35g of strong bread flour
  • 15g of water
It will be difficult to mix it in a bowl or jar, so when roughly combined put it on the table and stretch it with a rolling pin in a long stray. Then, roll it and stretch it again with a rolling pin. Do this 3-4 times to ensure that the sourdough is well distributed. Then put it in an airtight container and leave it overnight at room temperature. The next day it should be well risen.
[Thursday & Friday morning and evening], you feed the stiff starter with the following quantities:
  • 6g of stiff sourdough (50% hydration)
  • 16g strong bread flour
  • 8g water
[Saturday, in the morning], you prepare for the 150g stiff starter requested by the recipe by using:
  • 30g stiff sourdough (50% hydration) - which is, in fact, the entire quantity 
  • 80g strong bread flour
  • 40g of water
This stiff sourdough is mainly prepared for one reason: keep away the sour taste from the sweet bread. 
  1. [Saturday, 17:00] Mix flour+milk + eggs. I start the recipe by hydrating the flour with milk and eggs to start developing the gluten network. I mix the flour with milk and eggs and let the dough rest for one hour. This is the autolyse process. It is not common to add eggs in the autolyse phase but the milk is not enough to hydrate the entire quantity of flour, so eggs should be introduced now. I can use a mixer but I mix it by hand. When the dough is formed, I like to finalise it by hand and I let it relax for one hour.
  2. [Saturday, 18:00] Sourdough + salt + zest. Time to add the starter. Combining a stiff sourdough with a stiff dough is not an easy task. Make sure you break both or one of them in chunks to facilitate the mixing. I use a mixer to knead for 10 minutes. I also add the salt and the lemon zest and mix at the slowest speed. Then, let the dough rest at 26ºC for 1 hour.
  3. [Saturday, 19:00] Sugar + butter. Adding butter and sugar to the dough changes completely the rules of the game. I add them in 3 steps with a mix of 2 minutes in between. Butter and sugar make the dough soft and sticky. The stiff dough that you had before is becoming softer and silkier. After mixing, let the dough rest for 1 hour. This 1 hour includes the mixing time also.
  4. [Saturday, 20:00] Stretch and fold 1. The dough looks so different now, I can even try a windowpane test. II perform now 3 sets of stretch and folds at 1-hour interval. This gives structure to the dough. After the first stretch and fold, let the dough rest for 1 hour.
  5. [Saturday, 21:00] Stretch and fold 2. I perform a second stretch and fold in the bowl. You can stretch and fold the dough until it doesn't let you anymore.
  6. [Saturday, 22:00] Stretch and fold 3. I perform the 3rd stretch and fold and again let the dough rest. 

  7. [Saturday, 23:00] Filling + shape. Prepare the filling by mixing all the ingredients together. 
    I set this aside and I prepare the baking pan. I coat it with a bit of butter on the inner side. My pan has silicone borders so it can only stick to the ceramic bottom.
    Finally, I prepare the dough for shaping. I cut the dough in 2: one is the bottom and the other one is for the braided walls and the middle decoration. For the one on the bottom, just stretch the dough like you would do it for a pizza. Make it a bit larger than the pan because it is elastic and it will shrink.
    Place this dough on the bottom of the pan.
    For the other piece, cut it in 4. With 3 of them make a long thread, at least as long as the pan diameter and braid them. Place the braid on the inner walls of the pan.
    Then add the filling with a spoon in the middle.
    The last small piece, cut it in 2 and make them also as a tread. Place them in the centre of the filling forming a cross or make a nice decoration with it.
     Now, the dough rests for the final proofing for 10 hours at 24ºC.
  8. [Sunday, 9:00] Brush the top. There is no scoring for this bread but you can make it look nicer on the top. Before baking, I brush them with egg yolks to get a dark brown colour during baking. 
  9. Bake. The oven should be preheated at 180ºC with a steaming system inside. I bake the first 20 minutes with steam and the oven ventilator off. Then, I open the ventilator and continue to bake at the same temperature for 30 minutes. I bake in total around 50 minutes at 180ºC. Loaves with sugar get brown very quickly if baked at a very high temperature. So pay attention: only 180ºC for this bread! 
  10. [Sunday, 9:50] Cool. When the baking is finished, let the bread cool for at least 3 hours. It will cool slowly as the cheese filling will keep the heat for longer. You can remove the cake walls immediately or you can keep them until completely cooled.
  11. [Sunday, 12:50] Cut. If you are curious to see how it looks inside, take a knife and cut a slice.


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