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Ukrainian Sunflower Easter Buns

I can't believe the news today

Oh, I can't close my eyes and make it go away

How long, how long must we sing this song?

How long? How long?

These lyrics from U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday have been on repeat in my heart everyday since Russia invaded Ukraine. Every time I turn on the news I hope to discover a breakthrough peace agreement. Yet the news of this unnecessary war continues to get worse.

After centuries of war, I was hopeful that humanity had learned from its mistakes of the past and that we have become more civilized in our approach to conflict. Yet the horrors of this unnecessary war continue to get darker.

My heart breaks for the people of Ukraine.

Over the past few years I have been making Hot Cross buns on Good Friday to celebrate Easter. You can find the link to my Hot Cross Bun Recipe here. Hot cross buns are rich in symbolism of the Easter story. However with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine I wanted to create a new bun that reflected the hope of Easter as a simple way to #StandwithUkraine.

In many ways Sunflowers, along with Ukraine’s yellow and blue flag, have become the symbols of resistance and hope. The Sunflower is Ukraine’s national flower, as they grow in abundance there. The blue on the flag represents peace that comes from the blue skies that cover their vast yellow fields of wheat and sunflowers found throughout the nation.

As I write this I am hearing news reports of more intense fighting in Eastern Ukraine. The news predicts that this war will likely get even darker.

Our world is broken.

Humanity is broken.

The evidence of this brokenness slaps us in the face as we hear news reports from this horrible war. However as a Christian I have a deep sense of hope because of the Easter story.

Easter commemorates the historical events of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi who healed the sick, and gave sight to the blind. He claimed that he had the power to forgive sin. He also claimed that he was God in human form. It’s because of this claim to be God that the religious leaders had him crucified on Good Friday nearly 2000 years ago. Jesus was murdered by the hands of Roman occupiers. As Jesus’s followers put his dead body in a borrowed tomb, everything that Jesus taught seemed to be dashed on the rocks of despair.

Yet on the third day, when Jesus’s followers returned to the garden tomb they were shocked to discover that the massive rock that sealed the tomb had been rolled away. The tomb was empty!

In the days to follow, Jesus appeared to over 500 of his followers. He even made them breakfast and let one of his followers touch his nail -pierced hands. Jesus was alive!

Jesus defeated evil, sin, and death once and for all. It’s through this historic event that I have hope for my future, hope for Ukraine, hope for humanity.

When I realized that Jesus did this for me, it changed everything and gave me a renewed sense of hope that goes far beyond this world.

The story of Easter is the ultimate true story of God overcoming evil. Overcoming our brokenness with the hope that comes from Jesus’s resurrection and the freedom from the sin and death of this world.

Let's pray for peace as we stand with Ukraine this Easter Sunday.

I based this recipe on a traditional Ukrainian Paska recipe. Paska is rich Easter brioche bread made with eggs and milk that is the inspiration of Easter bread in eastern Europe. The buns are shaped as simple sunflower with sunflower seeds and blue berry jam. I then glazed the baked buns with a lemon ginger simple syrup to bring out the yellow in the Paska dough.

Ukrainian Sunflower Easter Bun Recipe:

This recipe makes 12-14 buns. Prep time is 40 min, with 2 hours for rising and baking.

Traditional Ukrainian Paska bread:

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/3 cups Milk 215 ml

5 Tablespoons butter melted 85grams

1 large egg room temperature

1 large egg yolk room temperature

⅓ cup granulated sugar 70g

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour divided plus additional as needed for dusting.

1 egg for egg wash.

Bread maker method:

I use a bread maker for this recipe. It makes it very easy.

1. Using a glass measuring cup, gently melt the butter and milk on a low setting in the Microwave. Crack and mix in the eggs.

2. Add the liquid to the bread maker, followed by the sugar flour then yeast.

Adjust the bread maker settings for a sweet bread. Set a timer 1 hour short of the set time on the bread maker so the bread does not bake in the machine.

3. Remove the dough, and cut into 12 - 14, 80 gram pieces. Shape them into into buns by gently rolling them in the cup of your hand on a flour dusted surface.

4. Cover the flour dusted buns with plastic wrap our a towel to keep them from drying out. Let them rise for 20 - 40 for min until they double in size.

Regular (Non bread maker method):

This is easy. Give your dough about 30 minutes to double in size between rises.

  1. Measure out your ingredients. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl.

  2. Mix the sugar with the milk, gently warm the milk in the Microwave or on the stove on medium low heat till its 45 C 0r 110F. Stir in the yeast and let it activate for 10-15 minutes or until its foamy.

  3. Melt the butter.

  4. Crack and mix your eggs into a bowl, mix in the butter. Add this to the milk and yeast mixture.

  5. Add a few drops of yellow food colouring (Optional but it will help the overall look of your sunflower)

  6. Using a wooden spoon, make a well in the flour and add the mil, yeats, and egg mixture. Incorporate the mixture into a uniformed dough with your hands.

  7. Knead for 8-10 minutes.

  8. Place the needed dough in a bowl. Cover with a towel in put it in a warm place to rise. Let the dough rise to double in size at least twice, punching down in between rises. Letting your dog rise will bring out the flavour of your dough.

  9. Portion the dough into 12 -14 equal buns. Use a kitchen scale if you have one.

  10. Follow the directions below to make the sunflowers.

Creating the Sunflower:

Preheat your oven to 340 F

Cut 14 pieces of parchment paper 5” square. Place the bun on a piece of parchment paper on a cutting board. Spay a little cooking spray on the centre of the bun. Use a small spice jar, or something that is round and flat to press the centre of the bun flat. Then with a sharp pairing knife, make cuts on four sides of the bun, then divide those cuts into 4 so you have a total of 16 equally spaced cuts. Remove the spice jar. See photos below.

Brush the bun with egg wash. Then pinch 2 of the cuts together on the end forming 8 petals.

Use the parchment paper square to transfer the bun to a baking sheet.

Fill the centre well of the bun with 1 teaspoon of Blueberry compote.

Bake for 12 - 13 min until just starting to brown. Then brush with the lemon ginger glaze. Return the buns to the oven to bake for 2 -3 more minutes.

Remove them from the oven to cool for 30 min.

He has Risen. Happy Easter!

Blueberry Compote:

2 cups frozen blueberries

Zest from 1 lemon

1/3 cup brown sugar or maple syrup

1 cinnamon stick, or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pinch ground cloves

1 1/2” knob of ginger root

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and let simmer on low heat until cooked and reduced, stir occasionally. About 30 min. Let cool to room temp. Make ahead and place in fridge if time allows.

Lemon Ginger glaze:

1 cup sugar,

3/4 cup water

2 - 3 slices of lemon.

1 table spoon lemon juice.

1 small 1/2"knob of ginger root

2 - 3 drops of yellow food colouring

Combine all ingredients in a pot and let it simmer on low heat for 30 min.

Supporting Ukraine.

I recently had a text conversation with a Chef in Ukraine. I asked what his needs are and what is the best way to help? He said to please support your local NGO or charity who is easiest to make a donation to, that have access to resources that will directly help Ukraine.

Power to Change has a team of people delivering food to Ukrainians in Ukraine and to refugees in Poland. You can give to their initiative through Global Aid Network:

The real battle just begun

To claim the victory Jesus won


Sunday, bloody Sunday

Sunday, bloody Sunday..

He is Risen!

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