Easter Treats for the Elderly
By Arlene Kallaur
At Holy Trinity Parish, East Meadow, NY Great Lent includes many kinds of preparations. One, enthusiastically executed by some of the church school students, is the baking of “kulich” and the making of “cheese pascha” for the elderly and infirm in the parish.
For several years now, the students of Grades 4,5, and 6 gather in the Church basement kitchen on an evening during the week before Palm Sunday. Teachers and a couple of the parents are also on hand. Soon eggs are cracked, ingredients are mixed, yeast is proofed, and the dust of flour fills the air. Kneaders arm themselves with dry flour to do battle with the dough. A more delicate process takes place simultaneously with the making of “cheese pascha.” The end results are one pound coffee can molds filled half way with kulich dough, and 9 ounce plastic cups filled with the “cheese pascha.” The entire session takes an hour and a half to two hours. Refreshments are served.
(Because of the shortness of time, one or several parents take the cans filled with “kulich” dough home to rise, punch down, rise and bake. They are returned to the students on Lazarus Saturday to decorate.)
On Lazarus Saturday, a highlight for the parish is the honoring of the students who have received their first confession the evening before. On Saturday, after receiving Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy and accepting some special gifts at its conclusion, the students are feted with a special breakfast in which all in attendance participate.
A craft program with a Pascal theme follows. At this point the students who made the “kulichi” now finish them off with frosting and candied decorations. They add the “cheese pascha,” some eggs that other students have colored, sometimes a candle, sometimes other Easter decorations, this year a pot holder, and, using a plastic plate as a base, wrap everything together in colored saran wrap with a bright bow to finish it off.
Students Make Deliveries
Students and their parents who are able to make the deliveries are then given the names, addresses and phone numbers. This year we had 12 deliveries to make—to parishioners who are either home-bound, sick, or just no longer up to making the traditional Easter fare. Calls were made ahead of the actual visits that were accomplished sometime on that weekend.
The recipients were delighted that they had been remembered and were happy for the opportunity of a visit. Students who made deliveries reported some interesting conversations with the parishioners. Two brothers , when delivering the Easter baskets, wore their Boy Scout uniforms because they were also working on badges for service to the religious community. Chris Kossowsky commented on their visits: “These people are so interesting. They have so much to share.” His younger brother, Alex, added, “I liked the stories they told. They were funny. I like their personalities. They were grateful and kind.”
One of the men being visited, upon learning that the student was embarking on golf as a sport, started him off with a set of his old golf clubs. Another lady who received a basket was waiting at the door with some lapel pins of the American flag that she had embroidered to treat the students in return. A note sent by a third recipient read: “Thank you for being such a blessing in my life. I enjoyed so much your wonderful gift of the Easter treats. I’m glad that the parents and children had a happy and fun time preparing all. God’s blessings to everyone.”
Another year, the students undertook the project for Valentine’s Day and baked heart shaped cookies for the elderly. Any time is a good time for this project.
For the recipes that follow, first instructions are: WASH HANDS WITH SOAP AND WATER. DRY COMPLETELY.
Recipe for Easter Cheese (“Cheese Pascha”) and “Kulich”
Easter Cheese (“Cheese Pascha”) from Kitchen of Nadia Brunke, Bellerose, NY
3 egg yolks (at room temp.) Hand Beater
1 cup sugar
1 cup scalded heavy cream
Combine sugar and egg yolks. Blend with electric beater until light and fluffy. Add scalded cream SLOWLY to the yolks while still beating. Pour into ringmold (tupperware jello mold with hole in the middle) and microwave for about 3 Â½ minutes on HIGH. Check once after 2 minutes with teaspoon. Coating will be light. After 3 Â½ minutes coating on the spoon should be thick. (Temperature on microwave thermometer should reach 160 degrees.) If you do not have a micro, beat over double boiler for about 20-25 minutes until 160 degrees. Pour into a bowl and let it cool. Can now be refrigerated.
ALL INGREDIENTS AT ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 lb. farmer cheese Food Processor
l lb. cream cheese
½ lb. sweet butter
Place farmer cheese in the food processor and pulse until cheese is smooth.
Add the custard and process until cheese mixture is lumpless.
In a large bowl blend cream cheese and butter with Hand Mixer until light and fluffy. Add custard to the cheese/butter and blend. Add flavoring to taste. Flavors can be:
Candied cherries/ground or chopped almonds with vanilla extract
Orange/ walnut with orange zest
Pistachios with vanilla extract
Golden raisins with vanilla extract
For one cheese “pascha” pour into cheese cloth lined mold and weigh it down to let liquid drain. Refrigerate. This recipe usually fills one large wooden mold.
ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE IN CHURCH SCHOOL PROJECT:
One of the parents makes the custard part at home the day before.
The rest is made with the students.
Use a double recipe for a yield of 8- Â½ lb. plastic containers or 12- 9 oz. plastic cups. The cups can be lined with saran wrap. When the finished “cheese pascha” is put into a cup, gather up the saran wrap and tie it at the top. Because of the small amount in each cup, it is not necessary to drain it.
“Kulich” or “Babka” (To make 12 “kulichi”, multiple this recipe times six.)
From Kitchen of Alice Kurtz, Rockville Centre, NY
¼ cup lukewarm water
1 pkg. dry yeast (2 teaspoons)
Pour lukewarm water into a bowl (or heat water in a glass measure and microwave for 15 seconds.)
Sprinkle yeast over water and set aside in warm place until yeast begins to soften and rise. (A teaspoon of sugar can be added to help with rising.)
Gather: 1 cup milk
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
5 cups sifted flour (more may be needed if dough is too sticky)
1 cup seedless raisins
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. In a small saucepan scald the milk.
2. Remove from heat, add butter and stir until dissolved. Cool.
3. Place mixture in large bowl. (For 12 “kulichi” two large bowls or pots are needed. Divide all into two.)
4. Stir in salt and sugar, then beaten eggs.
5. Add softened yeast.
6. Stir in flour, a little at a time.
7. Add vanilla extract and raisins. Mix everything together.
8. Turn dough out on floured board or clean table surface. (Flour hands and sprinkle dry flour on board first to prevent sticking.)
9. Knead dough until smooth, elastic, and not sticky.
10. Place dough in greased, one pound coffee cans, filling half full. Cover with a clean cloth.
11. Place in a warm spot, free of drafts, to rise about one hour.
12. When doubled in bulk, remove from can and punch down.
13. Knead briefly and return to cans. Let rise again to top of can. (Can be as little as 30 minutes or as long as overnight.)
14. Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 40 minutes until well browned on top. Check half way through baking. If top is too brown, cover lightly with a piece of foil.
15. Cool on cake rack.
“Kulichi” are decorated with a mixture of confections sugar and water drizzled on top. Colored sprinkles or other candied decorations can be added.