Paskha, Pascha, Pashka, or Pasha (Russian: Па́сха, "Easter") is a festal dish made in Eastern Orthodox countries which consists of food that is forbidden during the fast of Great Lent. It is made during Holy Week and then brought to Church on Great Saturday to be blessed after the Paschal Vigil. The name of the dish comes from Pascha, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of Easter.
In the Russian Orthodox tradition, pascha is usually molded into the form of a truncated pyramid (a symbol of the Church; this form is also said to represent the Tomb of Christ). Pascha is traditionally made in a wooden mold assembly called пасочница (pasochnitsa) that can be taken apart for cleaning; however, more modern materials, such as plastics, are used nowadays.
The pascha is decorated with traditional religious symbols, such as the "Chi Ro" motif, a three-bar cross, and the letters X and B (Cyrillic letters which stands for Христосъ Воскресe. This is the Slavonic form of the traditional Paschal greeting: "Christ is Risen!"). All of these religious decorations symbolize Christ's Passion and Resurrection.
The paskha can either be cooked or uncooked (raw). Cooked paskha is made in the form of an egg custard, to which the remaining ingredients are folded in. An uncooked paskha is made simply of the raw curd and the other ingredients mixed at room temperature. Since uncooked curd cannot be conserved for a long period of time, these paskhas are typically made smaller.
The tvorog is first pressed in order to eliminate the maximum amount of liquid possible, then put twice through a sieve to make a homogenous mass. If the paskha is cooked, this mass is then heated. The pan containing the mixture is then placed in a container of cold water and progressively cooled, then placed in the paskhachnitza mould with a layer of cheese cloth protecting the mould. The mould is cooled for twelve hours in a cold, but not freezing place (typically in a cellar or refrigerator). Finally, the paskha is turned out of the mould, the cheesecloth removed, and put on a dish. It may then be decorated with candied fruits, nuts, or flowers.
The paskha (or at least a portion of it) will be placed in an Easter basket together with other festal foods, and taken to church to be blessed. Paskha is traditionally accompanied by a rich Easter bread called Kulich.
An 18th-century church in St. Petersburg is known as "Kulich and Paskha", because the rotunda of the church resembles kulich, while the adjacent belfry has a pyramidal form reminiscent of paskha (photographs here).
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