Czech Easter is connected with many traditions, including sweet pastry baking.
In the past various kinds of pastry could be baked only on special days. They were a kind of ritual symbols for people.
Jidáše, which are baked on Holy Thursday before Easter, are an excellent example of such pastries.
What Are Jidáše?
Jidáše (plural) are a kind of sweet pastry made from yeast dough and after baking they are coated with honey.
Jidáše are formed into various shapes, most frequently spirals or knots.
Jidáše are shaped to look as if they were made from a rope on which the apostle Judas hanged himself after he had betrayed Jesus. And that’s where the Czech pastry jidáš (Judas) got its name from.
When Are Jidáše Baked?
Jidáše are baked on Holy Thursday before Easter (in some Czech regions they are baked a day later, on Good Friday). Holy Thursday is translated as “zelený (green) čtvrtek” in Czech.
According to folklore, they are coated with honey, because honey eaten on Holy Thursday is believed to protect people from being bitten by a snake, and generally from any poisoning.
Tips for Preparing Sweet Yeast Dough
Jidáše are baked from sweet yeast dough. In order to guarantee the success, you should follow a few basic rules. Here are some tips how to master the yeast dough better.
Work with eggs at room temperature and lukewarm butter and milk. The yeast contains living bacteria and you can support its raising with ideal conditions – temperature about 85 °F.
The eggs should be used at room temperature, too.
Kneading the dough well is imperative. It’s the basic requirement for the dough to be soft and springy, easy to roll and for the jidáše to keep their shape.
I knead the dough with my hands (the best instrument for kneading!) The only problem is that it takes about 10 minutes and it´s quite physically demanding.
If you have a stand kitchen mixer with a knead hook, you can surely use it. Using this tool will save you a lot of work and time.
The dough in this recipe raises in three stages times (really!). First 2x 30 minutes (follow instructions in the recipe) and after forming jidáše from the dough, you have to let them leaven for a further 45 minutes.
Jidáše – Czech Easter Sweet Pastry
- 3 1/3 cups (500 g) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (200 ml) milk lukewarm
- 1 tbsp (20 g) active dry yeast I used fresh yeast
- 2/3 stick (70 g) butter unsalted melted
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/3 cup (70 g) granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 whole egg for egg wash
- honey to glaze jidáše after baking
- Put the flour into a bowl and make a hole in the middle.
- Pour in two thirds of the lukewarm milk, add ½ teaspoon of sugar and the yeast. Take a spoon and stir the flour in from the sides, until a small puddle of semiliquid batter forms in the middle. Dust its surface of it with flour and let it rise for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat up the butter. It shouldn’t be hot, just warm.
- Add the melted butter to the bowl with leavened yeast, add yolk, a pinch of salt and the rest of lukewarm milk and sugar.
- Stir everything together with a wooden spoon, then knead the mixture until it turns smooth and stiff and it doesn’t stick – or it´s sticky only a little bit. I knead and fold the dough with my hands on a with flour dusted kitchen worktop for 10 minutes (I´m serious). Don´t underestimate this step.
- Let the dough rise for a further 30 minutes.
- Split the raised dough into pieces about 2,5 oz (80 g) in mass. Roll a piece of string about 10 inches (25 cm) long and 2/3 inch (1,5 cm) thick and form a spiral. Flatten the end of the string and coil it under the swirl, so the jidáš does not unravel itself when it’s being baked.
- Put the finished jidáše on a tray laid with baking paper, cover them with a clean towel and let them leaven for 45 minutes.
- Heat up the oven to 340 °F (170 °C).
- Whisk the egg in a separate bowl and glaze the jidáše with it.
- Bake jidáše for 15 minutes until they turn golden brown.
- Melt the honey and glaze the jidáše right after you take them out of the oven.
In making this recipe, I was inspired by the legendary Czech cookbook written by Roman Vaněk: “Velká kuchařka Čech a Moravy”.