Vatrushka with Lemon and Ricotta Filling


The buns known as vatrushky are stuffed with cheese and baked for a sweet Ukrainian Easter tradition.

Vatrushka with Lemon and Ricotta Filling

Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Christine Keely

Active Time:
1 hr
Rise Time:
2 hrs 35 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 45 mins
14 servings

Growing up in a Ukrainian household, all holidays in my family revolved around food, and a family dinner that consisted of less than eight dishes was considered a humble meal. So when it came to a significant religious holiday like Easter (in Ukraine, Velykden — literally “the great day”), my mom and grandma held nothing back. The days leading up to Easter would include a baking marathon where my mom and I would make a ton of fluffy Easter pastries: tall paska covered with a decadent egg frosting, layered poppy seed rolls, and, of course, my favorite, pillowy-soft vatrushky.

A vatrushka is a traditional Eastern European round bun filled with sweet and tangy farmer cheese flavored with vanilla and dotted with raisins. In our small southern Ukrainian town, vatrushky were considered an Easter staple, and my mom and I would make them the day before the holiday. The night before the service, a few vatrushky would go into a willow basket filled with food that my mom would cover with a splendid hand-embroidered rushnyk, a Ukrainian kitchen towel decorated with vibrant flowers, kaleidoscopic Easter eggs, and ornate crosses. At around 2 o’clock Easter morning, we would go to church to get in line for a resurrection service, where the priest would splash our food with holy water, and we’d say to each other, “The Christ has been resurrected.”

After the service, we would go to my grandma’s house to get some sleep, and then the whole family would eat our blessed food for breakfast. My food of choice was always a vatrushka, slightly warmed up in the oven. To this day, my grandma’s cozy kitchen filled with rays of spring sunshine is my happiest place on Earth, and every time I bake vatrushky for Easter, I close my eyes and feel like I’m with my family again. — Anna Voloshyna



  • 1 cup lukewarm whole milk (98°F to 105°F)

  • 1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast

  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

  • 5 1/3 to 5 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (22 3/4 to 24 1/8 ounces), sifted, divided, plus more for dusting

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (2 ounces), melted

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Neutral cooking oil (such as grapeseed or canola), for greasing

Cheese FIlling

  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta (such as Galbani) (from 1 [32-ounce] container)

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/3 cup golden raisins

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon water


Make the dough:

  1. Whisk together milk, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar in bowl of a stand mixer until combined. Gradually stir in 2 cups flour using a rubber spatula until a dough forms, about 1 minute. Cover bowl; let rise in a warm place (about 75°F) until mixture is puffed with some small bubbles peeking through surface, about 30 minutes.

  2. Place bowl on stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add eggs, melted butter, salt, vanilla, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on low speed just until combined, about 15 seconds. With mixer running on low speed, gradually add 31/3 cups flour, beating until dough comes together, about 30 seconds. Fit dough hook attachment on mixer; beat on medium-low speed until a soft, slightly sticky, elastic dough forms, 8 to 10 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Pinch off a small piece of dough (about the size of a quarter) using lightly floured hands. Slowly pull dough out from center. If it can stretch thin and transparent like a window pane, the dough is ready. If the dough tears, beat 1 more minute, adding additional flour if needed, and check again. Add up to remaining 1/3 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

  3. Grease a large bowl with oil, and place dough in bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place (about 75°F) until puffed, about 20 minutes. Gently punch down dough; cover and let rise in a warm place until puffed, about 20 minutes. Gently punch down dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the cheese filling:

  1. Place a fine wire-mesh strainer over a medium bowl; line strainer with 4 layers of cheesecloth, leaving a 4-inch overhang on all sides. Place ricotta in strainer. Wrap cheesecloth around ricotta; top with a small bowl weighed down with heavy cans. Let drain 30 minutes.

  2. Stir together drained ricotta, sugar, raisins, egg yolk, lemon zest, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined.

  3. Make the vatrushky: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 14 pieces, keeping dough covered with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel while working. Shape pieces into smooth balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheets at least 1 1/2  to 2 inches apart; cover and let rise in a warm place until puffed, 40 to 45 minutes.

  4. Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper third and lower third positions. Whisk together egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl.

  5. Firmly press center of 1 dough ball using floured bottom of a small glass to create an indentation; use fingertips to expand the depression to a 21/2-inch-wide x 3/4-inch-deep well. Spread about 2  tablespoons cheese filling evenly in well. Brush dough with egg yolk mixture. Repeat process with remaining dough balls, cheese filling, and egg yolk mixture.

  6. Bake in preheated oven until fluffy and golden brown, 20 to 24 minutes, rotating baking sheets between top and bottom racks halfway through baking time. Let cool on baking sheets on a wire rack 15 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

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