Kulich: Russian Easter Bread

Kulich: Russian Easter Bread | by @bakingwithanastasia

Happy Easter everyone! Today I want to share another Easter recipe: Kulich. As I wrote in this post kulich is an Easter bread that traditional for Orthodox Christian countries like Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. From my point of view kulich is really similar to Italian panettone both in shape and the flavor. As panettone it is usually baked in tall, cylindrical tins or special paper molds and enriched with eggs, butter, dried fruits (traditionally raisins) and citrus peel. Unlike panettone, when cooled, kulich is decorated with white icing that can be made with or without egg white (but you can skip the icing if you want) and sprinkles. So festive!

While I’m obviously late with sharing this recipe on the Easter day, I still want to share it for two main reasons. First, it’s never too late (you can always bake it next year), and second because kulich is so similar to panettone you can bake it for Christmas or New Year or any other holiday (it will not be really traditional, but it will be delicious for sure).

But I have to warn you… To bake this kulich, you will have to book a whole day (that’s why this is a level up recipe). But please don’t panic! The active time for this recipe is only 30-45 minutes, all the rest is rising time. So yes, it will take the whole day, but as the result you will get soft, fluffy, and delicious Easter bread. So the choice is yours. You can bake my easy overnight hot cross buns if you don’t want to wait too long, or try something a little bit more difficult and bake this delicious kulich. Or you can bake both, as I did:)

Kulich: Russian Easter Bread | by @bakingwithanastasia

Kulich (Easter Bread)

Recipe adapted from an old Russian cook book by Pochlebkin W.

Yield: 4 loaves about 570g each

1kg strong white bread flour
25g fresh yeast (or 12g dried yeast)
500ml milk*
7 egg yolks (about 140g)
4 egg whites (about 180g)
250g sugar (if you have sweet tooth, you can add 50g to this amount)
200g butter, melted
100g raisins
2 tablespoons rum or cognac
25g candied citrus peel (cut in small pieces)
3 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1g (1/2 teaspoon) salt

For the egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

For the icing:
200g powdred sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
50-100g cream
sprinkles

You will also need:
* 4 paper panettone molds or
* 4 tall panettone springform

Directions:

  1. Soak dried fruit in warmed rum/ cognac for at least 2 hours or  better overnight.
  2. To make the sponge, warm 125ml of milk and saffron threads in a saucepan over medium heat until the milk is infused with saffron, set aside to cool to lukewarm, then add yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 2-3 tablespoons of flour. Stir to combine, and set aside until foamy (10-15 minutes).
  3. Boil 200g milk in a small saucepan. Add 3-4 tablespoons (about 100g) of flour to the boiling milk. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until well combined.
  4. To make the first dough mix the sponge from the step 2 and the milk mixture from the step 3 until well incorporated. Cover with cling film, and leave in a warm place (at 27C°/81F)** for 1 hour. The mixture should rise until doubled.
  5. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks with the salt and the remaining sugar until light and creamy.
  6. To make the second dough mix the half of the egg yolk mixture with the first dough and 250g flour until well combined. Cover with cling film, and leave in a warm place (at 27C°/81F)** for 1 hour. The mixture should rise until doubled.
  7. Meanwhile beat the egg whites until soft picks.
  8. For the final kulich dough mix the second dough with the remaining egg yolk mixture, egg whites, the remaining milk and flour in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed until well combined (10-15 minutes). After 15 minutes start adding the butter (1 tablespoon at a time), incorporating well before adding the next spoon. Mix for additional 15-20 minutes on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  9. Add raisins, including rum/ cognac, candied citrus peel, and lemon zest. Mix until combined, then transfer to a buttered bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place (at 27C°/81F) for 1 hour.
  10. After 1 hour take the dough and knock it back, cover with cling film and return to a warm place (at 27C°/81F) for additional hour.
  11. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place into prepared molds***. Cover loosely with cling film to stop dough drying out and in a warm place (at 27C°/81F) for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until dough reaches the top of the molds. Combine the egg yolk with the milk. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash.
  12. Preheat oven to 160C°/ 320F. Transfer the molds to the oven, and bake for 15 minutes, then increase heat to 180C°/ 360F and bake until the tops are brown and a wooden skewer inserted into center comes out clean (35-40 minutes). If tops get too brown, cover the loaves with foil.
  13. Cool the loaves in pans**** for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a soft surface to cool on its sides. Traditionally in Russia, kulich cools on soft pillow to prevent flattening the sides, you also need to turn it from one side to another every 15-20 minutes. Instead of a pillow you can use a pile of soft kitchen towels. When the loaves are completely cool, they can stand upright on a wire rack.
  14. Meanwhile, for the icing, sift powdered sugar into a small bowl, add the lemon juice and whisk well together. Gradually mix in the cream a little at a time to get a thick but pourable icing. If the icing gets too runny, add a little more powdered sugar.
  15. Once the loaves are completely cool, remove the paper molds and glaze with the icing. Top with sprinkles and set aside until the icing has set (20-30 minutes).
  16. Kulich will stay fresh for up to 3 days.

Kulich: Russian Easter Bread | by @bakingwithanastasia

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Notes:
* Flour can differ, so you might need to vary the amount of milk. If you have stronger flour you may need to add more milk. If you can’t find strong bread flour and have to use all-purpose flour, you may need to add less milk.
** I usually put a bowl with the dough into the switched-off oven together with another bowl filled with boiling water.
*** If you will use paper molds you do not need any preparation. But if you will use panettone springforms: butter the pans well and line each with some buttered baking paper to form a 5-7cm cuff.
**** If you use paper molds, you can cool the loaves in them. Loaves also can be cooled as panettone by hanging upside down by inserting a long needles or thin wooden sticks through the bottoms and suspending them.

Kulich: Russian Easter Bread | by @bakingwithanastasia

P.S. If you will bake this kulich, please tag @bakingwithanastasia and @toetjeaddicted on Social Media and use the hashtag #bakingwithanastasia! I would love to see your pictures and read your comments!

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