Russian Friday – Kulich

I spent my childhood years in Soviet Russia.  Back then most people practiced Communism as their main religion, and the cover page of our first school book had a large portrait of Dedushka Lenin.  People didn’t seem to be interested in church.

Unless it was Easter –  the most festive holiday of the year!  The preparations started way before the event.  Detailed house cleanings, taking care of graves, and cooking, cooking, cooking…

There are some similarities and differences between the way Easter is celebrated here, in the States, and back at home.  First of all, the dates.  Russian Orthodox Church is on Julian calendar, hence most holidays are 13 days later.  Sometimes Easter falls on the same day as here, and sometimes it’s a week or two delayed.  This year it’s on the 15th of April.

Traditionally Russian Easter eggs are bright red.  Most people boil them with onion shells collected over the year just for that purpose.   There are no Easter bunnies, and I don’t quite remember an egg hunt, but there were other games.  Nowadays there is a new brilliant invention in the field of egg decoration – egg labeling. You put an egg into a plastic shell, dip it into boiling water for a few seconds, and suddenly your shell takes the shape of the egg and sticks to it.   I got a few online and could not resist playing with them today.   

The highlight of every Russian Easter table is Kulich – sweet Easter Bread.  Light and fluffy, it has anything from raisins and dried apricots to almonds and orange zest inside; and a sweet dripping frosting on the outside.  It is usually decorated with letters “XB”, Russian abbreviation for “Christ has risen”.

This year we are planning to share our Kulich with everybody we know.  So, I made a practice run to make sure my old family recipe will do its miracles with American ingredients.  Oh, indeed, it was the sweetest most delicious bread I’ve ever made! 

Print this recipe

KULICH

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cup milk, lukewarm
  • 25 g dry east
  • 1.5 cup sugar, divided
  •  1 kg unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 6 eggs, whites separated from yolks
  • 3 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 15 g salt
  • 250 g unsalted butter, melted, and cooled to barely warm
  • 150 g raisins, dried apricots, almonds (whichever you like, or all together)
  • 1 cup rum (optional)

FROSTING:

  • 400 g confectioner’s sugar
  • Orange juice (from 2 oranges)
  • 100 g hot water

Yields about 6 kuliches baked in 5.25” molds

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium mixing bowl combine milk, 1 tbs of sugar, and dry east.  Let ferment for about 10 minutes.  Add 200 grams of flour, mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap and let ferment.  Depending on the temperature around your house, it may take from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours for the poolish mixture to start heavy bubbling.

If using raisins, pour rum over them, and let soak while the dough is being prepared.

When the poolish is ready, with a hand-mixer beat the egg yolks with remaining sugar, salt, and vanilla.

In a separte bowl whisk egg whites so that they form a peak.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, butter,  poolish, egg yolks, and whites.

Cover with a plastic wrap, and let rise.  When the dough doubles in size (50 – 90 minutes), add drained raisins and/or other dried fruit and nuts.

Fill the molds with the dough, about 1/3 full.  Traditionally, kulich molds are very tall, lots of people actually use coffee cans. Panettone paper molds are the closest to the ideal that I could find in the States.  Cover the filled molds with a kitchen towel, and let rise for another 50-90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, till golden brown.

Remove kulich from the oven, and let chill on a wire rack.

When the kulich is cool, prepare the frosting by whisking all the ingredients together into a smooth mixture.

Apply the frosting on top of your kulich, allowing it to drip.

Decorate your Easter Bread with “XB” and or other patterns, if desired.

Христос Воскресе!

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67 comments

  1. Laurence says:

    Oh so happy to discover russian traditional Easter recipe ! Your bread sounds very good. Love dried fruits, especially raisins and apricot ( also cranberries since I live in the States actually ! ). I’d like to taste your bread … Hum !
    So in haste to discover and see all of this in Russia very soon ^^
    Thanks a lot to the share.
    I said I’d saw you soon, I’m here ! Have a great yummy wee-end.

  2. Chuck says:

    I think I”m going to get a collection of your recipes and have a “Russian meal weekend.” From beginning to end, it all looks so good.

  3. My Plant Based Family says:

    This looks amazing and I love the traditions you described. I’ve been wondering what Easter traditions to start with my young one’s not wanting to commercialize a holiday that is so important to my faith.

    I don’t think I could make anything that looks as beautiful as your Easter Bread but just maybe it could taste as good!

  4. Sara says:

    I have been wanting to make this bread for ages, since I travelled to Kiev for Easter one year in fact!

    I have always been confused by this recipe–the cookbook I picked up in the Ukraine asked you to beat the egg whites and then knead into the batter, which seems to defeat the purpose of beating egg whites, right? Yours seems to have you just combine so maybe they don’t deflate as much?

    • Anastasia says:

      I was confused by that too, and actually had to have a special video conference with my aunt in Russia to make sure. Apparently it worked. The dough is pretty wet, so I just used my mixer, and added eggwhites, as the last ingredient. This thing raised up like crazy!

  5. throve says:

    Can’t believe it’s Friday again and I still haven’t made the plushkas from last week. These look delicious, like the dribbled icing. Red onion skins to dye the eggs!

  6. Yvette says:

    Just wonderful, I love all the traditional receipes. I lived in Italy for 12 years, and celebrating Easter and Spring in Europe is a wonderful time of the year. Here in Australia now, the season is changing to Autumn and no doubt we’ll have rain for Easter. Our traditions in Australia are chocolate, chocolate and more. Eggs, Bunnys, Bilbys,and maybe hot cross buns …I love the traditional breads and have had a go of a few while in Europe. Your Kulich look fantastic, the ‘XB’ on top is a lovely touch and I know the flavour would be just delicious. Thank you for sharing the receipe and calling by my blog: Twistedvines…I’m now following. Have a great weekend. x

    • Mary says:

      I’m with you on the Anastasia products. I had my brows shepad recently at an Anastasia outlet in Paris bought the Eye Lights browbone highlighter too. It’s great b/c it’s matt, and as I’m an old crock sparkly ones don’t do a lot for me. I got a free trial size brow gel too love it. The pencils are a tad dark for me (I have very pale skin and invisible brows/lashes) but will def take a look at the pen you mention here. Thanks for the tip Dollface!

  7. Choc Chip Uru says:

    How I wish I was from a Russian family – this dessert looks wonderful :D
    So happy to have found your blog!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Bleeding Jam Marbled Mudcake

  8. samology says:

    Oh wow! That looks great dearie!! Did you use melted chocolate to pipe out XB? That’s beautifully done. I’m very curious as to what the texture of this kulich looks like on the interior! Always love learning about different cultures! :)

    • Anastasia says:

      ;-) Thank you, Sam! I cheated and used whatever tube decorating device they sell at grocery stores. Inside it does look a lot like panettone – very airy!

  9. Kirill says:

    Sorry to be a pain. Are you sure about yeast quantity? 50 g dry yeast is almost six teblespoons! It sounds way too much for 1 kg of flour.

    • Anastasia says:

      That’s what the recipe said, and that’s how much I used – worked great. The thing grows 4 times its size when it’s in the oven.

    • Anastasia says:

      Ok, had another conference call with my aunt! Apparently she was using compressed yeast, instead of dry (as I did)! Thank you so much for noticing, and pointing it out! I’m changing the recipe in the post in case someone decided to bake it without checking out the comments! Thanks again!
      Anastasia

  10. liadh1 says:

    Your Kulich looks wonderful! I was wondering though, when do you add the butter? I see it listed in the ingredients, but don’t see it mentioned in the directions? Thanks for sharing this great recipe!
    best- Lea

  11. grantbraswell says:

    My grandfather used to make Paskha and Kulich! We would do Russian Easter (on US Easter) with a mix of traditions, but alwyas P & K with blinis. Thanks for checking out my blog which led me to this beautiful reminder of my grandparents!

    • Ira says:

      Do you happen to have a recipe for Paskha? My grandmother used to do it and I was such a fool not to save the recipe.

  12. nurishingnuggets says:

    I’m SO glad you “liked” my post, because I got to discover your blog! I’m been eagerly devouring/reading all of your Russian recipes. :)

    I LOVE Russian food! I was there in Sept/Oct 1991 – a very interesting time to be in Russia/Ukraine. I started my love affair with dill while eating traditional Russian meals (we were in Krasnoyarsk before any other Westerners had ever been), promptly bought 3 Russian recipe books (at least one an English translation) when I got home, and made a batch of pickled mushrooms as soon as I could! :) Sadly I’ve forgotten all the Russian I learned, since I haven’t used it in 20 + yrs. :( (still have all the books and tapes tho’!)

  13. Anastasia says:

    Ohm, pickled mushrooms! Yum! ;-) Glad you like some of the recipes. Hope to keep them coming! I saw you bake your own bread too – I’m a huge fan of home-made breads! Keep them coming!

  14. abby @ thingsforboys says:

    What an interesting recipe for Kulich. I’ve never seen whipped egg whites in it before. I imagine they would make it lovely and light. I have my recipe for Kulich on my blog too. Воистину воскресе!

  15. jessamine15 says:

    Some friends were just talking about this bread and I’ve been very interested in how to make it. Might have to try this out next weekend just because!

  16. Ira says:

    Thank you so much for the recipe, I am going to try it this weekend! My grandma used to do this, and I decided to try it myself this Easter. I am also looking for the Cheese Paska recipe, do you know what I mean? Cottage cheese combined with cream, butter, eggs, dry fruits… My babushka used a special wooden form for this, it is a shame, I didn’t have it, got lost somewhere in time. One more thing – we are so much alike, it’s not even funny. Just let me say, I am you in about 12 years from now. My oldest son is 15, youngest – 12. I love to cook, love to read the same books as you, came from Odessa when I was 28…

  17. eva maria Kent says:

    Dear Anastasia,
    I will try this year your Kulich instead my husband’s old family receipt…. looks great – thanks for sharing your secrets with us
    Eva Maria

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