Friday, April 22, 2011

Пасхальный кулич / Easter kulich

Ready Easter kulichs
This is my first Easter in the States, and it is very exciting. First, Easter is one of my most favorite holidays, second, it is my first time celebrating it in a non-Orthodox country and also combining two different traditions. Quite a challenge! I am not used to all those Easter bunnies (they are cute, I admit) and egg hunt but I am dying eggs, baking ‘kulich’ (Easter cake) and making cottage cheese ‘paskha’. Those are essential elements of Easter dinner back home, and of course I wanted to make it here and also introduce Dave and the kids to this tradition.

There is nothing really special about dying eggs - it is now very similar to what people do in the States (unless you want to do it old-school and use egg peel instead of store-bough egg decoration kit), so I let the kids play with colors. Some turned out really weird but we had lots of fun.Meanwhile, I was focusing on baking kulich. 

Easter eggs by Xavier and Trinity
‘Kulich’ is translated in some dictionaries as “Easter cake” but it is more of a bread. Technically, it is a sweetened tall round yeast bread, rich in butter and eggs and also containing raisins and topped with a sugar icing. Its shape is the same of the bread blessed and used during Liturgy, and it symbolizes Jesus Christ (“I am the bread of life”). When made and served on Easter day, kulich means the presence of God among us. Kulich should be sweet, rich, heavy, big and also beautifully decorated - all this shows God’s care of every human being. No need to explain how important it is to have the right kulich for Easter. 

Traditionally, Easter cooking starts Good Thursday. Baking a kulich is not an easy thing and very time consuming. You can’t be in a rush working on it. I was worried a little bit about the dough but with pray, quality ingredients and patience it all worked out. Of course, I can’t say anything about its taste but it smells so delicious (I am sorry, and very Russian) so that I am sure it tastes good too. We are going to check it this Sunday. Happy with the result of my hard work I want to share the recipe I followed to make this Easter special. 

Easter kulich 

Ingredients (make 3 big kuluchs and 2 small)

  • 500 ml milk
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 3 lb (1,5 kg) flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 7 oz (200 g) butter
  • 10 oz (300 g) raisins
  • 2 tbs vanilla extract 

  • 2 egg whites
  • 5 oz (150 g) sugar powder
  • 2 oz (50 g) multicolor sprinkles

All this stuff is going to be a paskha and several kulichs
  1. Make sure your yeast is active: mix yeast with ½ cup warm water and 1 tsp sugar, put in a warm place for 15 min - if the yeast doubles in size it is active. 
  2. Warm milk (don’t put to boil). Stir in the yeast. 
  3. Add 1 lb (500 g) well dressed flour. Mix well.
  4. Cover with a linen towel and leave in a warm place till it doubles in size (app. 30 minutes).
  5. Divide yolks and egg whites. 
  6. Stir egg whites with sugar.
  7. Add ⅓ tsp salt to yolks and mix to foam (use mixer or blender).
  8. Stir in egg whites into the brew. Mix well.
  9. Add softened butter and mix well.
  10. Add yolks and mix well.
  11. Stir in the rest of flour and make dough. It should be elastic and non-stick.
  12. Leave the dough in a warm place till it rises (app 1 hour).
  13. Soak the raisins in hot water for 15 min, drain well (blot with a paper towel if necessary), mix with 1 tbs of flour. 
  14. Add the raisins to the dough, mix well.
  15. Leave the dough in a warm place till it rises (app 40-50 min).
  16. Prepare baking pans: since kulich should be tall but not very wide you need a special kulich paper cup but if you don’t (I could not find it in the States, checked 5 Russian stores in the Bay Area) use a big can. You may also want to make some small kulichs for kids - use a small 15 oz can from your favorite creamy corn or sweet peas. Cut a round out of baking paper (wax one is the best, if you are using a regular one butter it) diameter of your pan and also cover the inside walls of the pan with baking paper. Important is to have your paper walls higher than the pan - in case your dough rises big time in the oven you won’t have to worry about it splitting around. 
  17. Fill in ⅓ of your pan with the dough.
  18. Leave the pan with the dough in a warm place till it rises (app 30 min).
  19. Preheat the oven to 220F (100C). Put in the pans and bake for 10 min.
  20. Increase the heat to 350F (180C) and bake till your kulichs are ready (for big ones it may take up to an hour - an hour and a half). Check with a wooden stick if they are ready - it should come out easily and be dry. 
  21. Put your ready kulich on a linen towel and cover with another one. Let your kulichs cool. 
  22. Make icing: in a mixing bowl combine yolks and sugar powder, mix well.
  23. Immediately cover the top of the kulich with the icing and decorate with multicolor sprinkles. The icing gets dry very fast so be sure you have your decorations at hand. Traditionally in Russia we also put two big red letters “ХВ” (stands for ‘Христос Воскресе” - “Christ has risen”). It is easy to do adding some red food color to the icing or just using store-bough red icing. 
  24. Easter kulich dough
  25. Wrap the kulichs in foil and wait till Sunday to enjoy them. 
Freshlu baked kulichs
Saturday we normally take eggs, kulichs and paskha to church to have them blessed. Sunday morning it serves as the first meal after Lent.

Good kulich is good for month and you can enjoy it for all 40 Easter days till Ascension Day. 

Good Thursday I also made a cottage cheese paskha - it is now sitting in the fridge, and I hope it works out too. I will blog about it in my future posts.

More pics of kulich served Easter day coming next week.


Anna said...

Dear, this is so amazing and inspiring! You are an awesome person and a great cook - you keep our traditions and manage to invole the kids and make it interesting for them!

The recipe is great and filled with care and love! One of these days I was actually looking for a kulich recipe. So this is just so helpful! (Well, considering my cooking skills I will most likely be buying the pre-maid ones over and over again, but hey, I have an option now!)

Oh, and remember I was asking you before about the icing - I think this icing shoud also be good for cupcakes for example, no?

You are an absolutely amazing friend, and your recipies are filled with love and care. Tomorrow we will celebrate such a beautiful day! God bless you.

Marina Lukyantseva-Haworth said...

Hola amiga!!!

Thank you so much! Just got back from a Russian Orthodox church here in San Francisco. We all - including the kids - stayed all the long liturgy and had all the stuff blessed. I am happy.

Icing and frosting are different in my view. Frosting is closer to cream. Icing is... just icing. For cupcakes I would go for frosting.

Happy Easter! Христос Воскресе!

Anna said...

Во истину Воскресе!

Bab said...


A quick question about the ingredients...
I have been browsing recipes these last days since my teacher (learning russian) talked about this cake/bread.

I noticed many have raisins and candied citruspeel, while some are just the bread and no "filling". Is that a matter of taste or local variatons ?

This seems by far the most "real" recipe :)
Looking forward to testing it!

Marina Lukyantseva-Haworth said...

Hi and thank you for your comment!
Normally, kulich (Easter cake/bread) does have raisins when candied citruspeel is optional.

When is is, of course, a matter of taste, I believe there are is also some meaning to it. Kulich is meant to be very rich in calories and sweet (you consume it after a 40-day Lent), and its sweetness should represent the triumph of live over death. I've also heard that raisins represent dead people who will rise after death but I am not sure this one is true.

Anyways, I always add raisins, and I think it is the traditional recipe.

People say it is not easy to make a good kulich but it is not that hard. Just do it with love, and it will work out.