Kulich (Russian Easter Bread)

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This traditional Russian Easter bread, is baked, believe it or not, in an empty 2 lb. coffee can. This unusual baking "pan" is what allows the bread to achieve its stately height. It was traditional to lay a single red rose on top of the glazed top of this impressive bread, and, providing your rose has been grown pesticide free, it can still make an impressive picture today.

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 C. flour
  • 1/4 C. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
  • 1/2 C. milk
  • 1/4 C. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 C. raisins
  • 1/4 C. currants
  • scant 1/4 C. sherry (preferably a sweet or cream
  • sherry)
  • 1/4 C. slivered almonds
  • Glaze:
  • 1/2 C. confectioner's sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. milk

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Directions

Bread Machine: In addition to the traditional methods of making bread dough (food processor or mixer), I've had great luck mixing this dough in the bread machine. Just soak the raisins and currants in the sherry for about 1/2 hour before they need to be added, along with the almonds, in the mix-in stage of the cycle. Other than that, add the ingredients in the order appropriate for your machine, and set the machine on the dough setting. When dough is finished, proceed with the baking instructions here, using the coffee can.

Traditional Method: Butter a 2-lb. Coffee can. Fold a doubled sheet of aluminum foil around the top of the can to extend it about 2 inches. Soak currants and raisins in sherry for about 1/2 hour before beginning dough. Combine yeast, 1 C. flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Heat milk and butter until butter is melted and mixture is very warm (about 1150 on a candy thermometer). Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients with mixer slowly running, then beat until smooth.

Beat in eggs, egg yolks and lemon zest. Gradually add remaining flour, beating well after each addition. Beat in almonds and sherry soaked raisins and currants. Knead until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Shape dough into a ball and place in greased 2 lb. coffee can. Loosely cover top of can with plastic wrap or foil and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, or until dough almost reaches the top of the can. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, remove from can after about 10 minutes and let cool completely. To mix glaze, blend confectioner's sugar and milk until smooth. Spread glaze over top, letting it drizzle down the sides. See notes above for serving and cutting suggestions. 

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