Russian Kulich (sweet Easter bread) is fluffy, fragrant, soft and aromatic. This recipe is healthier and less time-consuming than the original. This kulich doesn’t go stale for more than 10 days!
This year I made a simplified version of the traditional Russian kulich, which came out to be just as good as the original, much less time-consuming and a bit healthier!
Kulich is always tall and cylindrical, often with raisins or candied fruits. It’s usually decorated with white glaze and colourful sprinkles on top. The dough is very fluffy and melts in your mouth.
Actually, kulich was baked in Russia long before the emergence of Orthodox Christianity, but nowadays it is only associated with Easter. Kulich had emerged from an old Slavic tradition of a spring ritual baking and had a sacramental meaning.
In ancient Russia, people baked bread two or three times a year, for the most important holidays associated with the change of seasons: either for the New Year’s Eve or in early spring, to mark the beginning of the agricultural year, or in the autumn, to celebrate the harvest.
This tradition, like many others (see Maslenitsa) has been successfully adopted by the Orthodox church.
Just like Paskha, kulich symbolizes excessiveness and contains a lot of dairy products and eggs, that are not allowed to consume in Orthodox church during the Lent, the longest and the strictest annual fasting period.
It lasts between Maslenitsa (Slavic pancake week) and Easter, for 48 days. In former times it was common to cook up a 48-course Easter menu, one course for each day of fasting!
Nowadays, it’s a bit less extensive, but the tradition to serve a big variety of nutritious and wholesome dishes with a lot of dairy products and eggs still exists.
I made my kulich from butter, yeast, milk, eggs and flour, and as always, I tried to opt in for a healthier version by using agave nectar instead of sugar, fresh citrus zest instead of candied fruits and whole wheat flour.
It came out sweet, fragrant, delicate, soft and doesn’t go stale for at least ten days! I used a normal saucepan with parchment paper lined on the bottom and on the sides instead of a tall baking form.
Alternatively, you can use ready-made Panettone paper molds or a combination of both a saucepan and paper molds. Follow the recipe below to make your own fluffy kulich for Easter!
It looks impressive and takes some time (mostly waiting for the dough to rise) but believe me, even if you are a beginner in baking, you still can do it!
Kulich – Sweet Russian Easter Bread
For the kulich:
- 80 grams or 1/3 cup or 2/3 stick butter at room temperature
- 42 grams or 4 tablespoons fresh yeast (or 14 grams or 5 teaspoons dry yeast)
- 100 ml or 0.4 cup lukewarm milk + 1 tablespoon
- 100 ml or 0.4 cup agave nectar
- 500 grams or around 4 cups flour I used 1:1 ratio of all-purpose to whole wheat flour
- 3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
- zest of 1 big orange and 1 big lemon
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- a pinch of salt
For the glaze:
- 80 grams or 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons sugar pearls to garnish
- In a medium bowl, whisk together softened butter, crumbled (or dry) yeast, milk and agave nectar. Put the flour into a large bowl, make a well in the middle and pour the butter mixture in it. Knead until smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix together three eggs, orange and lemon zest, cardamom and a pinch of salt. Add it to the dough and knead again. Cover and let raise in a warm place for 90 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare a tall backing form or a saucepan. You can watch this video tutorial on how to line your backing form with parchment paper. Alternatively, use Panettone paper molds. Knead the dough once again, transfer to the baking form/saucepan/paper mold and let rest for 30 more minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 °C or 390 °F. Mix 1 tablespoon milk with an egg yolk and coat the top of the kulich using a little brush. Bake kulich for 25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool before taking it out of the form/paper.
- Make the glaze: mix together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add 1 tablespoon water to thin it up. Once the kulich is cooled, pour the glaze over it and sprinkle with sugar pearls before the glaze sets. Serve with paskha. Enjoy!
What is your favorite Easter bread? Leave a comment below!