Sunday, April 27, 2014

There's Cardamom in my Kulich!

Our task this month was to create an easter bread, particularly one associated with our cultural heritage. While I was sorely tempted to master one of the recipes where you actually bake an egg into your braided design:


We opted for something that was a bit more traditional. My mom's family is Russian Orthodox, and growing up my mom recalls the tall, white cake associated with Easter time. With a little online research, I discovered a recipe for Kulich, along with this explanation from wikipedia:
Traditionally after the Easter service, the kulich, which has been put into a basket and decorated with colorful flowers, is blessed by the priest. Blessed kulich is eaten before breakfast each day. Any leftover kulich that is not blessed is eaten with Paskha for dessert.

Kulich is baked in tall, cylindrical tins (like coffee or fruit juice tins). When cooled, kulich is decorated with white icing (which slightly drizzles down the sides) and colorful flowers. Historically, is was often served with cheese paska bearing the symbol XB (from the traditional Easter greeting of Христос воскресе, "Christ is Risen").
So on the day before Easter, and the morning of our dear friends' (and frequent DB guests) wedding (!!), I set about preparing an easter feast, complete with these deviled eggs, this delicious spring lasagna, and the kulich.

It was an interesting recipe, relying on both yeast and egg whites for loft. The initial proofing smelled delicious and bubbled up nicely.

The dough came together well, but when we got to the stage of folding in the egg whites, I was a bit mystified. Imagine a springy and smooth bread dough. Then imaging trying to "fold-in" stiff beaten egg whites. Strange, right? But they eventually incoporated, and we set the dough to rise even further.

The recipe called for a kulich pan or a two-pound coffee tin, neither of which I had in my kitchen (sadly, Blue Bottle doesn't sell its artisan coffee in two pound tins...). So I improvised with a semi-cylindrical all metal sauce pan.

(The saucepan, while perhaps ingenious, also led to one of our first ever daring baker injuries. I hope Erica's finger is recovering nicely!)

 The resulting cake/bread wasn't quite a delicious as I anticipated based on the dough. The dough was moist and springy with a delicious aroma. The cake, however, was a bit on the dry side. Perhaps the sauce pan wasn't the best option after all (it may have also been a small mishap involving oven temperature).

The friends and family gathered for easter still took down a good portion of the dessert. As for the cultural aspect of it, my mom pointed out that my grandmother would have never included cardamom in her recipe - in fact, she probably just used white cake or bread mix (if she didn't get it from the church). Spices, nuts and dried fruit would have conflicted with the number of meats on the table...

The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den . She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world.


  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup scalded milk, cooled to 110 degrees
  • 1 cup + 3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 large egg yolks (reserve 2 egg whites)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied orange rind
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspons lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2-3 teaspoons warm water
  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, water, 1/4 cup sugar and milk, mixing until yeast and sugar have dissolved. Stir in 1 cup flour until well blended. Cover and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour.

  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter, 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks. Add yeast-flour mixture from Step 1, stirring well. Add vanilla, cardamom, salt and enough of the 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour to make a soft dough. Stir in raisins, almonds and orange rind.

  3. In a small bowl, beat 2 reserved egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the dough made in Step 2. Knead by machine or hand until a smooth and elastic dough forms, about 3-5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once to coat both sides. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

  4. Coat a 2-pound coffee can or kulich pan with cooking spray. Punch down dough and knead a few times. Place it in the prpeared can, cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until dough reaches the top of the can.

  5. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place pan on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 35 to 40 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

  6. While kulich is baking, prepare glaze by combining in a small bowl the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, almond extract and enough water to make a smooth, runny glaze.

  7. Remove kulich from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Unmold from can and cool on a wire rack. While still slightly warm, drizzle glaze over the top. To serve, cut off the crown and slice base into rounds. To keep any leftovers moist, replace the crown.

1 comment:

Wolf said...

This sounds like an completely awesome bread, none the less.}:P And it looks great! I bet it'd make great toast or even french toast.