Updated: Apr 17, 2022
I do not celebrate Easter (I am an atheist). But, this Easter bread has been popping up in my Ukraine-Russia cuisine research and Easter is just around the corner, I thought why not join in the fun this year? I think the word "research" is an understatement. It is more like driving without much vision and guidance.
Russian and Ukrainian recipes aren't really googlable. And the ones that I managed to find are pretty much... you know what I meant (I do not want to badmouth about any foodbloggers). Honestly, it took me a few attempts and some unorthodox steps to get this fantastic Easter bread right.
You can read all about the history of Paska and Kulich on Wiki. The name "Paska" literally means "Easter" while "Kulich" originated from the Greek word "Kollix" which means "a loaf of bread". The top of each loaf is called a "корона" (crown). It is usually topped with royal icing frosting (Russian) or braided bread (Ukrainian). The "spikes" created are vaguely reminiscent of Christ’s crown of thorns.
Back in the olden days, the bread is proofed and baked in used cans. Panettone molds are the best substitute. You can also use tall pastry rings or cake molds. Respectfully, the "crown" is sliced off and the bread is sliced into wedges like a normal cake. Cheese and butter are typically used as a spread. Happy Easter!
(Make four 4 inch loaves)
Unsalted Butter, 57g + More For Dipping & Greasing
Unbleached All Purpose Flour, 625g
Demerara Sugar, 67g
Sea Salt, 12g
Active Instant Dry Yeast, 2 1/4 TSP
Dried Fruits, 80g (I'm using dried currants)
Whole Milk, 245g
Eggs Lightly Beaten, 2
Granulated Sugar, For Dipping
Egg Wash, For Brushing
High Quality Salted Butter Melted, For Brushing
Egg White, 1
Sea Salt, Pinch
Icing Sugar, 2 Heaped TBSP Adjust To Preference
Pure Vanilla Paste, A Dash
Fresh Lemon Zest, 1/2 Lemon
Sprinkles, For Topping
4" Panettone Molds / Tall Pastry Ring or Cake Pan
Stand / Hand Mixer
In a sauce pot, melt the butter.
Weigh the melted butter again. Add some neutral oil if necessary for a total of 57g.
Set aside to cool down.
In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, yeast and dried fruits.
*Do not add the yeast directly onto the salt. It will kill the yeast.*
Mix to combine well and create a well in the middle.
Add milk, water, eggs and melted butter into the well.
Fold until well combine and it comes together into a dough.
Once it becomes a dough, knead the dough inside the bowl until all the nooks and crannies of flour are kneaded into the dough, about 5 mins.
The dough should be smooth and tacky but not sticky.
If the dough is too dry, add in water, 1 TBSP at a time. If the dough is too sticky, add in flour, 1 TBSP at a time.
Transfer onto a lightly floured surface and continue kneading for another 5 mins.
Shape into a large ball and it should pass the window-pane test.
Grease the bowl lightly with some butter and transfer the dough into the bowl.
Cover with cling film and ferment chilled in the fridge overnight.
The next day, set the dough on the kitchen table for at least 3 hrs before using it.
Punch down to deflate, weigh and divide into 4 equal pieces.
Roll each piece into a tight dough ball.
*At this point, you can choose to freeze the dough balls. Thaw in the chiller overnight before using. It can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.*
I'm using panettone molds.
Add some melted butter into a shallow bowl. Add some sugar into another shallow bowl.
Dip and dredge the dough balls into the melted butter, followed by the sugar and finally into the molds.
Gently press the dough down onto the mold.
Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise for 1 to 2 hrs or until it rises to a dome shape.
Preheat the oven to 180 degree celsius or 355 fahrenheit.
Brush the risen dough with some egg wash and wack into the oven.
Bake for 15 mins. Spray the dough with some water at 5 mins intervals.
After 15 mins, rotate the bread.
Bake for a further 10 mins or until the top is deep amber color.
As soon as the bread is outta the oven, brush with some melted salted butter.
Set aside to cool down completely before serving.
For the Kulich.
When the bread has cooled down completely, add egg white and salt into a large bowl.
Using a hand or stand mixer, whip until soft peaks.
Add in icing sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks and glossy shine.
Fold in vanilla paste and lemon zest until well combined.
Spoon the meringue over the bread.
Add some sprinkles and serve.
I know I shouldn't just tear the bread like that, my apologies...