Kulich (Russian Easter Cake Кулич)

Kulich (Кулич) cakes are traditionally cooked and eaten at Russian Orthodox Easter to break the fast. This is a Kulich recipe that is used in my family for more than 100 years. See this recipe for the alternative method and some useful tips.

Utensils
  • Baking paper;
  • Several round baking tins; pretty much any diameter/height is fine;
  • Mixing bowl, 3 litres or bigger;
  • Mortar and pestle, if you are using cardamom pods;
  • Small grater, if you are using the whole nutmeg.
Ingredients
  • 200ml full-fat milk;
  • 250ml sugar;
  • 100g fresh yeast;
  • 500g butter;
  • 6 eggs;
  • 1kg to 1.5kg all-purpose wheat flour.
  • 300ml raisins/dry apricots (whatever you prefer);
  • 1tbsp cognac;
  • Nutmeg, whole or ground, to taste;
  • Cardamom, in pods or ground, to taste;
  • Vanilla extract, to taste;
  • Walnuts, to taste;
  • Almonds, to taste to add to the dough, and to decorate the top of kulich.
Directions
  1. Melt the butter;
  2. At the same time, heat milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat until warm;
  3. Incorporate yeast into the milk and stir well;
  4. Mix in butter, sugar and beaten eggs;
  5. Incorporate flour into the dough. Do it gradually, and keep mixing it with your hands. You should end up with the dough that is quite plastic but does not stick to the hands;
  6. Preheat oven to 175-180 degrees C;
  7. Cover the dough with a cloth and allow it to rise. Tip: if it does not rise, put the mixing bowl next to the working cooker;
  8. Once the dough rises, press it down with your hands and let it rise for the second time;
  9. While the dough is rising, prepare the “taste ingredients”: place raisins and dry apricots into a bowl, wash them if needed, then add some water, and allow them to soften. Pat dry when sufficiently moist;
  10. If you are using the whole nutmeg, grind it (better quality than ready-made grind nutmeg);
  11. If you are using cardamom pods, peel the seeds and crush them using a mortar and pestle (better quality than ready-grind cardamom);
  12. Remove the skin from almonds and walnuts;
  13. Cut the apricots into raisin-sized pieces;
  14. Incorporate the taste ingredients and gently mix (raisins and apricot pieces should not get misshapen);
  15. Line the tin(s) with baking paper, put the dough (about 1/3 of the volume of the tin) into the tins, frost the top of the dough with the egg and decorate with sliced almonds;
  16. Put the tin(s) into the oven. You may wish to cover the top of the cakes with foil if you think the top of the cake could burn;
  17. Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes. Avoid opening the oven until the cake had got a firm shape (otherwise it can “slump” and become dense and heavy). The cake is ready when the top has got an attractive brown colour and the toothpick comes out clean.

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