What is kulich?
How to make kulich
Similar to the Italian panettone or Chilean pan of pascua, kulich is a kind of brioche baked in a larger cylindrical mold or in individual cylindrical molds.
Kulich is flavored with rum and spices, especially saffron. It contains candied and dried fruit, sometimes almonds and is topped with a frosting that drips down the sides. It is often decorated with the letters XB, for Христосъ Воскресе which means: “Christ is risen”.
Cooking kulich and its appearance on the table are one of the main Easter traditions that grandmothers preserved even during the most serious Soviet crises.
Kulich is always prepared in advance and its preparation creates a special atmosphere of serenity and spirituality in the house.
The preparation of the dough is very serious and codified, it must be done in peace and tranquility, because it is a family sacrament, on which, as ancestors believed, family life depended.
It is forbidden to prepare a kulich dough in a hurry or in a bad mood. It is believed that it is a food that absorbs the energy of the mistress of the house, and the latter must be in an excellent state of mind because she must not transmit to her family either irritation or fatigue in these holy days.
Like other ceremonial dishes, kulich has become the quintessence of the Easter table, and the meal begins with it that day.
What is the origin of kulich?
Easter is one of the most important holidays for all Christians, and in the Orthodox world, kulich is considered one of the most important desserts of the holiday.
Kulich dates back to the resurrection of Christ. According to the Bible, on the day of the resurrection, the apostles prepared the table and sat in the center, which was previously the place of Christ, and put on a freshly made bread.
Legend has it that when Christ visited the apostles, he ate this loaf of bread with them.
In the Old Testament, there is not a single mention of kulich. Its history dates back to ancient pagan times. One of the oldest Christian customs is the preparation of Easter cakes and their consecration in the church.
It is believed that kulich was therefore a pagan sweetness. This bread was baked at the time in the spring and sacrificed to the gods of fertility.
In Christianity, kulich is very similar to artos. Artos is a leavened bread which is blessed during the Easter services of the Eastern Churches, the Orthodox Churches and the Catholic Churches of the Byzantine rite.
After the resurrection of Christ, kulich became a Christian tradition. The history of this Easter cake is therefore ancient and appeared long before Christianity and, like many phenomena of the pagan world, passed smoothly into a religious society.
Little by little, this tradition came to each Orthodox family, where family is considered as a “small church”.
Kulich is baked, consecrated to the altar, then distributed to believers. It is usually baked in a monastery, a parish bakery, or at home before being taken to the temple and consecrated.
Traditionally after Easter Mass, the kulitch, placed in a basket and decorated with colorful flowers, is blessed by the priest. The non-blessed remains are eaten with the paskha for dessert. The blessed kulich is consumed every day only between Easter and Pentecost before breakfast. Therefore, kulich fully symbolizes the rebirth of Christ.
Christian tradition has nothing to do with paganism. The pagans probably had a similar tradition, but in Christianity kulich has a completely different meaning.
Kulich took its modern form thanks to Polish king Stanislav Leshchinsky, at the beginning of the 17th century, invented by his cook.
It is important to note that kulich is a symbol of the Body of Christ, who died for the sins of mankind, as well as that of the broken bread at the Last Supper. In the Christian religion, the Last Supper is the name given to the last meal that Jesus Christ took with the twelve apostles on the evening of Maundy Thursday, before the Jewish Passover, shortly before his arrest, the day before his crucifixion, and three days before his resurrection.
Tradition says that kulich symbolizes the invisible presence of Christ, who always has a free place in the middle of each table.
Each country has its typical traditions which accompany Easter. Easter traditions of different nations are different from each other, although some clearly have the same origin.
In many countries, especially the Nordic countries, Easter represents the awakening of spring and Christian traditions are mixed with pagan traditions.
Here are some examples of typical Easter recipes from around the world:
- In Spain and Latin America, torrejas are the version of French toast, with a syrup made from panela and spices.
- Chipa is a traditional Paraguayan cheese bun, which is mainly eaten during Holy Week before Easter. Chipa argolla is the popular ring-shaped version.
- Kozunak or cozonac is a traditional fluffy brioche with raisins prepared for Easter or Christmas in Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, or Albania.
- Folar da Pascoa is a deliciously mellow Portuguese brioche, traditionally prepared for Easter. The eggs on top symbolize the rebirth of Christ.
- Flaounes are small traditional savory buns, stuffed with halloumi, that the Cypriots prepare during the week preceding Easter.
- Fanesca is a traditional soup from Ecuador, typical of Holy Week, made from cod, pumpkin, squash, and various pulses. It is enriched with cheese and milk.
- For Jamaicans, glazed baked ham is a dish mainly served at Christmas and Easter. Glazed baked ham is a deliciously caramelized traditional festive dish native to Jamaica and other Caribbean countries.
- The majority of Moldovans are Orthodox Christians. Thus, the Sunday of the Resurrection is a national holiday in Moldova. Easter is a celebration of light and joy, accompanied by several traditions and rites determined both by the religious specificity of the holiday and by local customs. Pascã and the painted eggs are the main symbols of this festival.
- Pascualina is a traditional Uruguayan and Argentinian dish of Italian origin, made with shortcrust pastry stuffed with spinach, chard and boiled eggs, typically eaten during Lent.
- The Lebanese Christians enjoy maâmoul during Easter. Maâmoul are typical Lebanese shortbread cookies, generally stuffed with dates, but which can also be stuffed with pistachios, almonds or walnuts And since Easter is a family celebration for the Lebanese, the whole family takes part in the preparation of these sweets. Women traditionally knead the dough, and the rest of the family takes care of the filling.
- 1⅔ cup flour , sifted
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup milk (at 97 F / 36°C)
- 3 tablespoons caster sugar
- ½ cup water (at 97 F / 36°C)
- 3½ cups flour , sifted
- 6 egg yolks
- 3 egg whites
- ⅔ cups caster sugar
- 1 cup butter (at room temperature)
- 5 oz. candied fruit
- ¾ cup ground almonds
- 1 cup raisins
- Zest of 2 oranges
- 1 tablespoon rum
- 6 strands saffron
- 2 tablespoons boiling water
- ⅓ teaspoon cardamom powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Rainbow sprinkles
- Soak the raisins in the rum, add the orange zest, and let macerate for 1 hour.
- Infuse the saffron threads in the 2 tablespoons of boiling water for 1 hour.
- Place the yeast and caster sugar in a large bowl. Add the milk and water over it.
- Mix well and add the flour.
- Mix again, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place away from drafts for 1 hour.
- Separate the eggs.
- In the container with the egg yolks, add the salt, cardamom, caster sugar, and whisk well until obtaining a light, homogeneous and creamy mixture. Add the saffron infusion and the threads and mix well.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the leaven, then add the egg yolk mixture.
- Gently and carefully mix the two mixtures by hand. Then, still by hand, gently add the softened butter at room temperature.
- Using the flat beater, gradually add the mixture from the large bowl to the egg whites at low speed.
- Add the flour and, using the dough hook, start kneading the dough until obtaining an elastic dough, which comes off the sides of the bowl.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise for 2 hours in a warm place, away from drafts. It should double or even triple in volume.
- Meanwhile, dice the candied fruits. Drain and dry the raisins using paper towels.
- Add the ground almonds, candied fruits and raisins to the dough once it has risen and knead for 2 minutes.
- Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise again for 30 minutes in a warm place away from drafts.
- Punch the dough on a lightly floured work surface to get rid of any bubble.
- Line the bottom of 1 or 2 molds or 5 tall cylindrical molds (e.g. tin cans whose edges have been hammered) with parchment paper.
- Then fill each mold halfway with dough.
- Let sit in a warm place, away from drafts, for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the convection oven to 300 F (150°C).
- Then, very lightly brush the tops of the kulich with the beaten egg yolk, mixed with milk.
- Bake the kulich in the bottom half of the oven for 45 minutes, otherwise the tops could burn.
- The baking time depends on the size of the molds. If the tops start to brown too quickly, then reduce the temperature slightly to 280 F (140°C).
- After baking, wait 10 minutes before delicately unmolding the kulich. Place them on a wire rack and let them cool completely. It is also possible not to unmold them.
- Beat the egg white until getting a nice frothy mixture.
- Add the icing sugar and lemon juice and whisk together to obtain a dense and smooth frosting.
- Cover the kulich tops with frosting and allow it to drip on the sides.
- When the frosting has solidified a little, top with a color sprinkles.
- Place the kulich on a wire rack to allow the frosting to harden.