Kulich: Traditional Russian Easter Bread

With Easter fast approaching, here’s a recipe for something a little different to try – Kulich, a traditional Easter bread from Eastern Europe.

Kulich – Traditional Russian Easter Bread | Foodal.com

This loaf is semi-sweet, made with lots of eggs and butter. It’s more of a hybrid cake-bread, with a light crumb to it. 

Rich, soft and delicious, it can be baked in 2-pound coffee cans, in the paper molds used for baking Panettone bread, or even in those older style enameled steel coffee mugs.

The Tradition

A staple in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Kulich is usually prepared a few days before Easter. The bread, along with paskha (a molded cottage cheese dessert) and colored Easter eggs, would be placed in a basket and taken to the parish priest for to be blessed before Good Friday.

Kulich - a traditional Easter bread from Eastern Europe | Foodal

The bread would then be eaten by the entire family, a little each morning until breaking the Lenten fast on Easter. On Easter morning, one of the eggs that had been blessed would be divided among all members of the household, and eaten with the bread and paskha. Each piece was believed to contain happiness for the coming year.

Russian Kulich Easter Bread Recipe

In some regions, other loaves would be presented to the priest in tithing, fed to farm animals for their health and vitality, or placed in a household niche along with icons of the family’s saints.

Kulich - Russian Traditional Easter Bread | Foodal.com
Kulich bread doesn’t have to be foofoo – this photo features a much plainer version.

This tasty bread can be made with or without a glaze, and can have added sprinkles on top. Traditionally, they might have a cross cut into the top similar to that of hot cross buns, or adorned with the letters XB – which represents the regional Eastern Orthodox greeting, “Christ is risen.”

Russian Kulich Easter Bread Recipe
Russian Kulich Easter Bread
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Prep Time
60 minutes*
Cook Time
30 minutes
Prep Time
60 minutes*
Cook Time
30 minutes
Russian Kulich Easter Bread Recipe
Russian Kulich Easter Bread
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Rating: 0
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Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
Prep Time
60 minutes*
Cook Time
30 minutes
Prep Time
60 minutes*
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
Dough
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup sugar divided into two parts, ¼and ½ cup
  • 4 1/2 cup cups all-purpose flour divided into two parts, 1and 3 – 3 ½ cups
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons Cardamom
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup lightly scalded milk cooled so it’s only warm to touch
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
  • 8 large egg yolks keep 2 of the egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped candied citrus rind mixed or orange only
Icing
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 teaspoons warm water
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine yeast, water, 1/4 cup of the sugar, milk and stir until the yeast and sugar have dissolved completely. Mix in 1 cup flour until well blended. Cover with a clean tea towel and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour.
  2. In another large mixing bowl, mix together ½ cup sugar, melted butter, sour cream and egg yolks. Add yeast and flour mixture, and stir well. Add vanilla, cardamom, salt and remaining 3 to 3 ½ cups flour to make a soft dough. Stir in raisins, almonds and citrus rind.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the two egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the dough. Knead until a smooth and elastic dough forms, about 3-5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning once to coat both sides. Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled.
  4. Punch down dough, kneading a few times. If using a coffee can, coat with cooking spray. If using a paper mold, place it on a baking sheet. Place dough in the can or paper mold, and let it rise uncovered in a warm oven (100 degrees F.) or until the dough reaches the top edge of the form.
  5. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. and bake for 10 minutes on a baking sheet. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F. and bake another 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean.
  6. While the loaf is baking, prepare the icing. In a small bowl, mix together the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, almond extract and enough water to make a smooth, somewhat runny glaze.
  7. Remove the bread from oven and let cool 10 minutes. Unmold from the can (if using) and cool on a wire rack. If using the paper molds, cool with the molds still in place, but remove before icing. While still slightly warm, drizzle glaze over the top. Remove paper molds before serving.
Recipe Notes

Soft and delicious with a slight crumb texture, this bread is ideal for Easter brunch. The cardamom gives it a little extra kick that you want find in too many other dishes that most of the English speaking world is familiar with. To serve, cut off the crown and slice horizontally. Replace the crown to keep your loaf moist – if there’s any left!

* Prep time dough not count dough rising. As the dough has to rise twice, allow several hours for rising time.

 

 

How to Serve

Today, the bread is most often cut with a sharp, serrated knife from top to bottom into wedges. Traditionally, the crown of icing would be cut off, then the bread would be sliced horizontally into wedges, replacing the crown to keep the loaf moist.

Russian Kulich Bread served as French toast | Foodal.com
Slice Kulich up, dip in beaten egg, and serve as French toast for a slightly different, yet familiar dish.

Another alternative is to slice horizontally for scrumptious French toast, an ideal dish for Easter brunch. This loaf is easy to prepare, but remember to factor in several hours for rising… you’ll be happy you did, as it’s well worth the wait!

Kulich French Toast Recipe | Foodal.com

Looking for some tips to set your springtime table? You’ll love this post!

Kulich French Toast Recipe | Foodal.com
Kulich French Toast
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Print Recipe
Kulich French Toast Recipe | Foodal.com
Kulich French Toast
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Print Recipe
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs whisked
  • 3/4 cup milk, may use soy or almond milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 slices Easter bread cut thick about ¾ inch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • maple syrup
Servings:
Units:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt, cinnamon and honey.
  3. Pour the egg mixture into a casserole dish for soaking the bread.
  4. Heat to medium high.
  5. Lay bread slices into the egg mixture and soak for 15 – 20 seconds on each side. * Turn them carefully so they don’t break, you may want to use a spatula.
  6. Add the butter to the skillet, coating the pan. And the coated bread slices and cook until golden brown, a few minutes on each side.
  7. Remove bread from the skillet and lay in the baking dish. Bake uncovered at 375˚ F for 7 minutes. Serve hot and drizzle with the maple syrup.
Recipe Notes

A twist on a classic recipe, this Easter bread French toast is heavenly. Serve with sliced fruit and coffee, or indulge with some authentic maple syrup and some crispy bacon.

 

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About Lorna Kring

Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.

19 thoughts on “Kulich: Traditional Russian Easter Bread

  1. I never even knew they celebrated easter over in Russia. The traditional Kulich looks pretty unique, but THAT FRENCH TOAST is making my mouth water!! My mum loves Russian cuisine so I’ll have to make this and surprise her soon!

  2. I can remember trying this bread when I was over in Russia one time around Easter and it is great to see a recipe for it. the ground cardamom would explain the flavour of it. I had not remembered that part until now (it was a very long time ago that I had it). I am curious about putting a cup of flour into the yeast mixture whilst activating the yeast though – or is in the first proving of the ‘dough’? But then you are only proving with 1/4 of the flour initially and the 2nd proving with all of it. Curious.

    • The cardamom does give it distinctive flavor Connie, and some versions call for saffron. AS for adding a bit of flour to the yeast, I believe it’s to give gluten production a good start – it’s a process I’ve seen in a number of bread recipes from ‘the old country’.

  3. I’ve never heard of this tradition until now. It’s a different take on the usual fruit loaf and the addition of cardamon makes it sound delicious! It’s useful to know you can use the finished product as a compnent of ther recipes too.

    • Cardamom really is a special flavor, isn’t it? And with the cinnamon for the French toast it’s a thing of beauty!

  4. That Kulich French Toast idea plus recipe is a great idea, i have a liking for french toast any day, as i was reading through i hadn’t thought that one can work up such a brilliant idea :)…a question though, where can one get the decorative papers/cloth…{am perceiving that’s what it is wrapped around the bread}? Am working up an idea/ideas in regard to those decorative pieces 😉

    • Hi diane, I’ve found plain paper molds for Panettone bread on Amazon, which work well, just search for ‘Panettone paper molds’…. and they’re easily decorated for gift giving. Or, look for the the ornamental ones in a Eastern European market or bakery in your area. Balkan, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian etc. specialty stores should stock them.

      • Am grateful indeed for the information given, thank you 🙂 … just checked them out on Google search, they sure do look amazing 🙂 …this particular one caught my eye…the color and pattern got me reeled in. 🙂

  5. This looks yummy! I’m on the look out for good bread recipes that don’t use a bread maker, do y’all are really helping me out with this. I’ve never heard of this bread, but it definitely looks like something I’d like to try.
    I just wanted to say that the way the history and traditions are in the blogs rather than just the recipes is very refreshing! I love the history lessons almost as much as I do the food. It’s, honestly, part of what keeps me coming back.

    • Thanks for the comments kana_marie, having a little background to the recipes seems to make them a bit more appealing, doesn’t it?

  6. I have never heard of Russian Kulich Easter Bread before, but I am now convinced that I need to try it. I love trying different foods, and this definitely qualifies as different! I also like the french toast idea!

  7. I had already started looking up for Easter recipes because I wanted to make it extra special this year. I honestly thought I was going to have a harder time, but you have made my decision so much easier. This Kulich looks not only gorgeous but so delicious. I really like its history and the religious tradition behind it. I like that it doesn’t look like I’ll be burning down the kitchen if I try making it LOL. Oh! What totally killed me though was the Kulich French toast recipe you included. One look at the image and I was drooling! LOL. Thanks you for sharing!

    • So glad you find the traditions appealing Michelle, they do seem to add to the recipe. Hope the Kulich, and French toast, add a little special touch to your Easter fare this year!

    • The decorative ones are a little elusive Maria, but we did find some on an Australian website called Easter Decor (Russian Easter Decorations), and the product name is called Gold Khokhloma, Easter Baking Paper Pans.

      I also spied some of the fancy ones on various ebay sites, and Amazon has plain ones which are listed as panettone forms as Allison mentioned.

      If you have a Russian or Ukrainian bakery in your vicinity, that would be a good bet as well.

      Hope this helps!

  8. Hi Maria,

    They are lovely, aren’t they? I believe these are paper panettone molds. We haven’t been able to track down exactly where these came from, but decorative papers like these can usually be found at your local baking supply or craft store, or online. We’ll be sure to post an update if we do find them! Best of luck!

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