Today I’m sharing a tasty Easter tradition that comes to us from our Slavic friends, made even healthier with a little fermenting. Traditional Kulich is an Easter recipe I picked up when I lived in Russia. I’ve added sourdough and removed commercial yeast to make this kulich gut-friendly!
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Sourdough Kulich: An Easter Recipe
As a young missionary living in Russia I was gifted my first kulich one Easter-week morning by my Ukrainian missionary companion. A rich egg bread, kulich is reminiscent of panettone and challah. It’s lightly sweet and so lovely to serve to friends and family. Since I consume wheat much easier after it’s been leavened (or fermented with sourdough), I adapted a few recipes until I found something I liked.
The first recipe is for regular yeast leavened kulich and details on how to prepare it can be found in our article at Hobby Farms.
The second recipe is from my absolute favorite book on sourdough, Beyond Basics with Natural Yeast, by Melissa Richardson. Using her gorgeous recipe for challah and the recipe mentioned above, we created a sourdough kulich that is easier on everyone’s tummies but still tastes divine. If you ever need any guidance on sourdough, be sure to check out either of Melissa’s books.
Here’s Russia and the Ukraine’s take on a classic Easter bread. Kulich is baked inside round paper molds like panettone, or you can bake it up in tin cans upcycled from your recycling bin. Each container gives its own unique shape!
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 teaspoons of sea salt
- 1/2 cup honey raw sugar or maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 cup olive avocado or coconut oil softened
- 8-9 cups of flour
- 1 cup raisins dried cranberries, or other dried fruit - I like a mix of all these
- 1 cup pistachios or chocolate chips optional
- Sugar glaze, optional
- Colored sprinkles, optional
- 1 Cup powdered sugar
- 2 tsp. fresh lemon or lime juice
- Combine starter, water, salt, honey, vanilla, eggs, fat. Mix well.
- Add flour, a few cups at a time. Continue to add flour until the dough cleans the side of the bowl, as Melissa Richardson so beautifully explains in her books.
- Add dried fruit.
- Knead dough for ten minutes.
- Allow the dough to culture and rise for 6-12 hours in a covered, non-reactive bowl (like ceramic or glass). Remember to allow enough room in the bowl for the dough to expand.
- After at least six hours, turn the dough onto a floured counter. If you're using panettone paper molds, divide your dough into three equal portions. If you're using a can, use your judgment to divide up your dough according to the size and number of your cans. You can expect the dough to about double in size once it's finished kulich.
- Roll your portioned dough into smooth balls and place into their containers.
- Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about two more hours. You can lightly covered the dough to keep in moisture.
- Uncover and bake at 350F/176C for 35 minutes.
- If you want to make the sugar glaze, mix powdered sugar and lemon or lime juice until a smooth glaze forms; I usually start with a cup of powdered sugar.
- This glaze can be drizzled over the top of the finished bread, or on top of each cut piece before you serve it. The sprinkles are optional, but fun.
You can also make this recipe with commercial yeast and follow the instruction as you would for a loaf of sandwich bread. I find sourdough breads easier to digest, especially sweet breads.
Molds for Kulich
Like panettone, kulich is traditionally baked in upright molds. You can purchase paper panettone molds at specialty kitchen stores and online at venues like Amazon.
Baine Marie Pot
You can also use a Baine Marie pot like the one Megan from My Food Storage Cookbook uses to bake bread in her Wonder Oven.
Probably the easiest for most of us to use, though, is a tin can from our recycling container. That’s what Aelita used that spring morning to bake up the kulich for our breakfast and it worked beautifully.
To use a can:
- Take any size can without an interior lip and wash it thoroughly
- If there are leftover sharp edges from removing the lid, flatten them by rolling over them in one direction with your can opener; you can also gently bang them flat with a hammer
- Divide your dough evenly among the cans you have, adjusting for the size of each can; how many kulich you end up with depends entirely upon what cans you have
- Remove any paper labeling
- Dry and generously butter the inside of the can, all up the sides
- Fill each can only halfway with dough and let it rise per the instructions in the recipe.
A tin can bakes about like a regular bread pan but a little slower than a paper mold so be sure to watch all your kulich as it bakes, if you’re using tin cans.
To remove your bread from the can, allow it to cool completely and then use a knife to clear the bread from the sides. Turn it over and gently tap the bottom of the can until the bread slides out. Use caution as you’re going around the sides of the can that you don’t accidentally cut through into the side of the bread. This is more often a problem with the taller cans than the smaller ones so make sure you’re using your longest knife if you have a #10 can (2 lbs. coffee can size).
Easter While You Wait
This bread has a long ferment and rise cycle, so you may need a few more Easter activities to keep you busy while you wait.
Here are some more Easter ideas: