Like most families, we love celebrating our Easter with lots of chocolate (chocolate eggs - HURRAY!) and hot cross buns. This year, with Cook like a Star Delia Smith theme, I was intending to bake these hot cross buns from Delia Smith website but thought baking this Russian Easter bread for a change.
I have never been to Russia and know nothing about Russian Easter traditions. I never tasted a Russian Easter bread called kulich but learn something about this bread from Google, Wikipedia and Epicurious. Accordingly to Wikipedia and Epicurious, kulich is a cross between brioche and challah and often baked as a tall loaf in a coffee can. Being lightly sweetened and egg-glazed, kulich would sit proudly in the center of the family basket, decorated with flowers and served with meats, cheeses, butter, and eggs for traditional Eastern European Easter celebrations.
Unlike most of the Russian Easter breads that I have seen from Google images, this one that I baked seems rather plain. Although mine is not as glorious as mostly described and served, it is very soft and delicious for us to eat. In my opinion, baking and enjoying this beautiful sweet buttery loaf is in fact pretty priceless...
|My plain Russian Easter bread|
|Making the bread dough|
|Shaping my kulich|
|One large and two mini kulichs|
|I need to do this for a nice glaze.|
|The sweet buttery smell of these breads is heavenly...|
|Very soft and delicious.. Yum!|
|Happy Easter! Tweet Tweet!|
My family and I will be away for a really really short break at this Easter long weekend and I will be back to blog again on 3rd April 13. - Happy Easter!
Here's the recipe from Epicurious
(with my modification and notes in blue)
1 cup whole milk
(for 1/2 amount, replaced with 15g milk powder with water)
1/2 cup sugar plus a pinch
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
Pinch of saffron threads, crumbled
2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water (105–115°F)
(for 1/2 the recipe and considering the amount of water to replace milk, total volume required is 160ml, preferably boiling)
6 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
(for 1/2 amount, I used 100g Italian OO flour + 350g bread flour)
4 large eggs
Make dough using Epicurious method:
Heat milk, sugar, butter, saffron, and salt in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved, about 2 mins. Remove from heat and cool to lukewarm.
Meanwhile, stir together yeast, warm water, and pinch of sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 mins.
Put flour in a large bowl and make a large well in center. Lightly beat 3 eggs and add to well along with milk and yeast mixtures. Carefully stir together with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead, dusting with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 10 mins. Put dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, turning to coat with oil, and let rise, covered with a clean kitchen towel, in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 3 hrs.
Punch down dough and let rise again, covered with towel, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hr.
Make dough using my method:
Combine boiling water, butter and salt together in a microwave-safe bowl. Mix well until butter is melted and well incorporated. Place saffron into the mixture and heat it in a microwave with low power for about 2 mins for saffron to release its reddish golden colour. Remove and allow mixture to cool to lukewarm.
Place saffron mixture, eggs, flour, milk powder and yeast into my bread-maker and use "dough" setting to knead and prove the dough for 1 hr.
This recipe makes two loaves with each 5-6 cup or 2-pounds capacity. Generously butter soufflé dishes (or any baking pans that you want to use). Punch down dough and divide in half. Loosely wrap 1 piece in plastic wrap and set aside. Cut away one third of remaining piece of dough and reserve, then roll remaining two thirds into a large ball and transfer to a soufflé dish.
Roll reserved piece of dough into an 18-inch-long rope on work surface with palms of your hands. Cut rope into 3 equal pieces and lay pieces vertically side by side on work surface, about 1/4 inch apart. Gather 3 ends farthest from you and press them together, then braid strands, pressing together other ends to secure braid. Lay braid over top of dough in soufflé dish (trim braid if using coffee cans). Form another loaf with remaining dough in same manner.
Cover loaves with clean kitchen towel and let rise in draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hrs (loaves will rise about 1 inch above rims of dishes).
Using 1/2 of the recipe, I have shaped 2/3 of my dough to bake a large loaf using a 14cm round baking tin and 1/3 of my dough to bake two small loaves using two ramekins (each with 1 cup capacity).
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (or 160°C fan forced).
Lightly beat remaining egg and a large pinch of salt (mine is 1/2 egg yolk with 2 tbsp of milk plus salt), then brush egg over top of each loaf. Bake loaves until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 1 hr.
Note: My large 14 cm round bread took 15 mins to bake without foil, then another 25 mins to bake without foil and at last another 5 mins to bake without foil for its most ideal golden colour. Its total baking time is 45 mins.
My two small loaves took 15 mins to bake without foil, then another 10 mins to bake without foil and at last another 5 mins to bake without foil for its most ideal golden colour. Their total baking time is 30 mins.
Turn loaves out onto a rack, then turn right side up and cool completely.
Happy Baking and Happy Easter