What is Kulich?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
A kulich is a traditional sweet Eastern European food that is served to celebrate Easter.
A kulich is a traditional sweet Eastern European food that is served to celebrate Easter.

Kulich is a traditional Orthodox Easter treat which is native to Russia, and consumed by Orthodox Christians across Eastern Europe in the days between Easter and Pentecost. This sweet, rich bread contains some ingredients which are forbidden during Lent, making it appealing to people who have been doing without during the 40 days which precede Easter. In many communities, the priest blesses the kulich made by members of the community, and it is eaten at breakfast along with a cheese spread known as paskha and eggs which have been dyed red to symbolize the blood of Christ.

Orange peel is often included in kulich.
Orange peel is often included in kulich.

The Orthodox Easter celebration is known as Pascha. Pascha is a major holiday for Orthodox Christians, who spend the 40 days leading up to Easter observing Lent and attending regular church services. On Easter Sunday, Orthodox Christians commonly attend midnight ceremonies to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, and follow the midnight service with a special Pascha meal which often includes kulich in Russian Orthodox communities.

Raisins are typically included in recipes for kulich.
Raisins are typically included in recipes for kulich.

This Easter bread is baked in a special cylinder shaped mold, creating a column of bread with a slightly mounded top. The top is frosted with thick white icing which is allowed to dribble down the sides of the kulich, and it is usually decorated with religious symbols or the letters “XB,” which stand for “Christ is Risen” in the Cyrillic alphabet. When kulich is served, the top is usually sliced off and put in the center of a plate, and the remainder of the cylinder is cut into wedges.

Cloves are often used to season kulich.
Cloves are often used to season kulich.

The dough used for kulich is a basic milk bread dough which includes dried fruit such as raisins along with nuts like almonds. Some cooks also like to add candied fruit ingredients like candied orange peels. A small amount of rum or brandy is sometimes mixed into the dough to make it especially luxurious, with ingredients like vanilla, cloves, and saffron being common as well, depending on regional tastes. Historically, wealthier cooks would load their kulich with spices, taking advantage of the relaxation of Lent rules to make a special treat.

Orthodox Christians across Eastern Europe eat kulich during the time between Easter and Pentecost.
Orthodox Christians across Eastern Europe eat kulich during the time between Easter and Pentecost.

In communities with a large Orthodox population, kulich is sometimes available at bakeries after Easter, with some people placing special orders for kulich so that they do not have to make their own. Kulich is also served at church events and parties between Easter and Pentecost, with some of these events being open to the community in general, providing an opportunity to sample a variety of traditional foods including kulich.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

CellMania

@medicchristy: I know it sounds like it might be hard by looking at this recipe for Kulich (Russian Easter Cake) but it is really quite simple. It is normally made in tall, round molds so that the dough rises and puffs up to give a “chef’s hat” effect. I personally use two coffee cans and they work great.

You will need the following ingredients:

5 cups sifted flour, 1 packet of yeast, ¼ tsp. salt, ¾ cup warm milk, 3 egg yolks, 2/3 cup sugar, 3 cardamom seeds (crushed), 2/3 cup butter (softened), 3 egg whites (stiffly whisked), ½ cup raisins, a handful each of candied fruit and blanched almonds (chopped) and any other kinds of nuts or icings for decorations.

Mix 2 cups of the flour with the yeast in a bowl and then stir in the milk. Put the mixture into a polythene bag and leave in a warm place until it is doubled in size and spongy, usually an hour.

Mix in the salt, 2 ½ egg yolks (set aside ½ yolks for later), sugar, cardamom and butter. Then, add the egg whites and 2 cups more flour. The dough will be wet and sticky feeling. Add the rest of the flour until you get dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. Put it in a warm place to rise again, usually around 2-3 hours.

Knock down the dough and add the fruits and almonds. Divide between 2 buttered and floured molds (or coffee cans). Let the dough come half or 2/3 of the way up. Leave for one more hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the Kulich in the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Check after 35 by inserting a toothpick and see if it comes out clean. Actually, a skewer would work better.

When it’s ready, turn it out and brush it with the remaining egg yolk and decorate if you want to. Many pour icing so that it dribbles down the side and sprinkle with chopped fruit and nuts.

medicchristy

I bet it is really hard to make.

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    • A kulich is a traditional sweet Eastern European food that is served to celebrate Easter.
      By: yvdavid
      A kulich is a traditional sweet Eastern European food that is served to celebrate Easter.
    • Orange peel is often included in kulich.
      Orange peel is often included in kulich.
    • Raisins are typically included in recipes for kulich.
      By: Dionisvera
      Raisins are typically included in recipes for kulich.
    • Cloves are often used to season kulich.
      By: bergamont
      Cloves are often used to season kulich.
    • Orthodox Christians across Eastern Europe eat kulich during the time between Easter and Pentecost.
      By: Hellen Sergeyeva
      Orthodox Christians across Eastern Europe eat kulich during the time between Easter and Pentecost.
    • A small amount of brandy is sometimes mixed into kulich dough.
      By: Gresei
      A small amount of brandy is sometimes mixed into kulich dough.
    • In many communities, the priest blesses the kulich made by members of the community.
      By: Photographee.eu
      In many communities, the priest blesses the kulich made by members of the community.