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.
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.
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.
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.
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.