Today we doing some homemade bread from scratch. We are making “Kulich” Easter Bread in preparation for the Easter Sunday next week. I thought it would be nice to share a recipe for Easter. Whether you are celebrating Easter or not, this bread is worth making, it is worth the effort.
I often make simple recipes for Easter and although making bread from scratch is not actually considered as simple, I still make it a point to have at least 1 bread recipe for special occasions. I love making bread more than anything else. It takes time, but for me it is always worth it. I find the process relaxing, plus homemade bread are made without any preservatives and that alone is a bonus on top of being delicious.
I have few items on my list for recipes I want to make for Easter but this Kulich Bread ended up to be the top in my list. This bread caught my attention and started researching about it. The more I researched about it, the more that I am convince that I want to make it. The physical appearance was stunning for sure, it looks like a bread that you can get from bakery. It is simply beautiful.
More than the beauty of this bread, it was the process on how to make it that made me more interested. I’ve made a lot of homemade bread from scratch but I had never made a bread like this before. For once, beating the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy is something that I never did for any of my homemade bread. Also the way the bread is shape is quite interesting to me. I had fun making this bread and I cannot wait to make another one of different variation.
What is Kulich?
Ukrainian Easter Bread, aka kulich, is a delicious, traditional bread made for Easter. The recipe uses pantry staples for bread making like milk, flour, yeast, butter, eggs, and sugar. This bread used a lot more eggs and butter than regular dinner rolls or sandwich bread. It has a tight crumb, a little bit dense but soft at the same time. This looks similar to cinnamon rolls but this bread have more layers and taller.
Shaping the Kulich-Cruffin
Shaping this bread is one thing that I enjoyed doing, almost like making Cinnamon Rolls or Babka. You have more than enough dough to do this. This dough is very easy to handle, I did not use much extra flour when rolling this. Once the dough has been rolled, generously spread soften butter on top. Sprinkle desired filling, like fruits and nuts, spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. Roll the dough lengthwise so it forma a long rope. I made 3 portions and cut the dough into 3 strips. If you want a bigger portion, cut the dough into 2 strips. Roll the strip of dough sideways. For a wider bread, roll on the side. For a taller bread, try to overlap the rolling and lightly pile on top of each layer. The one I baked in 4-inch spring form pan is a taller bread. See in the photo how it piles up with taller top.
12 x 24 Strip of Dough
In the video, this is what I did. I flattened and created a 12 x 24 strip of filled dough. If you do not have enough counter space to make this long strip, you can have it in half. After making this twice, I realized that having a shorter strip (half the size) is easier to handle especially when rolling it. Nonetheless, a long strip will works just fine. I rolled the strip sideways in a circular motion to for a disk. I prefer min wider so I rolled sideways without pilling much of the dough on top. Make sure to have the cut side facing out so that layers shows when it bakes.
6 x 12 Strip of Dough
For this method, cut the dough into two portions. Cover the other dough with towel while you work with the other one. Roll and flatten the dough and fill with desired filling. Roll into a log then cut into half lengthwise, this will expose the layers of the rolled strip. Use one strip and roll side ways, layers side facing out. The first strip will be the base. Use the second strip to continue the curling. If you want a taller Kulich, instead of rolling the second strip on the side, connect it to the end of the first strip and then curl it on top of the base dough. This is like creating a second layer of dough on top to create a taller bread. Wide or tall, the choice is yours. Both taste great 🙂
Filling the Kulich
This process reminds me on making Cinnamon Rolls. The idea is similar, you fill the dough with dried fruits and nuts and then you roll it lengthwise. The inside was brushed with soften butter and filled with dried fruits and chopped nuts. You can mix and match dried fruits, or use different kind of nuts like pecan. For a decadent variation, use chocolate spread instead of butter and use chocolate chips instead of fruit and nuts. You can also fill it with grated cheese, dried herbs and spices. Do not be limited to the traditional, unleash your creativity and do not be afraid to explore and try new variations.
What Pan to Use to Make Kulich
Spring form pan are the pan commonly use to make this bread. The releasable bottom of the pan makes it easier to remove the bread without sticking to the bottom and side. Most of the Kulick recipe that I saw uses a round pan. Some uses spring form pan, some uses regular round pan, some uses disposable baking cups for a tall single serving Kulich, some even use a rectangular pan to make it into a loaf style Kulich, like Babka.
I tested this recipe using 2 sizes of pan. I used 2 6-inch spring form pan and 1 4 1/4-inch spring form pan. Ideally, this recipe make 2 medium size when bake in 6-inch pans or 1 large 7-inch pan. I decided to divide it by 3 to get a yield of 3 pieces of bread. As you can see, the 2 that were baked in 6-inch pans are wider than taller. Although it did not fully used up the extra space to expand horizontally, it still produces a nice looking bread. I actually like a wider bread than a taller one.
The one baked in 4 1/2-inch spring form pan tends to be taller. This was because the dough do not have extra room to expand sideways, but instead it pushed the sides to the center producing a taller bread. I also pile some of the dough on top when rolling it. Traditional Kulich are tall, they not only have flaky layers but they also have good height.
How to Achieve a Tall Kulich
If you want to go for a more traditional tall Kulich look, you can easily achieve this by how you shape and roll the dough. I personally like mine a bit wider than taller so that it bakes evenly. I find that taller bread tends to require more time to bake the inside.
For a taller Kulich, roll the dough and lightly overlap or pile the layers on top of each other. If you watch the short video I made, you will see that when I roll the dough, I keep rolling it on the side. I did not roll it in a way that it pile up to make a taller bread.
This version uses 2 long strip of dough (24-inches). Curl or roll the dough around itself, making sure the cut layer side is facing outside. Because this uses one long dough, roll half around itself and then when you reach halfway, start curling the dough on top of the base to create a second layer going up. If you are using a shorter strip of dough (12-inch), simple use the 1st strip to form the base and start the second strip of dough on top of it.
Why Does Dough Need to Rise Twice?
I’ve made quite a lot of bread recipes, from all around dinner rolls, versatile sandwich bread, easy burgers buns, creamy brioche bread and beautiful cinnamon rolls. Most of these bread have something in common, they are all yeast bread that requires the dough to rest twice. It takes a lot of time, but for me it is really worth it. But why do we need to let the dough rise twice? There is a science behind all this and some confusing terminologies involved, so I will save us all that effort of remembering those words and get straight to the point. Juts remember two words, flavor and texture. Allowing the dough to rest twice produces better flavor, and chewier texture because it allows yeast more time to get to work. But this doesn’t mean the we cannot produce a soft and fluffy bread with just 1 proofing. There are variety of recipe now a days that do not require as much time as traditional bread, and there are also no knead bread that do not require a lot of yeast. This type of bread require a lot of time to rise (18 – 24 hrs), it relies on time rather than on the yeast.
Tips for a Successful Soft Homemade Bread
- Liquid Temperature – Yeast grows in temperature between 105 – 110F, so its important to have the water that you are using to “proof” it in this range. If you go lower or higher, the yeast might not proof properly. That means the bread will not rise as much, resulting to a flat and tough bread.
- Check Yeast Expiry a Date – you might be wondering how come the bread did not rise when you followed exactly the recipe. Well, first thing first, make sure the yeast is not yet expired. Expired yeast is the common reason for flat and dense bread. If your bread did not expand or rise during the rest period, it is most likely that the yeast is not fresh or the water temperature is too hot or cold.
- Amount of Yeast – Just because you want a tall bread doesn’t mean you have to put as much yeast in the mixture. Sometimes adding too much yeast can cause the bread to collapse during the rest period. Just imagine putting more air than what is needed in a balloon, the balloon will explode. The same case with bread.
- Right Type of Yeast – Make sure to use the right one for your recipe, and make necessary adjustments if you want to swap one from another.
- Rest Period – Yeast bread needs time to rise. There are bread that uses less yeast but requires more rest time, the likes of No Knead Bread or Artisan Bread which usually require 8- 16 hours rest period to get the volume and to develop the flavor. There are 1 hour bread like my Rosemary Dinner Rolls which used this same bread dough, and there is 1 proofing only bread like this one. The point is, give it time to rest, don’t touch it just leave it in a warm place. The first rest period (if doing double rest) will normally tell you if your dough is good or not. If it rise and almost double in size, then your on the right track. If working on 1 proofing bread like this, your bread should be puff up after the first and only rest period.
- Expiration and Quality of the Flour – The quality of the flour greatly affect the texture of the bread. All-purpose flour could differ from country to country although they are all called as all-purpose flour. Sometimes it depends on the brand too. The closer the flour to expiration date or if it is already expired, the flour could tend to be drier, which means it would require more liquid than mentioned in the recipe. This is a common issue of way sometimes the dough tend to be tough and dry. This is why sometimes you have to add few more tablespoon from the suggested flour measurement to get the right texture. The dough should be soft, smooth and elastic. If it is too wet, add a bit more flour until it is no longer to sticky to handle. If it is too dry, a small amount of liquid helps provide moisture to the dough. A clean side of the bowl, with the dough slightly sticking at the bottom, a soft, smooth and elastic dough is what You are aiming for.
- 1 large Egg + 2 Egg Yolks, room temperature
- 100g Granulated Sugar
- 350g All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon table Salt
- 9g (2 teaspoon) Active Dry Yeast
- 80ml Warm Milk
- 40g Butter, melted
- 30 ml Orange Juice
- zest from 2 Large Orange
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 60g Butter, room temperature
- 50 g Raisins
- 50 g dried Cranberry
- 50 g sliced Almonds, roasted and slightly crushed
- Powdered Sugar for dusting
- Activate the Yeast: pour the warm milk in the mixing bowl. Add 1/2 teaspoons sugar and active dry yeast. leave for 15 minutes until gain starts to form on the top.
- Beat the eggs with sugar on high speed until light, fluffy and doubled in size.
- Mix Dry Ingredients: In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add to the yeast mixture.
- Add Wet Ingredients: Add the beaten eggs together with the remaining ingredients.
- Knead the dough for 16 minutes until the dough is soft, elastic and stretchy. If you try pulling on it slightly, it should not break.
- First Rest Period: Spray a bowl with oil. Place the dough into the mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Divide he Dough: Once the dough has risen transfer it onto a working surface slightly dusted with flour. Divide in the dough half if you want to bake two bigger breads, or divide to 3 for smaller breads or use as is for 1 long strip of dough.
- Roll the dough into a log and using a sharp knife cut it in half to split it into 2 strands, leaving them attached at one end. Working with one half at a time, roll out the dough into 1/8” thick sheet.
- Butter and Fill the Dough: Smear it with butter, sprinkle with raisins, cranberries and almonds.
- Shape the Dough: Carefully bring the first strand curling it around itself to form the base of the bread. Then curl the second strand around the first one going upwards. Cut side always should be facing out, so we can see all the beautiful layers on the finished product. Hide the end of the second strand inside the formed dome.
- If using one long strip of dough, you can cut it into half or continue curling and when you reach halfway, start curling on top of the base dough.
- Carefully transfer the bread into springform or whatever pan you are using. I used two 6-inches springforms. And 1 4 1/2 pan. This will make 3 medium breads or 2 large breads.
- Second Rest Period: Cover the bread with plastic wrap and let rise for another hour or so. Wrap some foil around the base of the springform and place on the baking sheet to avoid the butter leakage.
- Bake at 355 F for 35 to 40 minutes for smaller breads. And for larger one bake first 10 minutes at 390 F, the reduce heat to 375 F and bake for 20-25 minutes more. If you see the top starting to burn cover it with foil and continue baking. Let the breads rest for 10 minutes in the form then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Dust cooled breads with powdered sugar and serve.
- Alternatively, you can also drizzle Orange glaze on top. This is just a combination of icing sugar and small amount of orange juice.
Makes 2 – 3 pieces
Enjoy! If you make this, share and tag me in Instagram #SweetNSpicyLiving. I would like to see your creations too.
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Categories: Baking, Breads, Recipe, Small Batch Recipes, Video, Video Recipes
What a lovely little loaf! I’ve never made this, but it looks like tasty fun.
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Thanks Dorothy. It was my first time making this, it was indeed fun to make it .. and taste great too.
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