(Eastern Orthodox sweet Easter bread)
Kulich (кулич) is a tall, cylindrical sweet bread that is served for Easter in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. It is traditionally paired with paskha, a sort of cheesecake. The two confections are taken to church on Easter Sunday to be blessed by the local priest. Then for the Easter meal, slices of kulich are spread with paskha and eaten. If you don't have a kulich mold, you will need a 2-pound coffee can for this recipe.
Milk -- 1/2 cup
Sugar -- 1/2 cup
Unsalted butter, room temperature -- 8 tablespoons
Salt -- 1 teaspoon
Lukewarm (110°F) water -- 1/4 cup
Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/4-ounce) package
Flour -- 4 cups
Eggs, beaten -- 2
Egg yolks, beaten -- 2
Cardamom -- 2 teaspoons
Vanilla -- 1 teaspoon
Golden raisins -- 1/2 cup
Raisins or chopped candied fruit -- 1/4 cup
Powdered (confectioner's) sugar -- 1 cup
Heavy cream -- 3 tablespoons
Vanilla -- 1/2 teaspoon
Add the milk, sugar, butter and salt to a saucepan and heat, stirring until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm.
Mix the 1/4 cup lukewarm water and yeast together in a small bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
Add 3 1/2 cups of the flour to large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, warm milk-butter-sugar mixture, the eggs, yolks, cardamom and vanilla. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and bring the dough together. Toss the golden raisins with a little flour and stir into the dough.
Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead, adding extra flour as needed, until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands and is silky and elastic. Remove the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm corner until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a kulich pan or a 2-pound coffee can. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with your fists to deflate it. Place the dough in the prepared baking pan and cover with greased plastic wrap. Set aside to rise for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until the dough reaches the top of the pan.
Remove the plastic wrap and place the pan on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for another 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
Let the kulich cool in its pan for 20 minutes, then carefully remove it from the pan. To glaze, mix the the powdered sugar, cream and vanilla together in a small bowl. Pour the glaze over the top of the kulich while it is still a little warm, letting it drizzle down the sides. Use the raisins or candied fruit to decorate the top with an Orthodox cross or with the Cyrillic letters XB, which stand for "Christ is risen."
To serve your kulich, cut off the rounded crown and set it aside. Cut the loaf in half vertically, then set the halves on their sides and cut into half-moon slices. Replace the crown to keep any remaining bread moist.