About this recipe:Kulich is a sweet yeast bread, similar to panettone, that is traditionally baked in Russia for Easter. But you can enjoy it anytime! It can be glazed or left plain. You can bake the bread in large coffee tins (like the ones you get from a cash n carry) so they keep their traditional shape.
For the bread
20g dried active baking yeast
350ml warm milk (about 40 C), divided
200g caster sugar, divided
750g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g butter, softened
80g almonds, chopped
80g mixed peel
1 egg white
250g icing sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
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Dissolve yeast in 100ml warm milk, add 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Milk should be warm, not too hot, or it will kill the yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the sultanas in rum.
Sift 120g of the flour into a bowl, add remaining 250ml milk; mix well. Add yeast mixture (it should become bubbly), stir well. Cover and let stand in warm place for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, separate egg yolks from egg whites. Beat egg yolks with sugar until it becomes fluffy and pale in colour, about 5 minutes. Drain the rum that was used to soak the sultanas; stir this into the mixture. Add vanilla and mix well.
In a separate bowl, add a pinch of salt to egg whites. Whisk until soft peaks form. Set aside.
Add egg yolks mixture to the yeast mixture; mix well. Gently fold in egg whites. Add remaining sifted flour in small batches, mixing well each time, kneading until dough starts separating from the sides of the bowl.
Transfer dough to a flat surface and keep kneading for 10 minutes (sprinkle over some more flour if needed). If dough is still too sticky, rub some oil on your hands.
When dough seems pliable and soft, start adding butter. Add butter 50g at a time. Knead a couple more minutes and form into ball. Transfer to clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and wrap in a tea towel. Leave to rise in warm place for 90 minutes.
When dough has doubled in size, remove and knead for 2 minutes.
Sprinkle some flour over sultanas. Scatter sultanas, almonds and mixed peel in a circle around the dough. Keep kneading, trying to incorporate the fruit and nuts into the dough evenly.
Line coffee tins with baking paper. You'll need to divide the dough according to the number and size of the tins you want to use. At this stage, the dough should only fill about 1/3 of the tin. Cover tins with clean tea towel and leave in warm place for a second proving. The dough should rise to the top of the tin.
Preheat oven to 180 C / Gas 4.
Bake for 45-60 minutes. Total baking time will depend on the size of your tin. I used 2 large coffee tins. You can check for doneness by inserting a skewer in the centre of the bread. If it comes out clean - your bread is ready. Remove from the tin and set aside to cool.
To make the icing: Mix raw egg white with icing sugar and lemon juice. Spread over the top of the bread and let it drizzle over the sides.
In 50 years of baking kulich I could not imagine turning kulichi out upside down. It needs to be done very slowly and sideways, otherwise the kulich can sink!
Panettone is cut as shown; kulich is NOT. It is cut horizontal and the slices halved or quartered. Kulich should cut into fairly smooth slices, which panettone doesn't and can't.
I knead everything apart from the peel and raisins at the beginning, having rubbed in a lot of unsalted butter into bread flour (essential). I use the whey wh has drained down from my paskha. I knead everything by hand taking care to keep the dough really wet. I knead it a second time adding the peel and raisins and then leave it to rise in the bowl a second time. It then gets a third kneading, by which time it will be coming away very clean. I line my tins (American coffee tins) with silicone parchment. So much easier than buttering paper. The baking is the really tricky part as is taking the kulichi out of the tins to cool - 25 May 2016