In every issue of BBC History Magazine, picture editor Sam Nott brings you a recipe from the past. This time, Sam recreates kulich – a rich, buttery Russian sweet bread usually eaten at Easter, but tasty at any time of year.
Often baked in a coffee tin so its shape resembles that of the hats of Russian Orthodox priests, kulich remains a tasty treat after the restrictions of Lent. Traditionally it is decorated with the letters XB – Христос Воскресе (Khristos Voskrese – Christ is risen).
For the bread:
20g dried active baking yeast
350ml warm milk
200g caster sugar
750g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
250g butter, softened
80g chopped mixed peel
For the icing (optional):
1 egg white
250g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
For the bread: Dissolve yeast in 100ml warm milk, add ½ tsp sugar. Soak sultanas in rum.
Sift 120g of flour into a bowl, add remaining 250ml milk and mix well. Add yeast mixture, cover, and let it stand in a warm place for 30 mins. Separate egg yolks and beat with sugar until fluffy and pale in colour.
Stir in the rum, add vanilla and mix. In a separate bowl, add a pinch of salt to egg whites. Whisk until peaks form and set aside.
Add egg yolk mixture to yeast mixture and mix. Fold in the egg whites. Add the remaining flour in small batches, mixing well each time. Knead until dough separates from sides of the bowl. Transfer dough to a flat surface and knead for 10 mins. When pliable add butter, 50g at a time. Knead for 2 mins and form into a ball. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and wrap in a tea towel.
Leave to rise in a warm place for 90 mins. When dough doubles in size, remove and knead for 2 mins. Then knead in sultanas, almonds and mixed peel.
Line a tin with baking paper, fill 1/3 full with dough and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove until dough rises to the top.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake for 45–60 mins.
For the icing: Mix raw egg white with icing sugar and lemon juice. Spread over the top of the bread and let it drizzle down the sides.