Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easy Kulich

I love kulich! I love panettone! They are two very similar breads from two different parts of the world, shaped completely differently. Kulich is always a tall, cylindrical loaf full of fruit and nuts, originating in Russia, and is traditionally served at Pascha. Panettone is a round boule-shaped loaf full of fruit and nuts, originating in Italy, traditionally served at Christmas. I've been letting my bread machine knead and rise my panettone for years with great results, so this year, I decided to try this for my kulich.

The first thing you have to do is to decide what you are going to cook it in. Most recipes call for 1 or 2 lb coffee cans, but nowadays, coffee comes in cans with peel-off tops, and have a half-inch or so inner lip which makes getting the kulich out in one piece pretty much impossible. A large tomato can isn't really large enough in my opinion, though I nearly used one this year.

Then I remembered an old, hippy style vegetarian cookbook - one of the very first cookbooks I ever owned in the mid or late 1970s - Laurel's Kitchen. She advocated baking a dozen loaves of whole wheat bread at a time. Now, how can anyone possibly fit 12 loaves of bread in the oven, you ask? Easy! Use juice cans to bake them! I did this successfully for years and years while I was in my hippy phase... pretty much until I moved to Georgia from California. That was when I sold my blackened and well loved juice cans at a yard sale - yes, someone bought them to bake bread in! So, one can of pineapple juice later, I was ready to make my kulich.

Kulich dough is famously tempermental. It is very, very rich with many eggs, butter and fruit, which makes it difficult to rise. Sometimes, the gluten isn't strong enough to support the air pockets caused by the fermentation of the yeast when the dough is so very heavy and wet. Every year, at least one of my friends laments a flat or dry kulich.

This is what I did this year. Follow your bread machine's instructions as to the order ingredients should be added - my machine (a cheapie from Walmart) requires liquids to go in first with dry ingredients on top. I'll probably play with this recipe a bit, since it's not quite perfect yet...

Bread Machine Kulich

1/4 C Sherry or warm water
1/2 C dried fruits of your choice (I used raisins, dates and chopped apricots)
1/2 C milk (I used heavy cream)
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar
zest of one lemon
1/4 C softened butter at room temp
2 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 Tbs yeast
1/4 C slivered almonds (opt)

First, plump your dried fruits in 1/4 C sherry for about a half hour. You should use 1/2 C of dried fruit. Drain the fruit and set aside, but reserve the soaking liquid to add to the bread machine with the milk.

Put all ingredients except the fruit and the nuts into the bread machine on the dough setting in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Turn the machine on.

While waiting, prepare the can by buttering it very, very well. Make sure that there are no sharp edges sticking out as sometimes happens when you open a can. Set the can aside.

At the appropriate time (mine beeps when ready), add in the fruit and nuts and let the machine do the work of kneading and rising.

When the rising is completed, take the dough out of the bread machine and place into the prepared large juice can. The dough will be very wet and sticky - you will probably need to use a spatula to scrape the dough off the sides and paddle of the bread machine. It will plop into the can. Use the spatula to "stab" it a few times to make sure that there are no major air pockets in the can, then smooth the top as best you can. Let it rise for about 20 minutes until it has nearly reached the top of the can.

Place into a preheated 350F oven and check after 40 minutes. It should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Mine needed 10 more minutes, so the total baking time was 50 minutes. Let it sit in the can for 5 or 10 minutes, then carefully slide the bread out - mine came out very easily. When I used to bake bread in cans, it always came out as long as I used butter or crisco to grease the cans.

I started this at 7:30 pm last night, and it was ready (still hot, but ready just the same) when I left for church at 10 pm. I didn't bother with any icing, firstly because I prefer my kulich without icing, and secondly because it was still hot from the oven!

Yummy, and so very easy! A picture will follow once I take one!

1 comment:

Lidya said...

And so I was looking to find a bread maker recipe for my Easter Kulich and googled and whose post do you think came up close to the top of my list, my good friend Denises's in Savannah and my old church. Thanks, D. Will miss all of you this Pascha!