Кулич (Kulich) is a lightly sweet, yeast-risen bread baked with considerable amounts of egg and butter. It may also contain raisins, almonds, candied or dried fruit, lemon zest, and various spices including cardamom and even saffron depending on the recipe and personal preferences.
Почему он носит такое название?
The name “кулич” originated from the Greek word “kollix,” which means “a loaf of bread.”
The top of each loaf is called a “корона” or a “crown.” It is usually topped with a powdered-sugar frosting which is allowed to drizzle down the sides of the cake. The spikes created are vaguely reminiscent of Christ’s crown of thorns.
The letters “ХВ” also traditionally top the cake. They stand for “Христос воскрес,” or “Christ is risen,” the traditional greeting among Russians at Easter. The response to this greeting is “Воистину воскрес.”
Как правильно есть кулич?
Kulich is traditionally eaten only on Easter. It is usually placed together with писанки (Easter eggs – also called пасхальные яйца) and served together with пасха, a very rich desert made from thick cottage cheese, dried fruits, nuts, butter, and more. Before consuming, all three items are traditionally placed in a single basket and taken to a priest to be blessed on the Saturday service before Easter Sunday.
Most Russians today will cut a кулич like a normal cake – into wedges by slicing it directly from top to bottom. However, there is a particular traditional method to carving a loaf of кулич: first, the “корона” is cut off, and then the loaf is sliced horizontally and then cut in wedges to be distributed to members of the family. The “корона” can then be placed back on top, keeping the aesthetic appeal of the loaf and preserving its moistness. In this manner, at each breakfast during the Easter Week, a small piece of the cake is eaten.
At Easter breakfast, when the Lenten fast is broken, the head of the household divides one blessed Easter egg between all members of the household, and does the same thing with кулич and пасха. Each portion is said to contain happiness for the upcoming year.
It should also be mentioned that in some ways, the answer to the question “как правильно есть кулич?” (how do you properly eat a кулич?), is that you don’t. Thought to have a range of mystical properties, often several кулич will be baked for Easter celebrations. At least one is meant to be consumed by the family. However, others might be baked to give to the local priest as a tithing, others might be baked to be fed to farm animals to ensure their health and virility, still others might be baked and left in a traditional “красный угол,” or “red/beautiful corner,” which is where Russian houses traditionally kept icons, in honor of dead relatives.
Как правильно готовить кулич?
Кулич can take different shapes, but is usually round and tall. Baking кулич was one of the most important ceremonial duties for the woman of the house, as the fate of the family depended upon it. Russians have traditionally been a dramatic and superstitious people, and this applied even to the baking of a кулич. It was said that “если кулич хорошо поднялся и вышел ладный, то в семье будет все хорошо. А если тесто в печи не подошло или растрескалась корка, надо ждать несчастья.” (If the кулич rises well and is formed nicely, it means that the family will be alright. But if the dough does not rise in the oven, or if the кулич crust cracks, then expect disaster.)
The “корона” is traditionally frosted with a thick, powdered sugar glaze, which is allowed to drip down the side. However, it might also be topped with a chocolate glaze or not topped at all. In fact, in some peasant households in Russia, the top was often not glazed, but rather was simply marked by cutting a cross into the dough as it baked, similar to English hot cross buns.
To make sure that the final product holds it traditional form, modern chefs usually use special бумажные формы для кулича (paper forms for кулич), which can now even be bought online in Russia.
Baking кулич is a time consuming process, requiring time for the dough to rise at various points; the classic кулич was typically prepared a few days before Easter. While many Russians today continue to bake кулич from their traditional family recipes, some save time by using quick-rising yeast.
Many other Russians simply place orders at their local bakery or, perhaps most commonly, simply buy one of the vast variety of кулич that appear at grocery stores and even roadside stands during the Easter season. At most stores in Moscow, one can find everything from cheap, locally produced кулич to imported Italian panettone, which is similar enough to the кулич that it is often eaten as a substitute for it.
In any case, the кулич is an ancient Russian tradition that still plays a strong role in Russian culture today. This Easter, try to make one yourself!
|Кулич “Оригинальный”||“Original” Kulich|
Our Favorite Videos about Кулич
Make a кулич with Russian celebrity chef Alexander Seleznev! For those interested in learning more about пасха, Alexander can help you out there too!
This 9-minute video by Готовим Дома (Gotovim doma) shows a simple, quiet, step-by-step guide on how to prepare кулич. It takes you through the process of preparing the dough and baking кулич. Learn Russian cooking verbs (наливать, перемешать, накрывать, печь, и т.д.) while seeing the action on video. This recipe is particularly long, but it also offers baking tips and suggestions, and allows you to observe the texture of the batter at every stage in the process. The original recipe can be found on the website of Готовим Дома here.
Сливочное масло? Растительное масло? Маргарин? (Butter? Vegetable oil? Margarine?) As with many popular holiday fares, for which each family has its own recipe, it all boils down the personal preferences. This is a clip on кулич and the Easter celebrations from the Russian program “Вкусная Еда” (Delicious food).
About the Authors:
Josh Wilson is SRAS’s Assistant Director and General Editor.
Eugenia Goh is an international studies major at the University of Denver. She studied for a semester with SRAS in Kyrgyzstan on our Central Asian Studies course before transferring to Moscow to study for another semester on our Russian Studies Abroad course.