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Friday, April 15, 2011

Kulitsa, a sweet bread for Easter

Kulitsa is a sweet, fruity bread served at Easter in eastern Finland and Russia.  It is wonderful with pasha spread on it!  The recipe for pasha is here.

There are a lot of recipes for this bread, some include saffron, currants, or citron.  I got this recipe from a Finnish site, here.  Of course I made a couple of modifications...

The ingredients are:

1 1/4 cups warm milk (3 dl)
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 cake of fresh yeast)
2/3 cup sugar (1.5 dl)
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 stick butter, melted (50 g)
1 teaspoon cardamom
grated peel of one lemon
a little less than 1 cup raisins (2 dl)
1/2 cup ground almonds (1 dl)
about 4 1/2 cups of flour (11+ dl)

First, I washed a lemon well and grated the peel.  The microplane grater in the back works really well, but you can also use any fine grater, like the one the lemon is sitting on.  Make sure and only take the yellow part of the peel, the white part is really bitter.

Warm up the milk, but don't get it too hot or it will kill the yeast.  I put the milk in the stand mixer bowl, then stirred in the sugar and yeast until it was dissolved.  Next, I added all of the rest of the ingredients except the flour and mixed well.  I added the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough started to pull away from the sides of the bowl.  Note that this dough is MUCH stickier than regular bread dough, this is because of the milk and extra eggs.

Grease a non-metal bowl (I sprayed it with cooking spray) and put the dough in it to rise.  I sprinkled the dough with flour to get it out of the stand mixer bowl, otherwise it would have been a sticky mess.  Cover the dough with a clean towel and put it in a warm place to rise.  I used my warming drawer, but you can put it in any warm place.  If you turn the oven on as low as possible for a few minutes, then turn it off again, you can put the dough in to rise--just don't forget and leave the oven on.

Let the loaves rise, covered, for another 1/2 hour.  Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C) and then bake for about 40 minutes.  The original recipe suggested basting with egg before baking, but I forgot.  I think the loaves are beautifully brown anyway.  The outside of this bread bakes to a deep brown color, but the inside remains soft and golden.  Sweet and delicious.

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