This brioche like sweet Easter bread glazed with a simple sugar icing or melted white chocolate, aka Kulich or Paska in Russian, is always the biggest hit at holiday brunches!
Try this Kulich recipe with another Russian Easter favourite Sweet Cheese Pudding Paskha.
I feel an incredible pull of tradition every year when Easter comes around. No matter how busy I am, the need to cook, bake and colour eggs overpowers everything else.
I’ve written about Russian Easter tradition of egg colouring. And if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that Easter is the biggest holiday in the Orthodox tradition, which affects everyone in the whole country… Orthodox or not. Everyone celebrates Easter.
What is Russian Easter Bread?
It’s called Kulich or sometimes Paska. It is a sweet bread, that every Russian and Ukrainian family eats for Easter. It’s an unbreakable tradition.
Its sweet, rich and buttery yellow-coloured flesh studded with all kinds of great things like golden raisins, candied citrus peel, almonds is what I want to stuff my face all the time.
But I wait till Easter like a good girl. If I were to compare it to anything I would say it’s a cross between Italian Panettone and French Brioche.
How to make Kulich
My grandma would start the dough the night before, let it rise overnight and wake up well before dawn to make all kinds of goodies. Sweet and savoury filled pastries, cinnamon buns and Kulich.
Waking up to the sweet aroma of freshly baked bread is one of my favourite childhood memories. And I hope to pass them onto my children.
My grandma’s baking was the best, none of my friends’ grandmas came even close to her greatness. Unfortunately, she never wrote down any recipes, and some of the most traditional Russian recipes, which she was the keeper of, got lost with her passing.
Because of such high expectations, only heightened by my nostalgic memories, I never thought I would like another Kulich. However, I wanted to revive the tradition in my own family, so I went on a recipe hunt.
I spent a while searching in hopes to find one that resembled my grandma’s. Truth is, I was only a child and didn’t remember how grandma made the bread. In the end, I had to turn to Natasha’s Kitchen.
Here is my rendition of the recipe. I used chocolate chips instead of the traditional raisins and I topped it with melted white chocolate instead of sugar glaze.
If you make bread or cinnamon rolls, making this Easter bread recipe is not too different. It takes a whole day because it consists to 3 stages. Nonetheless, none of them are time consuming or difficult.
What pan to use for Kulich
Kulich is baked to be a very tall bread, so large coffee cans are often used in Russia to create that traditional shape. However, I bake mine in a deep 8 inch cake pan.
You can also order special pans and molds, that are made for the Italian Panettone to bake yours.
Traditionally Kulich is covered with a simple sugar glaze made with a mix of icing sugar and water. My grandmother poured a combination of beaten egg white and sugar, which hardened and turned glossy.
I personally prefer using melted white chocolate to top my Easter bread. Sometimes I like to keep it unglazed and pipe the traditional Orthodox lettering on it.
XB, which stands for Christ is Risen in Russian. It’s the phrase you will hear people say to each other all day long. Powerful words that replace ‘hello’ for the day!
Usually our first loaf disappears within a couple of hours…thank God the recipe makes 3!
So you can indulge before the day knowing that your Easter table will be crowned with this gorgeous bread, that’s been enjoyed by generations of others before us.
More Easter recipes
- Double Decker Devilled Eggs
- Roast Leg of Lamb with Mint Sauce
- Glazed Ham
- Rosemary Potatoes au Gratin
Recipe originally published in 04/2015. Updated and republished in 04/2020.
Russian Easter Bread Kulich
For the bread
- 500ml/2 cups + 2 tbsp warm whole milk
- 6 eggs large, room temperature
- 9g/1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 400g/2 cups sugar
- 250g/0.5lbs butter melted (if using salted butter, omit the salt)
- ½ tsp salt
- 125ml½ cup sour cream full fat
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1kg 80g/9 cups bread flour divided
- 175g/1 cup chocolate chips or raisins
For the glaze
- 200g/7oz white chocolate melted
- 1 tbsp sprinkles
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or another large mixing bowl combine warm milk, eggs, yeast, sugar, warm melted butter, salt, sour cream and vanilla. Add 480g/4 cups flour to make a batter consistency of sour cream. Cover with a cling wrap and a towel and let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
- Add 600g/5 more cups of flour; one cup at a time or until the dough no longer sticks to your hands to make a very soft and elastic dough. Stir in chocolate chips or raisins, candied citrus peel or nuts. (Anything you like in your sweet bread). Cover and let dough rise another 2 hours in a warm place. The rising process will take longer if your house is not very warm.
- Divide dough evenly into three deep 8" baking pans, that have been well-oiled. Try not to handle the dough too much. Let dough rise uncovered in a warm place for additional 2 hours or until you see a significant rise.
- Bake at 350F/180C for 35-40 minutes or until golden. Remove from the pan and cook on a wire rack.
- Once the loaves are at room temperature, melt white chocolate in a double boiler over low heat and cover the tops of bread with it. Use sprinkles to decorate.