Saturday, April 7, 2007

"Easter foods are primarily those of Easter Sunday, the day on which Jesus rose from the dead, a day of special rejoicing for Christians, who rejoice too at reaching the end of the long Lenten fast. The concept of renewal/rebirth is responsible for the important role played by the egg in Easter celebrations, a role which no doubt antedates Christianity. There are also special foods associated with the other days in the Easter calendar...In Europe, there is a general tradition, not confined to Christians, that Easter is the time to start eating the season's new lamb, which is just coming onto the market then...Easter breads, cakes, and biscuits are a major category of Easter foods, perhaps especially noticeable in the predominantly Roman Catholic countries of south and central Europe...Traditional breads are laden with symbolism in their shapes, which may make reference to Christian faith...In England breads or cakes flavoured with bitter tansy juice used to be popular Easter foods...Simnel cake has come to be regarded as an Easter specialty, although it was not always so. The most popular English Easter bread is the hot cross bun. The most famous Russian easter bread, kulich, also has a tall narrow shape. This shape is Slavic and of great antiquity...The kulich is based on a baba dough, with more sugar, plus additions of candied peel, almonds, raisins, and saffron. The bulging top is iced and decorated, usually with Cyrillic letters standing for 'Christ is risen'. Traditionally the kulich is take to be blessed at midnight mass on the eve of Easter Sunday. In some families it replaces bread for the entire Holy Week. It is served with Paskha, a sweetened confection based on curd cheese."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 266-267)

In response to the lack of coffee cans available anymore, Kulich molds are available in a variety of sizes.

Cheri's Kulich Recipe

This traditional Russian Easter bread, is baked, believe it or not, in an empty 2 pound coffee can. This unusual baking "pan" is what allows the bread to achieve its stately height. It was traditional to lay a single red rose on top of the glazed top of this impressive bread.
To serve, cut off the frosted crown and place in the center of a serving plate. Cut remaining loaf lengthwise, then in half crosswise and arrange on plate around the cut top.

2 1/2 C flour
1/4 C sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 T yeast
1/2 C milk
1/4 C butter
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C currants
scant 1/4 C sherry (preferably a sweet or cream sherry)
1/4 C slivered almonds
1/2 C confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 tsp. milk

Butter a 2-lb. Coffee can. Fold a doubled sheet of aluminum foil around the top of the can to extend it about 2 inches.
Soak currants and raisins in sherry for about 1/2 hour before beginning dough.
Combine yeast, 1 cup flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Heat milk and butter until butter is melted and mixture is very warm (about 115° on a candy thermometer). Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients with mixer slowly running, then beat until smooth. Beat in eggs, egg yolks and lemon zest. Gradually add remaining flour, beating well after each addition. Beat in almonds and sherry soaked raisins and currants. Knead until smooth and satiny. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Pre-heat oven to 350° F.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead a few times. Shape dough into a ball and place in greased 2 pound coffee can. Loosely cover top of can with plastic wrap or foil and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, or until dough almost reaches the top of the can (see photo).

Bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, remove from can after about 10 minutes and let cool completely.
To mix glaze, blend confectioner's sugar and milk until smooth. Spread glaze over top, letting it drizzle down the sides.

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