>> Tuesday, March 30, 2010
No, I don't have any Russian relatives, friends, not even an acquaintance... pity. But last Saturday I attended an excellent course on Easter breads at La Cocina de Babette, an alternative cooking school in Madrid. We prepared Russian kulich, British hot cross buns and Jewish challah. We had a grand time, though we did work hard. Making three leavened breads in just one day is quite an effort!
The course was taught by Paul Merry, an Australian baker based in England, owner of a baking school in Dorset (my dream life...). And baking side by side with a professional, you always "absorb" some expertise... at least that's what I like to believe. Kulich is a typical leavened sweet bread eaten at Orthodox households on the Easter Vigil. This Merry man knows this bread at first hand, as one of his aunts is married to a Russian. According to Tatiana M. Maslenikof, owner of the Russian restaurant El Cosaco, in Madrid:
On Holy Saturday, during the day, it can be quite hectic at a Russian home while preparing for the grand night. Children paint eggs and mark them with the letters X. B., the initials of Xristos Boscrecie (Christ is risen). The housewife has already been preparing the various dishes for several days, among them the traditional desserts paskha and kulich; the first one need to be pressed under some weight for two days... Fish is forgotten and hams, piglets, poultry and lamb take over the kitchens.
It's time for a general house cleaning and for adorning every corner with flowers. The table is covered with a white tablecloth and the colourful delicacies are laid on it.
I wonder about the age this is describing... I doubt this would be possible under the communist rule. I found this sweet bread is something in between stollen and brioche, with a soft inside and bursting with almonds and dried fruit. I loved to learn how to prepare it, as I had been eyeing the recipe in Tatiana's book for ages, but never had the guts to make it. The kulich recipe in the book is slightly different, with a lot more egg yolks. I'll try it some time. The main problem here in Spain is the bread shape. It's almost impossible to find a commercial mold with that height ratio (double height than width), so at the school we used empty tomato cans, scrubbed clean and lined with parchment paper.
Kulich according to Paul Merry
Makes 2 medium-sized kulich
Mix everything, cover and leave to ferment overnight at ambient temperature.
The next day, mix the ingredients together and then add to the first sponge. Leave it to ferment for an hour, until the surface is bubbly.
Eating kulich is a wonderful way to celebrate Easter... though that doesn't mean we won't be making Spanish torrijas this year, no, no, no. We are gluttonous...
I'm sending this Easter bread to Susan's YeastSpotting.