This Russian Easter bread is traditionally baked in a tall deep
tin, but we've opted to braid it instead. The candied lemon glaze
is a twist on tradition. In Russia, kulich is served with pashka, a
sweetened fresh curd cheese.
7 gm(1 sachet) dried yeast½ tbspcaster sugar140 mllukewarm milk40 gmgolden raisins30 mldark rumPinchsaffron threadsScrapedseeds of 1 vanilla bean4egg yolks, at room temperature360 gmplain flour100 gmpure icing sugar, sieved30 gmnatural almonds, coarsely chopped30 gmcandied orange or cedro, diced100 gmsoftened butter, coarsely choppedFor brushing:eggwashCandied lemon glaze220 gmcaster sugarThinlypeeled rind and juice of 2 lemons260 gmpure icing sugar
Combine yeast, sugar and 100ml milk in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve, then stand in a warm place until foamy (5-10 minutes).
Meanwhile, combine raisins and rum in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until raisins are plump (4-5 minutes), strain liquid into a bowl (reserve raisins), then add saffron, vanilla seeds, yolks and remaining milk to rum, whisking to combine.
Combine flour, icing sugar, almonds, candied orange and 1 tsp salt in a large bowl, make a well in the centre, add yeast mixture, rum mixture and reserved raisins. Stir to combine, add butter and mix with your hands to combine. Turn onto a well floured surface, knead until smooth, dusting with extra flour if dough is too sticky (5-6 minutes). Place in a lightly buttered bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1-1½ hours).
Divide dough into two, roll each piece into a 50cm-long cylinder. Twist two cylinders together, join ends to form a ring shape, place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a tea towel and stand until risen (35-40 minutes).
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 120C. Brush kulich with eggwash, bake for 15 minutes, increase oven to 180C and bake until golden and an inserted skewer withdraws clean (25-30 minutes), then cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, for candied lemon glaze, combine caster sugar and 165ml water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Add lemon rind, reduce heat to medium and simmer until rind is tender (5-6 minutes; brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush if sugar crystals form), then strain, reserving syrup and rind separately. Place icing sugar in a bowl, add lemon juice and 80ml reserved syrup and stir until smooth and of drizzling consistency (add a little hot water to thin, if necessary). Spoon immediately over kulich, allowing icing to drizzle down sides, scatter with candied lemon rind and stand until set. Kulich is best eaten on day of making.