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How to make kulich

Sweet yeasted bread studded with fruit? Come Easter, the hot cross bun is one answer. Pastry chef Catherine Adams introduces another, the traditional Easter bread of Russia.

By Catherine Adams
  • 25 mins preparation
  • 45 mins cooking plus standing, proving
  • Serves 8 - 10
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Easter is of course the time for hot cross buns, but there are other yeasted baked goods studded with fruit that are traditional at this time. A fine example is kulich (pronounced koo-litch), an Orthodox Christian Easter bread hailing from Russia. My partner's mother grew up in Turkey and her Russian mother used to make this version, a fairly classic recipe.
Step 1: Soak the dried fruit

Step 1: Soak the dried fruit

First, soak the dried fruit - a mixture of any dried fruit you like. I include mixed peel for a nice zesty note. The fruit is soaked in rum, which I warm first so it's absorbed more easily. If you're organised, soak the fruit overnight; otherwise a few hours will be fine.
Step 2: Infuse the milk with saffron

Step 2: Infuse the milk with saffron

Some kulich recipes include saffron, which adds a nice colour and a little extra flavour, but this comes down to personal preference. I use saffron powder rather than threads because it dissolves more evenly in the dough.
I don't think you have to activate dried yeast in liquid first, but it helps set off the activity straight away. To do this, warm the milk to blood temperature and then add the yeast. Bubbles appear as it starts to activate; a little sugar helps the process along, too. I use milk as the liquid here which, along with the butter and eggs, makes a lovely rich dough.
Step 3: Cream the butter and sugar

Step 3: Cream the butter and sugar

While the yeast is activating, cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer, using either a paddle or whisk attachment for this step. Beating the butter and sugar until the mixture is creamy and pale adds lightness to the cake, and softens the butter so it combines more effectively with the eggs. Some recipes say to add the eggs one at a time, but I like to whisk the eggs and yolks together first to break up the protein a little, which again combines more effectively. When you're whisking in the beaten egg, the mixture will split a little, but the flour brings it back together.
Once the yeast mixture is added, switch to the dough hook. When all the ingredients are added be sure to knead the dough on slow speed to develop the gluten and give the dough elasticity (it also prevents the mixer overheating).
Step 5: Add the dried fruit, and leave the dough to prove

Step 5: Add the dried fruit, and leave the dough to prove

Once the dough is ready, stir in the nuts and fruit and then transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover it and set it aside in a draught-free place until it has doubled in size, which takes about two hours. The slower the proving the better the flavour, so if it's a cold day it may take longer, but you'll have a better flavour. Knock back the dough, shape it to prove again. Proving the dough twice helps to develop the structure of the dough, and again the flavour.

Step 6: Knock back the dough, then place it in a mould

The dough is traditionally baked in tall cylindrical tins such as coffee tins, but here we've used a paper panettone mould, which you can find at good kitchenware shops.
Step 7: Bake the kulich

Step 7: Bake the kulich

Once the kulich has increased its size to reach the top of the mould, bake it in your pre-heated oven.
Step 8: Make the icing

Step 8: Make the icing

A simple icing can be made using pure icing sugar. You'll need to sieve all the lumps out, then add enough liquid just to form the drizzle consistency - one that will run down the sides a little, but still set, or you can brush it heavily over the top so it just reaches the sides. I like to use both lemon juice and cream to make a richer topping, but you can use other flavours, such as orange or rum.

Step 10: Serve your kulich with paskha

I've included here my recipe for paskha, a fresh farmhouse cheese that's the traditional accompaniment to kulich in Russia. Western recipes tend to call for ricotta and cream cheese; I use ricotta and crème fraîche as the base and make a custard with cream. It's not overly sweet - there's not much sugar in the recipe but candied fruit adds a little more sweetness. Traditionally the paskha is set in flower pots lined with muslin to soak up the excess moisture that seeps out, or a wooden box, then weighted and refrigerated overnight. Often the top is marked with "XB", meaning Christ is risen, shaped and decorated with more candied fruit.
Here we've served the paskha in a bowl and garnished it with extra candied peel. Spread it over your slices of kulich and you've got a lovely rich yeast-flavoured cake, with rich bursts of sweetness and texture from the cheese. Perfect with a hot cup of tea, or glass of Champagne


  • 75 gm each mixed peel and sultanas
  • 60 gm cranberries
  • 40 gm golden or dark rum
  • 190 gm milk
  • Pinch of saffron powder
  • 12 gm instant dry yeast
  • 435 gm plain flour
  • 127 gm caster sugar
  • 130 gm butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40 gm slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • To decorate: assorted white sugar sprinkles
Lemon icing
  • 120 gm (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sieved
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 100 gm pouring cream, milk or water


  • 1
    Soak dried fruit in warmed rum for at least 2 hours or, better still, overnight.
  • 2
    Warm the milk and saffron in a saucepan over medium heat until the milk is infused with saffron, set aside to cool to about 37C, then add yeast, 20gm flour and 12gm sugar, stir to combine, and stand until foamy (15 minutes).
  • 3
    Beat butter and remaining sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy, then gradually add beaten eggs and yolks, vanilla and a pinch salt. Add yeast mixture and mix until combined.
  • 4
    Change to a dough hook, add remaining flour and mix on low speed until dough is smooth and elastic (18-20 minutes).
  • 5
    Add dried fruit including rum, and almonds, and mix until just combined, then transfer to a buttered bowl, cover and set aside in a draught-free place until doubled in size (2-2½ hours).
  • 6
    Knock back dough, then place in a paper panettone mould 17cm high and 15cm diameter, cover with a plastic container sitting over it or cover loosely with plastic wrap to stop dough drying out and set aside until dough reaches the top of the paper (40 minutes to 1 hour).
  • 7
    Preheat oven to 200C. Once kulich has reached the top of the mould, transfer it to oven, reduce heat to 190C and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven to 180C and bake until kulich is dark and an inserted skewer withdraws clean (40-45 minutes). Cool kulich on a wire rack.
  • 8
    Meanwhile, for lemon icing, sift sugar into a bowl, add lemon juice and gradually mix in other liquid until a thick but pourable icing forms.
  • 9
    Once kulich is completely cool, remove panettone paper and glaze with lemon icing.
  • 10
    Scatter sprinkles on top of kulich and set aside until icing has set (30 minutes). Serve with paskha. Kulich is best eaten the day of baking.
  • undefined: Catherine Adams