Georgian Kulich Easter Bread is a light and sweet yeasted loaf, flavored with the heavenly scent of orange, then lightly dusted with powdered sugar. The Georgian people make this delicious bread as part of their traditional Easter meal, but it is tasty anytime!
One of the wonderful aspects of visiting foreign lands is the opportunity to take part in the local holidays and customs, and luckily, that always includes a sampling of delicious local cuisine. I have so many recipes from all over the world that have become favorites in my kitchen, wherever that may be. Sometimes I can’t replicate them exactly for lack of ingredients, but the results are always interesting and I enjoy the creative aspect of putting together something exotic.
For the last two Easter seasons, we have been nestled in the Republic of Georgia, which fortunately, boasts an abundance of local fruits, vegetables, spices and local specialties. One such specialty is the (now world famous) Georgian “Easter” bread, locally known as Kulich. This slightly sweet yeasted bread starts appearing in markets, grocery shops and bakeries a few weeks before Easter and has many forms.
The original and most traditional form of Georgian Kulich Easter bread is tall round, baked in a special pan (kind of like a huge coffee can) – tall and cylindrical, sometimes with a white glaze dripping over the top and down the sides. It sort of reminds me of a huge over-sized cupcake. Beautiful to look at, really.
I have also seen them as small rectangular bread-shaped loaves, as braided breads and as round breads with part of the dough decorating the top as braids, rosettes or twisted shapes. After tasting the store-bought varieties, I decided that I really needed to bake one myself this year.
I don’t have the traditional Kulich bread pan available, or even a coffee can – I haven’t seen those here – so I used a round baking pan and braided my dough. Although, I’m thinking that the next time I make it, I’ll try making a round bread and keeping some of the dough aside to decorate the top. The top is brushed with an egg wash; it comes out nice and browned, but not crusty, as it is a soft bread.
Let’s Make Georgian Kulich Easter Bread
This yeasted bread begins much like any other yeasted sweet bread, and includes the addition of golden raisins (sultanas), orange juice, a bit of sugar and milk. Some versions include nutmeg, cinnamon and/or vanilla, although I opted to stay traditional and leave those out. The dough is pliable and easy enough to form into whatever shape you choose.
As it is not really an over-the-top gooey sugary dessert, a slice of it is perfect with a cup of tea or coffee as an after-meal dessert, or an afternoon snack. Jay really enjoyed it toasted and buttered along with breakfast.
The Orthodox Christians of Eastern Europe (think: Georgia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, etc.) all bake a similar bread especially for Orthodox Easter, which is celebrated later than the western Easter holiday. It is often referred to as Paska bread in other regional countries; it is only called Kulich Easter bread in Georgia, from what I can tell. This recipe often appears on blogs before the western Easter holidays, but I’m posting this now, as it is timely for where I am located this year.
But, please don’t think of this as strictly an Easter bread! This Georgian Kulich bread is tasty enough to make for any brunch, lunch, dinner or tea-time celebration or get together… any time of year!
It is not difficult at all to make, and I really hope you give it a try.
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Georgian Kulich Easter Bread
- ⅔ cup plus 1 TBSP warm milk
- 1 TBSP active dry yeast
- ⅓ cup butter, melted
- 3 TBSP orange juice
- 1 TBSP orange zest
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 TBSP sour cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2¾ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup sultanas, according to preference
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg or nutmeg powder
- 1 egg, for egg wash
- Heat milk to warm enough for yeast to bloom – you can test with a finger and if it is warm, but not too hot to keep your finger in, then it is ready
- Add to the milk: yeast, and 2 teaspoons of the sugar
- When yeast is bubbly and foamy, add melted butter, orange juice, zest, and eggs, stir
- In a large mixing bowl, mix flour, salt and sultanas plus (optional) spice
- Add liquid yeast mixture to the dry ingredients
- Knead into a somewhat sticky mass for at least 5 minutes.
- Lightly oil the dough so that it does not dry during rising and set in the mixing bowl. Cover with a dry towel and set in a warm place to rise
- When dough has roughly doubled in size, punch down and knead again lightly. do not overproof the dough!
- Preheat oven to 350°
- If you choose to decorate your cake with dough shapes, reserve ⅓ of the dough for decorating and form the rest of dough into desired shape
- Place dough in lightly floured baking pan and (if decorating) place dough decorations on the bread. NOTE: if decorating the top of your cake with dough designs, place any decoration dough that rings the outer edge at least one inch from the edge of your pan so the decoration stays on top of the cake as it spreads during baking.
- Optional: Egg wash – beat one small egg with 1 TBSP of water and lightly brush over the top of the cake for browning during baking
- Bake at 350° for between 30-40 minutes. If top is browning quickly, you can cover with aluminum foil for remainder of baking time.
- Remove bread from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before removing from baking pan. Completely cool on wire rack before slicing.