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Russian Kulich and Red Russian Easter Eggs

Patty collects various recipes from past generations and is interested in early American history, the Civil War, and the 19th century.

"Christ is risen from the dead!" -- Greeting card from the historic Russian Empire period before 1917.

"Christ is risen from the dead!" -- Greeting card from the historic Russian Empire period before 1917.

The Kulich Easter Bread

Kulich is a traditional sweet bread made in Russia and Ukraine and likely in other nearby countries. I learned to make it from several Ukrainians.

A molded white cheese is traditionally prepared to spread on slices of the sweet bread, but I learned only to make the bread itself. Cream cheese or cream cheese frosting would be a fitting substitute.

Kulich and Easter Eggs

Kulich and Easter Eggs

How to Make Kulich

Kulich is a special Easter Bread in Russia that is often eaten only for the 40 days following Easter Sunday.

Save empty metal food cans like coffee cans and large tomato juice cans throughout the year and keep them washed and clean. Remove the labels and cut out the bottom of the cans as well. The large soup cans are the best size for baking this dessert.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 packets of active yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp pure lemon extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup soft butter
  • Grated peel of one medium orange and one lemon
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs, beaten

Optional (I like to add all three):

  • 2/3 cups toasted slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup currants or dried cranberries (cranberries add an extra tang)
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Instructions

  1. Use the water warm water to dissolve the yeast and add the smaller amount of sugar to this mix in a large bowl,
  2. Mix milk and water in a pan and scald it. Remove from heat and add it as well as the butter, lemon extract, sugar, salt and citrus peels. Cool to lukewarm and add beaten eggs.
  3. Beat in the flour until stiff. Then turn it out onto a floured board, working in more flour and knead it then for ten minutes.
  4. Continue kneading until dough is soft and elastic.
  5. Add nuts and fruits and mix well.
  6. Next, grease a large bowl, oil the dough and place it in the bowl. Cover it with a clean tea towel and let it rise to double.
  7. Punch the dough down and let it rest for 5 minutes.
  8. Grease the insides of the metal cans and set upright on a baking sheet. You may need to remove a rack from your oven in order to make enough room for the baking cans.
  9. Roll the dough into various size balls and put the balls into the greased tin cans.
  10. Oil the top of the dough in each of the cans and let rise until double.
  11. Bake at 350 degrees F. When a knife blade comes out clean, they are done.
  12. Roll the warm bread in clean dish towels and put on a cooling rack.
  13. Stand the cakes upright on a serving plate(s) and frost the tops with homemade frosting and additional fruits and nuts.
Red eggs are traditionally Russian and also favored by the Greek Orthodox community.

Red eggs are traditionally Russian and also favored by the Greek Orthodox community.

Russian Easter Eggs

Before the Communist Revolution in Russia, Easter was celebrated by the various Orthodox Christian Churches in the country. along with other denominations in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and nearby nations. Peasants found it easy to color eggs by using the strong dye afforded by red onion skins. Today, many people still use them, because they usually have red onions on hand and do not deed to by egg coloring kits.

Russian Easter Eggs are much different from Ukrainian Easter Eggs. Each of the countries Southeastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has its own traditions, colors, and designs for egg decoration.

Red Onions can be used to dye eggs.

Red Onions can be used to dye eggs.

Variations In Egg Traditions

The difference that I have seen most often is that the Russian tradition results in single-colored eggs that are bright and fun to view.

The Ukrainian eggs are intricately painted and can be of several colors each. In visiting a Ukrainian museum in Chicago several years ago, I was in time to see museum staff pulling out large drawers of preserved eggs painted in the Ukrainian tradition hundreds of years ago. The designs and colors were gorgeous! Other Slavic countries maintain their own coloring traditions.

Among the Orthodox Easter celebrators in Russia, there is this homemade recipe:

Red Russian Easter Eggs Recipe

Instructions:

  • Remove some red and yellow onion skins and put them into a cooking pot. Add water to cover and boil a few minutes.
  • Ad some raw white-shelled eggs (brown eggs won't color correctly).
  • Boil this mixture of eggs and dye for as long as it takes to produce a deep red color (usually about 12 minutes).
  • The eggs will emerge hard boiled and will look like a mystic creature's eggs in a very earthy and attractive color!

The old-style way is to wrap each egg in an onion skin, tie it up with string and suspend it in the boiling water for a long time.

For these Russian Easter Eggs, no further decoration is necessary.

Scene from a Russian advert for a new egg dye to replace onion skins

Scene from a Russian advert for a new egg dye to replace onion skins

Many Easter Eggs Break the Lenten Fast

Large numbers of Easter Eggs are prepared in rural areas where meat, eggs and dairy are all fasted for 40 days during Lent. Families are anxious to enjoy eggs once more on Easter Sunday and want to have plenty of them around.

NOTE: In Japanese and other cultures of Asia, strong green tea is used instead of onion skins.

Hard boiled eggs are cracked all over with many tiny cracks and the eggs are placed into a jar of the strong tea enough to to cover, all night long on the counter top or in the refrigerator. Soy sauce made be added to the tea to create a saltier taste and a deeper color.

On Easter Morning or other special occasion for which you decorate eggs, the eggs are shelled to reveal a beautiful design and tasty Green Tea Eggs.

Map: Slavic Countries That Have Easter Eggs

Similar Eggs of Poland and Romania

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS

Comments

william.fischer29 on May 20, 2011:

Wow, this is amazing hub, I learn more, I will try this.

BTW!! Thanks for sharing.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 04, 2010:

Thank you; interesting to know some styles are similar across former USSR. They are not identical over all that country and neighboring nations, however. Other native Russians tell me that Russia has had an additional, all-red egg that the Ukrainians do/did not have throughout Ukraine (2 of my Russian teachers, native, and native Russian and Ukrainian in-laws - most 20+ years in both Rus. and Ukr.; all of whom taught me how to do the eggs both ways). There was a TV commercial clip from Russia last year of a newer product for making the all-red eggs. It may no longer exist.

irinaalek7 from Florida,Miramar,USA on April 04, 2010:

I am a native Russian, lived in Ukraine for 30 years.( I live in the USA now) Russian Easter eggs are the same as Ukrainian Easter eggs. I had been doing the same painting job as you described.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 22, 2008:

I love green tea eggs, for sure. I have some in the refrigerator right now. Yum! Thanks for stopping by, Decrescendo.

Decrescendo on April 22, 2008:

Great food. I so want to eat something now.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 11, 2008:

I think I might pok holes in some shells and blow out the insides and cook them separately, then dye some lovely red shells. Then I could have a great natural arrangement.

AuraGem from Victoria, Australia on January 11, 2008:

Love reading about other cultures! Even though I really loathe cooking, this hub fascinated me - esp the eggs. A work of art! Natural art!

Thank you for an intriguing hub!

Smiles and Light

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 10, 2008:

Oho so funny Mr. M.! 

I have been saving some cans this last couple of weeks and am now ready to bake. What fun! I will try the Russian eggs again this year as well.

MrMarmalade from Sydney on January 10, 2008:

That is unbelievable and so easy to do.

Thank you Mrs. Magic