Kulich and Paskha, Russian Dessert Duo for Orthodox Easter

Russian Cuisine - Kulich and PaskhaTwo and a half years after publishing my recipe for baked paskha (one of my first blog entries!), I finally posted my kulich last week. So you can now prepare the two traditional Russian desserts for Orthodox Easter — or any other day you feel like having them, of course.

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Kulich, Russian Panettone

Once again, Orthodox Easter came and went, and I didn’t have the time to finish my kulich recipe on time. At least now I’ll have it ready for next year!

A kulich is a kind of Easter bread, somewhat similar to a panettone, but usually denser. Just as with panettone, you’ll find many different recipes with varying degrees of richness. On one end of the spectrum, the more bigoted recipes consider it sacrilegious to have too much of a good thing, and therefore result in something that’s still close to plain bread and pretty dry. On the other end, the better recipes from the most reputable sources tend to resort to common tricks for achieving sinful dessert decadence: push the amount of butter to stratospheric levels, and liberally add more egg yolks, more sugar, more fruits.

Russian Cuisine - Kulich

My rendition belongs, of course, to the latter category. It distinguishes itself by the variety of dried and candied fruits I’ve chosen, to reflect the diversity found on Russian markets, and by the use of saffron, in accordance with traditional kulich recipes that recommend the use of a dominant spice (other possibilities include cardamon and cloves). I also serve it with a rum-raisin crème anglaise.

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Happy Paskha!

Paskha, the Orthodox Easter, usually falls on a different day from its Christian counterpart, because its computation is still based on the Julian calendar. I realize I don’t have many Paskha-themed recipes, and almost no new ones since last year, but here it comes:

Baked Paskha

Paskha is a traditional dessert made of tvorog and shaped like a truncated pyramid. Culinary writer William Pokhlebkin notes that the cost of the dish used to mean that simple people could only afford it about once a year, and chose to time it for the end of the Lenten fast in the orthodox faith — in fact, the very name paskha comes from the name of Paskha, the Orthodox Easter! However, nowadays it is prepared at any time of the year regardless of the religious holidays.

Paskhas can be raw, cooked like a custard, or baked. In addition to the tvorog, they can contain cream, butter, eggs, sugar, nuts and dried fruits. The raw ones rely on whipped cream to hold their shape, while the cooked ones use egg yolks. Anything not baked is shaped using a wooden mold called pasotchnitsa.

I chose to make a baked paskha, similar to a very light cheesecake. I also prefer not to use nuts or fruits inside the paskha and instead add them later as elements that will complete the plated dessert. In order to keep the traditional shape but make individual portions, I am using a pyramid silicon mold: each pyramid measures 2.75″ length x 2.75″ width x 1.5″ high and contains 2.5 fl. oz.

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