Originally published in The Northern Light.
Some people have just recently celebrated Easter, but for many Alaskans who are Russian Orthodox, Easter comes on April 8.
Since the 1700s, Russians have been intertwined with Alaskan culture. Since Russian America was established, missionaries made impressions on native people from all over the state. Many Russians immigrated to Alaska, and continue to do so today. This has created a rich and unique Russian Orthodox culture here in Alaska.
Easter bread, or kulich, is a decadent, egg-rich bread that is traditionally baked in oversize coffee cans. The bread rises in the oven and typically pours over the top of the can, an act that is symbolic of Christ rising on the third day, and the celebration of Easter.
Abby Slater, The Northern Light’s features editor, helped me make this using her aunt’s recipe. The recipe was old and sparse, and we needed to ad-lib along the way. Here’s the recipe we ended with. Make sure that if you are using coffee cans, they are small. You can also use a normal bread loaf pan.
- 1 quart milk
- 1 package dry yeast
- 2 and 1/2 cups sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1/2 pound butter, softened
- 2 cups of dried fruit or raisins
- Enough flour to stiffen dough to round the loaves (we used about 10 cups).
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Warm milk in microwaveable bowl. Add the yeast and allow it to get frothy, about five minutes.
3. Add in the sugar and mix together.
4. In a separate larger bowl, add seven cups of the flour. Gradually add in the wet ingredients into the bowl of flour to create a sticky dough.
5. Cover with a damp cloth and allow the dough to rise for 40 minutes.
6. After the dough has proofed, mix in the butter and dried fruits. Add the remaining flour to create a soft, elastic dough.
7. Form the dough into loaves and place in a loaf pan or in a coffee can. Fill about half full to allow the bread the rise in the oven.
8. Bake for about one hour, or until the bread is fully baked through.