I wouldn’t have thought that this saying would apply to Russian Easter bread, but it does. Try as I would to avoid the whole production, memories of kulich sandwiches filled with paskha, the traditional Easter cheese dessert, would not leave me in peace. So, out came the forms, the myriad of recipes for purposes of comparison, and finally, voila, the kulichi! I must say, these little creatures have a mind of their own, and require a certain level of physical ability because they MUST be kneaded until very elastic or they will not rise. Even with warm Sonoma sunshine and heat, they SLOWLY climbed their way up the bowl and again in the forms over a 36 hour period last week, way slower than they ever performed in foggy and cooler San Francico, even with the help of a heating pad! Go figure.
Now as I enjoy every morsel of every slice, I rejoice in the fact that my kulichi are fragrant, light, moist and well – almost perfect. A few inches higher would have been ideal, but as they lost their interest in rising, an executive decision was made to crank up the oven and get them baking before it was too late.
Don’t know why but ever since relocating to Sonoma, kulichi have caused me mental anguish every year. Last year was the worst – total failure – my only one in all the years. I could have knocked out my neighbors’ windows had I sent one of those yeasty trajectories sailing across the street. But all’s well that ends well. Next year’s goal will be to get the family recipe down to one dozen eggs from the 48 originally required when my mother and I baked kulichi for the 75+ guests who came to our Easter open house.
To finish off this Easter season (40 days after Sunday in the Eastern Orthodox tradition) I plan to make paskha. It’s getting harder and harder to find the most required ingredient, bakers’ cheese. My longtime friend, Katia Troosh of Katia’s Russian Tea Room in San Francsico, claims that it’s simpler than simple to make the cheese. So next week, my mission is to give it a try and if successful, I’ll be following up with the famous Lobanovsky paskha. Wish me well…and I’ll promise another update with a picture of the second most necessary dessert for the Russian Easter celebration – paskha. Kulich and paskha, like peaches and cream, Bogie and Bacall. There’s nothing like them!