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Recipe: This Sweet Easter Brioche Bread Comes Together in Tin Cans

Inspired by Russian traditions, Kulichs is an Easter bread made with a sugary glaze and decorative sprinkles

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By Epicurious US | March 19, 2024 | Recipes

Every Easter when assistant food editor Kat Boytsova was a little girl, her Karelia-born grandmother would make buttery, brioche-like kulich in tin cans.

"She would use the same cans from year-to-year," says Kat, "and then store them until Easter came again." Throughout the Easter season during the years they lived in Uzbekistan and then Moscow, Kat's family would hand out a kulich to every visitor that came through their door. They took more freshly baked kulichs to church on Easter Sunday to have the loaves blessed before devouring them that afternoon.

The kulichs were sometimes plain or they could be studded with raisins or other dried fruit that Kat's grandmother had soaked in hot water to make them plump and juicy. But no matter what was inside the loaf, it was always glazed with a drippy white icing. Some say the icing represents the snow melting off the top of the church, others that the tall loaf topped with white represents the priest, standing regally in front of the Easter crowd in his bulbous gilded headdress. The topping could change based on the baker too. Kat's family favored candy sprinkles, but chopped nuts—such as bright green pistachios—and edible flowers are common too.

The one thing that never changed, at least in Kat's family, was the baking vessel: empty cans. Kulich can be made in any small can—bean cans, tomato cans, cans of broth—whatever you have on hand. (Just be sure to wash them thoroughly with soap and water to avoid transferring the flavor of the can's former contents into your newly baked treats. And if you're concerned about baking in cans that aren't technically meant for the task, opt for BPA-free cans, like the ones from Eden foods.)

Of course, a larger version can be baked inside a soufflé dish or a tall-sided cake pan, but there's something about the smaller versions that make them feel more festive—plus, when everyone gets their own kulich, no one is sore when you nibble off the frosting before eating the rest of it.

To make one large kulich, simply follow this recipe as instructed. If you'd like to add fruit, as Kat's grandmother liked to do, stir in about 2 cups raisins or other chopped dried fruit along with the rest of the ingredients before kneading.

Try not to overfill your can or you'll end up with a mushroom instead of a dome. Image via Pexels.

To bake individual kulichs, as in the photo above, brush eight 15-ounce cans with softened unsalted butter (or grease with cooking spray) and set aside before proceeding with the recipe. After the first rise, divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball by placing one piece onto your counter, cupping it with your hand loosely, and moving your hand in a circular motion. (Here's a visual guide to help you out.) You'll feel the surface of the dough ball tighten as it shapes itself into a perfect sphere. Keep any dough you're not working with covered with plastic wrap so that it doesn't dry out. Once the dough balls are shaped, place one piece smooth side up in each of the eight cans. The dough should fill the can about 2/3 of the way, so if you're working with cans of a different size, adjust your dough-ball sizing accordingly.

How to Make Golden Easter Kulichs Bread

Cover the cans with a clean towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise again for about 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough's peak is about 1 inch higher than the top of the cans. Place cans on a baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches of space around each can, brush each with an egg wash as indicated in the recipe, and bake at 350°F for about 25 to 30 minutes (the baking temperature is the same as for the larger loaf, but the bake time is significantly reduced).

When the kulichs are golden brown, remove them from the oven, tip them out of the cans onto a wire rack, and place them upright to cool completely. A simple powdered sugar glaze goes on top—to make it, mix 1 cup powdered sugar with about 5 teaspoons water, milk, or lemon juice. Using water will produce a bright glaze that dries a bit translucent; using milk will produce a richer glaze that is bright white; and using lemon juice will produce a more flavorful glaze that isn't quite as white as the first two. If your icing is too drippy, add more powdered sugar to thicken it—if it's not drippy enough, add a bit more of your chosen liquid.

Place the glaze in a bowl and have any other decorations you like at the ready. One at a time, turn loaves upside down and dunk into the icing up to the top ridge. Return dipped loaves upright to the cooling rack and dust immediately with sprinkles or chopped toasted nuts, or place edible flowers strategically around the perimeter. Once all of your kulichs are decorated, allow them to dry for at least 30 minutes. And then feel free to share them with everyone you know.

This recipe originally appeared on Epicurious US.