Pasha & Kulitsa ready to be served

Kulitsa & Pashka & Tsoureki & Challah

Kulitsa/Kulich & Pashka/Pasha are very Eastern European celebratory traditional Easter foods.   Curiously, many of these Easter breads are very similar…They have a form of braiding ( think of Tsoureki, Challah) and tend to have that element of sweetness in the sense that the doughs are more can I say briochy having that eggy texture.

Sweet Easter bread was a celebration and a contrast to sourdough breads that featured in the usual day to day diet.

Part of my family originally comes from eastern Finland, a region called Karjala or Karelia for English speakers. Kulitsa is an Easter bread traditionally made by the Greek Orthodox people of that region. The way the Russians shape their Kulich is a bit different to the way the Karelians do.  Russians make their Kulich into a tall dome shape ( large coffee tins come handy as moulds for this purpose ) and often wrap a braid around the dome. The icing on top is supposed to represent the snow melting away and signifying the start of spring. The Karelian version makes a decorative braid around a more ball shaped bread and places a symbolic cross on top, made out of a braid too.

Eggs are used as side decorations, usually painted with different food colouring, some very elaborate and decorative.

When I was a kid I remember we used to have an egg challenge: we would each pick an egg and crack it with the next person to find out who had the hardest egg. Cracked eggs had to be eaten, the one with the hardest egg was supposed to have good fortune.

Neither the Kulitsa or Pashka are meant to ever be sprinkled with decorations because of the religious symbols imposed on the surface, such decorations would hide their religious message.

Kulitsa and Pashka should be served together because one is meant to compliment the other. Kulitsa is the Easter bread and Pashka is the spread that goes on it. In fact, Pashka is very rich and older recipes use huge quantities of butter. I have actually halved the amount of butter specified in the recipe my aunt gave me years ago. Other ingredients in Pashka are quark and ricotta cheese, eggs of course, dried fruit,  almonds and spices!

Different family recipes will have their own take on spices and dried fruit mixes. In effect, the spices and fruit mixes I personally use are very much now influenced  by what is available locally where I live.

Pasha mould and Kulitsa Bread

To me part of Easter is to keep certain traditions alive and enjoy the company of your family and friends. Happy Easter!

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