Guest chef

Olia Hercules

Olia was born in Soviet Ukraine, and now lives in Britain and has a son, Sasha. As a Leiths-trained chef, recipe writer and food stylist, she honed her cooking skills in the kitchens of Ottolenghi and cherishes the Uzbeki, Moldovan and Russian recipes inherited from her grandmothers and aunts.

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  • Makes 4 loaves, each serves 2-3 portions
  • Prep 45 mins
  • Total time 1 hr 30 mins, plus proving and cooling times
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step by step

  • 1Stir the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar into the flour. Add the tepid milk and mix to a soft dough, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
  • 2Beat the eggs and vanilla with the remaining sugar and a big pinch of salt until pale and foamy. Mix this, the butter, ground almonds, semolina and cardamom into the dough; use a wooden spoon initially to combine, then knead in the bowl until it comes together.
  • 3Dust your table generously with a handful of flour, tip out the dough and keep kneading until it is elastic and stops sticking to your hands, about 5 minutes. Return to the bowl, cover and leave to rise again for 1 hour.
  • 4Finally, tip out, flatten the dough and scatter over the sultanas, apricots and figs. Knead them into the dough until well incorporated.
  • 5Generously butter 4 x 400g cleaned tins (see Kitchen Secret) and pop a disc of baking paper in the base of each one to line it. Divide the dough between the tins. Cover with greased clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until the dough has risen up above the tops of the tins.
  • 6Preheat the oven to 180°C, fan 160°C, gas 4. Place the tins on a baking tray and bake for 25 minutes on the lowest shelf of the oven; cover with foil so the tops don't brown too much and bake for a further 15 minutes.
  • 7Let them cool in the tins, on a wire rack. Loosen the kulich from their tins and remove the base papers. To make a glaze, whisk icing sugar, lemon juice and water together and drizzle on top of the breads in or out of their tins, letting it drip along the sides. Add sprinkles, if you wish.
  • Avoid using ring-pull tins to make the kulich – they have an inner ridge that makes it hard to remove the bread. If you don't have any empty tins, buy tins of tomatoes, empty the contents into food bags and freeze, ready for later use. Wash the tins well and remove the labels before use.
  • Recipe photograph by Dan Jones

Get ahead

The kulich can be made the day before.

You will need

  • 2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 175ml tepid milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 25g melted butter for greasing
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g semolina
  • 8 cardamom pods, seeds ground
  • 150g sultanas
  • 100g dried apricots, chopped
  • 60g dried figs, chopped

To decorate

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp water
  • sprinkles to decorate, optional

+ Nutritional Information

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