There are some family traditions so lost in time, their survival rooted in a deep sense of nostalgia, that they leave a gaping, cavernous hole if you ignore them. Kulich is an insanely difficult-to-make Easter bread and represents this type of tradition for me. The recipe literally says, “Begin early in the day, and start with a prayer.” I am too stubborn to heed such warnings.
Inevitably, I get to the week in lent where there is no time left to make the Kulich. It’s an all day affair! For the last several years, I have thrown in the towel, defeated by my own lack of planning, lack of 18 eggs stashed in the fridge, and the intimidating thought dogging me that it will fail to rise. Then it happens, as if by magic, I come home exhausted from Holy Saturday church services, and find a beautiful Kulich sitting in my foyer.
Growing up, my bestie and I would fight against all other siblings and perceived enemies (or just the neighborhood kids) over the iced top of the Kulich. She knows that this bread makes my Lenten struggles seem worthwhile, and she rescues me every year from my own depression and poor planning, by bringing it to me. I came home today and there it was in the foyer, waiting like a hug from the past, wrapped up in icing and sprinkles. A childhood memory of smells and treats, springtime and sleepovers, us against them. Her Greek husband thinks we’re both mad as hatters, and maybe we are.
This year as I was studying the recipe, and feeling a little bit Paul Hollywood-y, I felt I would be able to make a solid go of getting a successful batch of Kulich. In the past, my struggles have been intense and I’d wind up mid-day, mid-recipe, discouraged and slightly teary, ready to throw it out. My husband would perform some sort of rescue operation with fresh yeast, chest compressions, and set it to rise again. Much like Christ himself, it would! There have been construction light set ups, greenhouse victories, and engineering rigs worthy of a patent, that have coaxed the dough along into beautiful, yet temperamental loaves.
Early this morning I heard the door close softly and the rustle of grocery bags. I roused myself out of bed and saw 5 sticks of butter warming on the stove and I knew he was at it. I said, “How will we do all the steps? Neither of us will be home!” With a gleam in his eye he said, “I want you to be happy…. and I have a plan.”
He carried the batter like a baby with him in the car, strapped in, with the seat heat on, for his morning bike ride. He recruited his biking friends to work in the 12 cups of flour and knead it for 45 minutes. He then drove it back, seat heat still on, and set it to rise in a metal bowl to nap in the sun. I always wondered what we would be like as empty nesters and I think I’m beginning to find out.
This year’s Kulich is the best ever and there is no shortage of icing and sprinkles. It feels just right. Happy Pascha! Happy Easter! Christ is risen! And so has my bread.
© copyright Mariam d’Eustachio at Simply Turquoise 2022.