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Cranberry, orange and chocolate Kulich

13 April 2017

As a rule, I prefer food that is made for sharing. A magnificent, slow-cooked leg of garlicky lamb, or a gooey, steaming vat of creamy dauphinois potatoes: these are the foods that truly make a gathering a celebration. But there is also something rather pleasing about having a dish all to one’s self. My twist on traditional Easter Kulich - sweet, enriched individual bread buns studded with aromatic soaked cranberries and sweet, chocolate eggs - are perfect for those who prefer not to share.

Kulich are traditionally blessed at the end of the Easter service within Christian Orthodox communities, marking the end of Lent and the start of the long-awaited feasting and celebrations of Easter weekend. Thought to have originated in Russia, Kulich are a staple of Easter tables across central and South-Eastern Europe. Not dissimilar - although not to be confused with - Italian Panettone, these individual buns share the flavours and process of the hot cross bun, but offer a lighter texture and a fun alternative to our British Easter tradition.

Easter marks the end of Lent, and as such the end of abstinence and fasting. These enriched buns call for many a luxury - eggs, milk, chocolate and rich fruits - a welcome change for those of us that still honour these ancient traditions. 

As with any enriched bread, Kulich dough is quite wet and can be tricky to work with. I am loving my new Panasonic Bread Maker, which does all the hard (and messy!) work for me. I'd always thought that bread makers were only good for conventional loaves, but this little number has over twenty settings for all different kinds of dough. 

If you don't have a bread maker or a stand mixer with a bread hook fitting, you should use a dough scrapper for the kneading stage. 
THE INGREDIENTS
75g dried cranberries
1 orange
50ml boiling water
1 Earl Grey teabag
180g Mini Eggs 
200ml warm (37°C) milk 
120ml warm (37°C) water
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
450g strong white bread flour
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
7g fine sea salt
40g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
14g dried yeast
100g icing sugar
Fresh rose petals, to decorate (optional)

THE RECIPE
Roughly chop the cranberries and place in a small bowl. Stir through the zest of the orange (reserving the juice for the icing), then add the teabag and the boiling water. Leave to infuse for an hour, or until the fruit is plump and has soaked up all of the liquid. Discard the teabag.

Reserve 16 of the Mini Eggs for decoration, then place the remaining eggs on a clean tea towel, folding the towel over the top to cover. Use a rolling pin to roughly break up the eggs, being careful not to over crush them. Add the crushed Mini Eggs to the cranberry mixture.

Add the milk, water, eggs and vanilla to the bread pan of your bread maker. Next, add the flour, nutmeg, salt and caster sugar. Cut the butter into small cubes, then add these last so that they sit on top of the flour. Close the inner lid. Carefully pour the yeast into the yeast dispenser, and finally place the cranberry and Mini Egg mixture into the raisin/nut dispenser. When all of the ingredients have been added correctly, set the machine to go. It will take 2 hours 20 for the dough to be ready. 

If you don't have a bread maker, weigh the flour and nutmeg into a large bowl. Place the yeast on one side, and the salt on the other. Add the sugar, milk, water, eggs, vanilla and butter to the middle. Mix quickly to combine into a dough. Turn out onto a greased work surface, and knead using a dough scrapper for ten minutes. Add the cranberry mixture, mix through, then transfer to an oiled bowl. Cover and leave to prove for an hour or until doubled in size.

While the dough is proving, grease 8 heatproof mugs with sunflower oil, and line with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180°C fan.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Gently knead it to knock out the air. Weigh the dough, then divide it into 8 evenly sized pieces. Roll each piece into a small cylinder, and transfer to the lined mugs. Leave the dough to rise for 45 minutes - 1 hour.

When the dough has risen, carefully transfer the mugs to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the breads are golden brown, feel light for their size and sound hollow when tapped at the base. Cool in the mugs for ten minutes, then remove from the mugs and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the icing, mix the icing sugar with enough orange juice to make a thick icing. Spoon over the breads, and top with mini eggs and rose petals.

This post was written in association with Panasonic and AO.com

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