Makes 2 loaves
Note: This recipe, adapted from a Martha Stewart Living recipe from the early 1990s, is baked in two tall, clean cans, each holding about a quart.
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch saffron threads
1 1/2 packages rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened, divided
4 1/2 cups flour, divided, plus more for kneading
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon each lemon and orange zest
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 eggs plus 1 yolk
Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten, plus 1 tablespoon water
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1. Heat milk and sugar, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Add saffron; let steep as it cools to 100 to 110 degrees. Stir in yeast. Melt 1 tablespoon butter; add to milk mixture along with 1 cup flour. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes.
2. Mix the raisins, almonds and brandy. Set aside.
3. Punch down dough with a wooden spoon; stir in another cup of flour. Mix well; let rise another 30 minutes.
4. Punch down dough again, then transfer to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add remaining softened butter, citrus zests, cardamom, vanilla, raisins, nuts and brandy. Beat the eggs and yolk; add to the dough. Blend until incorporated; knead with dough hook a few minutes more.
5. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, then knead by hand until dough is smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour only if needed.
6. Grease the inside of a large mixing bowl. Place dough in bowl, turning to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.
7. Grease the cans thoroughly. Butter a length of parchment paper, roll it butter-side in, then slide it into a can so a collar protrudes from the top. Repeat with second can. Remove all but the lowest rack of your oven.
8. When dough has doubled in size, cut it in half. Roll each half into a cylinder and drop into cans. (It's easiest to hold the dough well above the can so it elongates, the bottom sagging downward. Then drop it in.) Give the cans a little shake, then pull the parchment gently upward to reduce any wrinkling. The dough should fill each can half to two-thirds. Any extra dough can be baked in a loaf pan or muffin pans. Let sit until dough doubles in size again, about 25 minutes.
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
10. Brush dough with egg wash. Bake for 35 to 50 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and top is domed and golden. Cool in cans for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a soft surface to cool on its side. (Legend has it that in Russia, kulich cools on soft pillows to prevent flattening the sides. We use a pile of soft, clean kitchen towels.) When the breads are completely cool, they can stand upright.
11. For the glaze, mix powdered sugar with vanilla, whisking in water a few drops at a time to form a very thick glaze. Let rest 15 minutes or more to thicken. Whisk again. Pour a puddle over the dome of the kulich, letting it drip partway down the sides. Add sprinkles on top.
-- Adapted from a Martha Stewart Living recipe