Ukraine is a country with probably the largest number of winter holidays, including two New Years and two Holy Eves; and the next week we’re going to celebrate the baptism of Jesus, preceding which is still another Holy Eve. It is traditional to celebrate the Holy Eves with twelve Lenten dishes, among which – at least in my family – is kalach, a traditional braided bread sprinkled with poppy seeds. My recipe of kalach is probably the tastiest one I’ve ever tried: soft, aromatic, tender, and literally melting in your mouth! It’s perfectly easy to cook and quite slow to get stale (my record after cooking double portion was one week, and that tiny bit that was left was still soft). To make it more varied, you can sprinkle it with almond flakes, add raisins or some spices to the dough (especially tasty is adding ½ tbsp cardamom pods), or even add jam to the braid! So, even if it isn’t a part of your traditions, I fervently recommend cooking it just to enjoy its softness or to make delicious toasts.
15 g compressed yeast
125 ml lukewarm milk
¼ tsp salt
50 g sugar
320-350 g flour
50 g butter, room temperature
Sugar and poppy seeds for sprinkling
- Put yeast and milk in a bowl and mix until yeast completely dissolves.
- Whip the egg until homogeneity.
- Add salt, sugar, and ¾ beaten egg to the yeast-milk mixture. Mix everything thoroughly.
- Add flour in parts and make soft, elastic dough.
- Add butter to the dough and knead for 8-10 min until the dough stops sticking to your hands.
- Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rise for 1 hour until it doubles in size.
- Pre-heat oven to 200oC.
- Roughly knead the dough once more and divide it into 3 even parts. Roll those parts to make 3 thin long stripes (approx. 25 cm long). Put the stripes parallel to each other and join their ends at one side. Braid them and join their other ends, rolling them slightly inward.
- Put your braid on the baking sheet, cover it with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 min more.
- Smear the braid with the rest of the egg and sprinkle it with poppy seeds and sugar.
- Put your kalach in the oven and bake it for 25-30 min until it browns. Let it cool down for at least 30 min before eating it.