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Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Bread- Kolach

Ukrainian Kolach
The traditional bread for Sviata Vechera (Christmas Eve) is a kolach. It is braided and formed into a circle. The top is glazed with an egg wash. Its round shape gives it its name--kolo, a circle--and may symbolize eternity or the sun. The Kolach was placed in the centre of the table with a candle in the centre which was lit at mealtime. This beautiful tradition was carried out by my Grandmother and Mother. Every Christmas Eve all of Grandmother’s children with their own children would drive from different areas in Manitoba to be with their parents on Sviata Vechera translated Holy Night. .
This recipe comes out of book Traditional Ukrainian Cookery which was given to me by my brother Vernon after living with me in Winnipeg..
1 tsp. Granulated Sugar
1 cup lukewarm Water
2 packages Dry Yeast (2 Tbsp) if you use long acting yeast, I found it worked better around my schedule. Just punch down if you get busy with the kids.
2 cups Whole Milk
3 large Eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
2 Tbs. Butter, melted
8-9 cups All-purpose Flour, sifted
1 whole Egg, beaten with 2 Tbs. Water for glaze
2 Tbs. Poppy Seeds Optional
Dissolve sugar in the lukewarm water and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes.

Scald the milk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and then let cool to lukewarm, about 110-F degrees. Make sure that the milk has cooled or you will kill the yeast

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the warm milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and melted butter. Add 3 cups of flour and beat until smooth. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for about an hour. Gradually mix in the remaining flour until a soft dough forms. Be careful in how much flour you add as you want the dough to be soft but yet not stick.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough appears smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat with the oil. Cover and let rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Push down the dough and let rise for another hour, or until doubled in size again.

Divide the dough into three equal parts. On a lightly floured surface, divide one portion into three equal parts. Roll each portion into a 10-inch to 12-inch rope. Braid the three ropes together, starting at the middle and working your way out to both ends. Join the ends together to form a braided ring, leaving the center open. To have a nice base and a higher loaf, flatten a small ball of dough and place on the bottom of pan then place your braid on top of this disk of dough

Repeat the rolling and braiding process with the two remaining portions of dough.

Place the loaves on greased baking sheets. Cover and let rise until almost double in size. Brush the loaves with the egg-and-water glaze and sprinkle with poppy seeds. You do not need to let it double in size as it does rise in the oven. It will retain a nicer shape if you don’t let it rise to long.

Bake in a pre-heated 375-F degree oven for about 45 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks. Serve warm or store in an airtight container for use later. Nellie always baked her baking at a lower temperature so it would not burn, but then you need to increase the length of baking.
Christmas Kolach (Makes 3 Loaves)

Since the earliest times, tribes of Ukrainian peoples have inhabited this naturally abundant corner of the world, with its fertile fields and rich, dark soil.
Living in close harmony with the land, early Ukrainians had a deep understanding of the power of nature, so it's only natural that many of their holiday specialty recipes reflect the natural goodness of the land.

Today, you may find Christmas Kolach served at holiday tables where all family members are made welcome.
At the feasts of the Christmas season, they celebrate the holidays along with the living, the departed, and the yet-to-be-born.
My mom Nellie or her next door neighbour who would make this for her in GP never used poppy seed to sprinkle on the , also Mrs Maksymetz used a little sugar so her Kolach was always very light colored. Also Mrs M’s did not let her Christmas bread rise a lot before baking as it kept its shape and the braids were tighter than the picture shown.