Most cultures which celebrate Easter, have a type of yeast cake, yeast plait or hot cross bun to symoblise the rising of Christ on Easter Sunday. Greek orthodox families celebrate Easter with Tsoureki, Traditonal Greek Easter Bread, and I found this fantastic site called CDKitchen which has recipes for a large range of traditional Easter breads from different countries.
The blessing of yeast cakes at church on Easter Sunday is a tradition also followed by many Christians, and here is an artwork kindly shared by a friend, the wonderful artist Andrey Lyssenko, titled "Consecration of Easter Cakes. 80/70 cm. oil/canvas. 2010."
Andrey's paintings are always full of life and colour. In this painting I love the brighteness of light and seeing the rush of worshippers waiting for their cakes to be blessed at mass, so they can go on to celebrate Easter with their families. For me, this is a joyous painting and shares great insight into celebrating these Easter festivities.
One of the cakes I bake at Easter is a kulich, here is my photo...I know it is not in the correct tin (so please do not tell me off for this!!!) but I use what I have, which is an Angel food tin to get the height of the cake
Kulich is a traditional Russian Orthodox Easter cake, that usually has the initials 'XB' written in icing on the top, the Cyrillic initials for Christ is Risen. This dish is served with a sweet cheese and fruit dessert called Pashka. This yeast cake is a very rich, buttery yeast cake filled with fruits and almonds. I always make my yeast cake recipes in a bread maker to mix and rise the dough, it's quicker and easier. This cake freezes well, and is best eaten on the day or by the following day. You could use this recipe for any type of yeast cake, and just shape it differently or bake it in another shaped tin.
Recipe for kulich (Russian Yeast Cake)
4 1/3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
130 grams vanilla castor sugar (or castor sugar + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon bread improver
2 teaspoons dried yeast
250g softened unsalted butter
300ml full fat milk
1 ½ teaspoons lemon essence
1 cup of seedless raisins soaked in 3 tablespoons of rum or vodka, drained.
½ cup slivered blanched almonds
½ cup chopped candied peel
¼ cup currants
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk
4 tablespoons pure icing sugar
1 ½ tablespoons water
1 teaspoon lemon or orange juice
2 tablespoons slivered blanched almonds
10 red glace cherries
Put milk, lemon essence and left over rum, followed by all dry ingredients in order of ingredients list in bread making pan. Add eggs, slightly whisked to break yolks. Break up butter into knobs and add to pan. Set bread maker to bread dough mixture. Check in the early mixing stages that the dough isn't too dry and all ingredients are incorporated. If too dry add tablespoon fulls of milk at a time to the right consistency. If too wet and sticky add teaspoonfuls of flour. I add the fruit and nuts after the dough has finished rising, not during the fruit and nut beeper.
Turn oven on to 180C leave on for 10 mins. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board/bench top. Add nuts and fruit to dough and lightly knead in. Roll dough into a thick sausage, and place into tin.
If you do not have a tin, you can make a plait. Roll the douigh into a thick sausage shape, and cut into 3 even pieces. Roll longer sausages about 30cm long. If you want to make a traditional plait bread, then place the 3 ends together, join with a little water and tuck under, then continue to plait it till the end, join ends and turn under. Place onto tray lined with baking paper and sprayed with oil. Place into warm oven, turn off oven, shut door, and allow plait to rise and double in size (approx 20mins). Glaze over plait with egg wash. Turn on oven to 190C and bake for 30mins or until golden. The plait will spread so make sure your tray is large enough. Cool cake, make icing, drizzle icing over cake and decorate with nuts and cherries.
Another yeast cake recipe which is not as rich, but works just as well for this type of cake, I also have instructions for yeast baking here for you if you do not have a bread maker.