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Ukrainian Wedding Bread

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Korovai, or Wedding Bread, is the traditional centerpiece at Ukrainian weddings. It's shaped in a round, and topped with a twist or braid, then traditionally decorated with sculpted dough: doves to symbolize love and faithfulness, pine cones to symbolize fertility, and sometimes branches and flowers. Periwinkle, symbolizing purity, is the final garnish. The shaping instructions are intruiging — but don't be put off because it's actually quite easy — one braid, one twist and one round ball.

Better yet, bread itself is slightly sweet and tender, with the barest floral hint. It yields a beautiful loaf, ready to grace the fanciest table.

At a glance

Prep
Bake
Total
Yield
1 loaf, 16 slices
Nutrition information

Ingredients

Choose your measure:

Sponge

Dough

Topping (Optional)

Instructions

  1. To make the sponge: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the warm milk, 1 1/4 cups flour, and the yeast. Stir until the dough comes together in a slightly sticky ball.
  2. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest in a warm place until it's puffy, about 1 hour. (See "tips," below.)
  3. To make the dough: Add the remaining ingredients and mix, then knead, until the dough is soft and smooth.
  4. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours, or until it's puffy.
  5. To shape the dough traditionally: This method requires a 9" round pan at least 3" deep; if you have one, go for it! Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.
  6. Remove one-quarter of the dough, and divide it into three pieces: two handball-sized (about 2 1/4 ounces, 64g each), and one golf ball-sized (about 1 3/4 ounces, 50g). Set these aside, covered.
  7. Divide the remaining larger portion of dough into three pieces, each about 6 1/2 ounces (184g).
  8. Roll each of these pieces into a 24"-long rope.
  9. Braid the ropes in a simple three-strand braid, then arrange the braid in a circle around the inside bottom edge of a greased 9" springform or other 3" deep baking pan.
  10. Roll each of the two handball-sized pieces of dough into a very thin 28"-long rope.
  11. Loosely twist the two ropes together, and lay this twist atop the braid, again at the outside edge of the pan.
  12. Roll the remaining piece of dough into a smooth ball, flatten it slightly, and place it in the center of the pan; it won't fill all of the space, which is OK.
  13. To shape the dough faster: If you don't have a 9" x 3" pan, use this method. Divide the dough into three pieces, each about 8 1/2 ounces (240g).
  14. Roll each piece into a 30"-long rope. Braid the ropes, then place the braid in a circle on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, flattening and overlapping the ends slightly.
  15. Cover the pan (or the loaf on the baking sheet) and let the bread rise until very puffy, about 1 hour.
  16. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  17. Brush it with beaten egg and sprinkle it with sparkling white sugar, if desired.
  18. Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for 30 minutes longer, until golden and the internal temperature registers 195°F to 200°F on an instant read thermometer inserted into the center.
  19. Remove the bread from the oven, turn it out of the pan, and cool it on a wire rack.
  20. Store, covered, at room temperature for 5 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size 1 slice, 45g
  • Servings Per Batch 16
Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories 133 cal
  • Calories from Fat
  • Total Fat 4g
  • Saturated Fat
  • Trans Fat
  • Cholesterol 35mg
  • Sodium 212mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 18g
  • Dietary Fiber 1g
  • Sugars 2g
  • Protein 4g

* The nutrition information provided for this recipe is determined by the ESHA Genesis R&D software program. Substituting any ingredients may change the posted nutrition information.