This is a Ukrainian korovai — a multi-tiered enriched bread that is decorated with birds, viburnum leaves, stalks of wheat and roses that is traditionally made for a wedding. The decorations are made with dead dough. I first saw it on the Great British Bake Off and felt this was the right time to try making it. Praying that Ukrainians can soon celebrate again.
This is an all day project but you can make the decorations a few days ahead of time.
- 10" x 3" cake pan
- 8" x 3" cake pan
- 6" x 2" cake pan
- rose cutter, leaf molds, etc as desired for decorations
- 340 ml evaporated milk 1 can
- 120 ml lukewarm water ½ cup
- 1 tsp salt
- 125 g sugar ½ cup
- 15 g active dry yeast 2 packets or ½ oz
- 1400 g AP flour 10 cups
- 180 g unsalted butter melted, ¾ cup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp rum extract optional
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water for egg wash
Dead dough for Decorations
- 390 g AP flour
- 15 g cornstarch
- 25 g shortening
- 180 g water
- 1 large egg white for glaze
- black sesame seeds for decoration
- Combine milk, water, and 2 Tbsp (30g) of the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (this is going to make a large quantity of dough so if you don't have a large stand mixer mix this by hand instead). Sprinkle the yeast over it and let sit until frothy (about 5 minutes).
- Add half the flour and mix until just combined with the dough hook.
- In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining ½ cup sugar, vanilla and optional rum extract. Add to the mixer and mix until just combined.
- Add the remaining flour and salt and mix with the dough hook until a dough is formed (about 5 minutes)
- Add melted butter gradually while the mixer is running at low speed.
- Once all the butter is added turn the mixer to medium speed and mix for about 15 minutes until you have a smooth dough that does not stick to your hand.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for several minutes.
- Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover loosely and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).
- Grease and flour cake pans or spray with baking spray. Preheat ovens to 350°F (convection if you have it).
- Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and fold in on itself several times to release air.
- Scale dough as follows:For 10" tier: three 360g pieces , two 120g pieces, one 90g piece= total 1410gFor 8" tier: three 180g pieces, two 60g pieces , one 45g piece = total 705gFor 6" tier: three 120g pieces, two 40g pieces, one 30g piece = total of 470g
- Set aside the pieces for the 8" tier and the 6" tier and cover lightly with plastic wrap while you work on the 10" tier. Roll out the the three 360g pieces to about 28 inches long, braid the strands and lay against the edge of the cake pan. Roll out the two 120g pieces about 29 in long and lay on top of the braid against the edge of the cake pan. Roll the last piece into a ball, flatten slightly and place in the middle (see video). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hr).
- Repeat with the remaining tiers, rolling the strands slightly shorter to fill the smaller cake pans.
- Brush the tiers with the egg wash and bake each for 15 minutes at 350°F, then lower the heat to 325°F until golden brown on top (about 1 hr for the largest tier and 45 minutes for the smaller tiers).Remove from the oven, brush again with egg wash and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely before assembling and decorating.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Mix half of the flour, cornstarch and shortening together in a medium bowl. Add water and mix with a spoon. Add remaining flour and knead for about 5 minutes or until smooth.
- Wrap in plastic and only take out small pieces at a time while creating shapes.
- Create various shapes such as leaves, beads and birds as desired (see video). Attach black sesame seeds for eyes on birds using egg white. Lay on parchment paper. Brush with egg white.
- Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes or until tips of birds' wings just start to turn golden. Be aware that smaller decorations like leaves will bake faster.
- Attach toothpicks the the bottoms of the decorations as soon as they come out of the oven. Brush with egg white again and allow to dry completely before attaching to the korovai.