Christmas kalach: recipe and secret cooking tips

Christmas kalach holds a significant place in Ukrainian Christmas celebrations. The traditional table for this occasion calls for 12 dishes (representing the apostles and months of the year); this holiday pastry with a distinct Ukrainian identity is essential among them.

It’s more than just bread for the end of a festive dinner or a decorative element; kalach carries profound symbolic meaning. Dive into interesting insights and Ukrainian traditions about this authentic dish while exploring the traditional recipe and hidden cooking tips.

Kalach at Christmas: symbol of well-being

Bread generally holds sacred importance in Ukrainian culture, symbolizing life, death, and resurrection, and acts as food for the body and the immortal soul. You can talk about Ukrainian bread for hours: how to cook it correctly, what kind of flour should be used, etc. In the Ukrainian culture, folklore and proverbs on bread remain relevant in modern society.

On one of the most significant holidays, Christmas, bread, too, takes center stage. Thus, we can refer to kalach or kerechun, vasylyna, vasyl, and more for Christmas baked goods. Typically made from wheat flour, then sprinkled with poppy seeds, kalach boasts a subtly sweet taste. Its distinctive braided form, oblong or round with a hole in the center, is created by weaving several braids.

The ingredients used carry deep symbolism. The bread symbolizes the newborn Jesus, while the sweet taste and poppy decorations represent wealth, luck, and prosperity.

Recipe for traditional kalach for Ukrainian Christmas

Ukrainian Christmas bread

Cooking kalach involves a meticulous and lengthy process. However, by following the recipe and these hidden tips closely, you can create this festive pastry and amaze your guests at the celebratory table.

We offer you a traditional and straightforward recipe with additional tips. The following ingredients are for 2 large bread rolls; feel free to halve the quantities for a single loaf.


  • 500 g wheat flour
  • 20 g fresh yeast (or 10 g dry yeast)
  • 75 g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 50 g dairy butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 250 ml milk
  • vanilla – to taste
  • a pinch of salt


  1. Begin by preparing the dough: dissolve yeast, 4 tablespoons of flour, and 2 tablespoons of sugar (taken from the total amount of ingredients) in warm milk. Mix and let it rest in a warm place for 15 minutes. The cooked pre-dough should be covered with bubbles and increase in size by 2-3 times.
  1. Next, combine the remaining ingredients: add the remaining sugar and flour to the dough, along with vanilla, salt, butter, honey, and eggs.
  1. Knead the elastic dough. If it lacks elasticity, add a little flour, ensuring the dough is not overworked. Let it rise for 30-40 minutes until doubled in size.
  1. Wrap and knead the dough, then divide it into two parts. Each half should be divided into 3 equal portions, from which you will weave braids. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
  1. Firmly join the ends together on both sides (for a round kalach), or fix the ends and tuck them beneath the bread. Let the shaped balls rise in a warm place for 40 minutes, brush with a beaten egg, and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
  1. Bake the Christmas cake in an oven heated to 180° for 30-40 minutes. Once done, please remove it from the oven, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it cool.

Additional tips for making Christmas kalach

Ukrainian Christmas bread

Crafting this Christmas bread might seem challenging initially, but fret not! Here are some helpful tips you’ll need during and after the baking process:

– test your yeast. If bubbles do not appear during the pre-dough preparation, it indicates their ineffectiveness; consider using fresh yeast.

– always allow the dough and formed products to rest. To speed up the dough’s rise, place it in an oven at 30-40°C.

– be careful while weaving the braids. Avoid braiding the dough too tightly to prevent cracks.

Enjoy Christmas kalach together with your family. It’ll make the celebration even more delightful!