Welcome to my blog about handcrafted Ukrainian breads! I am Luda, a proud Canadian-Ukrainian from Ottawa, Ontario, who loves digging up treasures from my rich cultural heritage. Modernyj Korovai is my little Internet corner where I share all things Ukrainian that fill my world and make me happy, starting with the traditional Ukrainian wedding bread: the korovai.
When I hung up the phone with Kathy, all I could think of was, “What did I get myself into?” I had just accepted to make a three-tier korovai with baked-on decorations – something I had never tried before. Here’s the inspiration picture… no biggie:
The inspiration photo for the korovai I agreed to make this summer
It’s not the first time I got asked to make a korovai in this particular style, and I’m glad I finally gave in. Kathy had been looking for someone to make such a korovai six years ago, for her eldest daughter’s wedding. She couldn’t find anyone in Canada, and she even looked into having a korovai brought in from Ukraine. Now that her second daughter is getting married in July, she got really excited when I (hesitantly) agreed to make her this korovai. I thought, “At least I have a few months’ time to research and experiment with this technique.”
A day after my conversation with Kathy, coincidentally, I came across this inspirational quote:
If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!
– Sir Richard Branson
This is just what I needed to get out of my comfort zone, and it gave me that boost of confidence.
I spent many evenings poring over YouTube videos from Ukraine, bakery websites and blogs, and yet, I still haven’t figured out how to make “pipable” dough to draw the scrolls on the sides. I tried three different unleavened dough recipes for the decorations and always came back to my original one, which I find is the most workable (the salt dough I tried was tough and I gave up – I don’t know why people recommend it). I used a simple mixture of egg whites and water to “glue” the decorations on the bread. And I figured I’d dry out the bread first so that it wouldn’t shrink more once the decorations were on. A few evenings of work, some serious trial and error, and an earnest Hail Mary as it went in the oven led to this:
My first korovai with baked-on decorations
Here are a few more close-ups of the details:
Thank you, Kathy, for your vote of confidence! I am now excited to tell her that I feel a lot more confident making her the three level korovai she wants. I am looking forward to taking on this project and I can’t wait to share it with you in a few months’ time!
I also thought I’d let you know that this korovai is up for grabs. Message me if you are interested to make it yours.
It’s at about this time of year that I start itching for spring. The sun is playing mind games by shining brightly but giving off little-to-no warmth, and the birds are chirping away as if spring was just around the corner. You guys – we still have at least another month of winter, don’t get ahead of yourselves!
In this limbo time between seasons, let me warm up your day with a korovai I recently made for a mid-February wedding in Oshawa. The wheat stalks fanning out at the base make me dream of sunny days ahead, don’t you think? I hope it brought warmth and joy to the newlyweds as much as it did to me when I made it. I feel inspired for the season to come!
First off, let me properly greet you with the New Year! I hope it brings you so much joy, happiness, health, peace and provides you with life’s endless blessings. I have been laying low for a few months now, taking time to tackle some neglected projects around the house. Until recently, my time was consumed by the revitalization of a massive hutch I found on Kijiji:
It deserves a story of its own. But I digress… let’s keep this blog focused on Ukrainian breads!
I’m happy to report that after a bit of a lull, I have regained some energy for the upcoming and fast-approaching korovai season. Recent email exchanges and phone calls with enthusiastic korovai customers got my creative juices flowing! One thing that excites me right now is an opportunity to make an elaborate 3-tier korovai using a “baked-on” style that’s new to me. It’s not due until July, so I have plenty of time to experiment with the technique. I have already dived into the research, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, let me share with you some lovely photos of my friend Olenka’s korovai “in action”. I hope they give you some inspiration for what you would like your Ukrainian wedding to be! They are provided courtesy of Moussa Faddoul of fotoreflection.com.
It’s that time of year when sadly, I have to stop kidding myself by thinking it’s still summertime. The days are cooler, windier and shorter, leaves are turning bright crimson and gold, and pumpkin spice lattes are on every coffee shop menu. A week from now, Thanksgiving will be over. Need I say more?
Thankfully – and somewhat surprisingly – wedding season is far from over! This week, I’m still recovering from a fabulous wedding in Edmonton. As we landed in Ottawa, I got a last-minute order from a bride in Montreal for a single-tier korovai (it’s in the oven as I write). I’m scrambling to make sure it gets there in time for the wedding. FedEx, I’m counting on you yet again!
I’ve had several requests for simple, one-tier korovayi this past summer. And while I haven’t been sharing all of them with you, here’s one with a pretty variation: a beaded eternity band hugging the baked-in braid:
The smaller beads are whimsical and I like how they delicately encircle the korovai. It’s a refreshing visual twist on a straightforward design, in keeping with the symbolism of the bezkonechnyk – the eternity band.
Other than korovayi and bread, I also looooove baking dessert, both Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian alike. Cookies, pies, tortes, cakes, cupcakes, you name it. I’ve been on a cupcake kick for a few years now because they allow my creative side to take over (plus they’re usually simpler to make than tortes and cakes). I don’t know why I haven’t thought of this sooner, but cupcake + korovai = mini korovai. Mind. blown.
I mean, how cute are they?!
I made a few of these cupcake-sized korovaichyky in my muffin tins as a test run, and I’m happy to report that they came out really well. Since these were not made to order, my family had them for breakfast the next day. Mmmmm, soft, feathery, sweet, fluffy korovai bread. We like to eat them with a bit of sweet butter and a dash of honey. Pure heaven! These korovaichyky tasted as delicious as they looked.
I adorned them with standard-sized doves and a few sprigs of periwinkle around the base. These would make some pretty fantastic wedding favours, wouldn’t you agree?
Now that I think of it, I thought I’d be getting way more requests for korovayi incorporating the red berries of kalyna. Kalyna, the Ukrainian name for the shrub Viburnum opulus (common name guelder-rose), is an integral part of Ukrainian folklore and culture. It is mentioned and depicted in songs, poetry, art and embroidery – symbolizing among many things, beauty, love, purity, companionship, loyalty and true love.
I was delighted to hear that a lady in Winnipeg, Manitoba, wished to incorporate the quintessential Ukrainian berry into her daughter’s wedding korovai. The bride’s wedding colours were green and ivory with touches of gold, but she said she would love to have a pop of red kalyna as well. We agreed that two rows of these luscious red berries intertwined with periwinkle would look beautiful around the middle and top of the korovai.
This korovai was designed entirely by the mother of the bride. She was very specific in her requests and had a great eye for detail. During our phone conversations, she questioned whether the korovai would end up looking too busy, but when she saw the photos, she was very happy with the way it turned out. And so was I.
Today, I dropped off another korovai order at the FedEx ship center located at the airport. Usually, I ask my dad to watch the twins while I take the baby with me. But today, I felt pretty confident having them all tag along… and it turned out to be a successful venture. The highlight of the trip was (obviously) being able to watch all those planes land and take off! And observe the FedEx trucks being serviced in the garage! And the forklifts! Oh my! Next time, I think I’ll just take all three kids with me. I forget how wonderful these opportunities are for my little two and a half year olds.
I will write about today’s korovai in a few weeks (I like to wait at least until after the wedding!) because today’s story is about a beautiful small korovai that is bursting with detail.
This small but mighty korovai was commissioned by a lady from New York, whose son got married in Toronto. She had plenty of creative ideas that we distilled into this single-tier creation:
The korovai is presented on a bed of wheat and periwinkle, symbolizing abundance, love, health and purity. There are pine cones, braids, doves and a “tree of life”, stylized as two “patychky” finished with crisp white satin-edged ribbons – a detail that echoed the bride’s satin and chiffon dress. Two love birds sit beneath the “tree” in a nest of periwinkle, holding intertwined bands.
I had a great time making this korovai – the design was new and fresh! I am inspired and motivated for all the orders that are lined up for this summer. I am also very excited to practice my photography skills on new subjects. So keep them coming!
I’ve been waiting for this moment for a while now, and it finally happened: I got a new camera! I have no clue how to use it properly just yet, but I am really excited to start improving my korovai photography… and taking better pictures in general! It’s a Canon EOS Rebel T6i, an entry-level DSLR camera that should be a perfect next step following my Canon PowerShot point-and-shoot.
I am so eager to learn all the basics! To start, I photographed this small elegant korovai as my first subject. I shot it next to my large north-facing dining room window using a 60-mm macro lens:
The korovai was then carefully packed and shipped to Winnipeg for an early June wedding.
This summer, my korovayi will be peppering weddings across Canada and really I’m looking forward to all that baking! FedEx has been great with the deliveries so far – nothing arrived broken or in pieces yet. Fingers crossed: let’s hope it stays that way!