This spectacular recipe for kulich comes from Tatiana Ziritskaya, who emigrated to this country many years ago via China. Kulich will keep on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator for up to a week.
Makes 1 cake (serves 8)
1. In a medium-size saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and add the honey and oil, stirring until the honey is dissolved.
2. Gradually add ½ cup of the flour, beating until the mixture is completely smooth. Cool to lukewarm.
3. In a large bowl, add the yeast to the water, stir, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the milk and flour mixture to the yeast and stir until smooth. Cover with a linen or cotton (not terry cloth) kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until the sponge doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.
5. In a second large bowl, beat the egg yolks and the sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla extract, Cointreau, brandy, orange zest, and orange juice and beat for few more seconds.
6. Scrape out the seeds from the vanilla beans and add them to the yolk mixture. Add the butter, raisins, almonds, and almond extract.
7. With a clean dry beater, beat the egg white until it forms soft peaks and fold it into the egg yolk mixture.
8. Combine the yolk mixture with the risen sponge and mix gently but thoroughly. Using an electric mixer, gradually beat in the remaining 4 cups flour until you have a very smooth, loose dough. Transfer the dough to a clean, well-greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1½ hours.
9. Cut two 1½-inch strips of parchment paper, each long enough to be molded down one side, then across the bottom and up the opposite side of a clean 2-pound coffee tin. The ends should extend above the top of the tin. Butter the tin and the strips, then set them into the tin crisscross to each other. Fold the ends over the outside of the tin.
10. Punch the dough down and place it in the tin. Let rise again, covered, until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
11. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 325°F.
12. Bake the kulich until it is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool slightly, then carefully lift the kulich from the tin by pulling up on the ends of the parchment strips. Remove the parchment and let the kulich cool on a rack.