Gulf of Finland and Neva River

In this post I will combine two water symbols of St Petersburg, two of its important water ways – the Neva River and Gulf of Finland, both of which are surely the musts if you want to get a broader picture of the city’s life, today and yesterday.

Back in June and July we went to Ust-Izhora, the place where Izhora River flows into the greater Neva River and where knyaz Alexander won the battle against the Swedes, for which he got titled Alexander Nevsky (and later even canonized – but that’s another story). The battle took place back in oh-oh 1240 but is considered to be one of the greatest victories in the hшstory of Russia. They even reconstruct it every year, should go there and see it one day, moreover it’s close to and actually is officially a part of Kolpino, my home town.

Ust-Izhora

While my Father was taking photos with a model at the riverside, I was entertaining myself : ) Here are some very old bricks found on the Neva shore, as there used to be a pier where we were, apparently. This looks like 69, yin and yang and fish (especially under water):

Ust-Izhora

The name of the factory producing bricks, half of it eaten by the time:

Ust-Izhora

Another factory, the name features the now obsolete letter of the Russian alphabet called yat:

Ust-Izhora

Meanwhile my Father was creating something out of nothing as a true Russian man! I did not notice that among all the wreck of this ex-pier (there was a neat row of bricks in the water as if they fell all at once) there was a bike too!

Ust-Izhora

You can spot the other side of Neva with private houses (both sides outside of the city are very expensive to built your house on) all along the bank. But I was more impressed by the timber and the smell of the freshly chopped wood. It’s a pity we still cut so many of these beautiful birch trees, they are so graceful and so naturally Russian…

Ust-Izhora

The timber also served as a background for my Father’s photo-session, like this one, for example. The results of the ex-pier session can be found here and here.

Ust-Izhora

Birch bark is used for many things in the traditional Russian crafts – from creating boxes to shoes! It was also used to write documents on at the time Alexander Nevsky fought on these shores against Swedes.

Ust-Izhora

Some shots of the life on the Neva banks – this is a children’s playground, very marine-themed:

Ust-Izhora

There was also this building with an almost blind wall which – in theory – was being renovated. It looked quite ominous…

Ust-Izhora

And this is a local post office with a surviving Soviet times mail box and traditional woven rugs drying on the railing. The letters CCCP (USSR) were painted over and the word Russia was written across for a quick transformation from the Post of USSR into the Post of Russia. I guess the real transformation took much more effort : )

Ust-Izhora

I didn’t take any photos of the monument to Alexander or the church in Ust-Izhora (which you can see on my Father’s photo), but I managed to take a photo of this Fire department near Rybatskoye metro station (the closes one to Ust-Izhora) – these guys do know how to attract attention! 01 is the number you call when there’s fire in Russia.

Fire Department

***

If you follow Neva’s flow from the East where we just were to the West, you will eventually get to Finland, as Neva flows into the Gulf of Finland. Gulf of Finland (Finnish Bay as I tend to call it, failing to recall the official name) is one of those places where St Pete people go to make picnics, walk along the shore and surf. People also come here to celebrate weddings, just as my sister did last year. You can hardly swim in there as it’s very shallow – you will have to walk and walk and walk till it gets anywhere close to your waist. Most of the shore used to be occupied by health resorts, now some of them are still operating, some of them got turned into more luxurious places. Soviet elite used to have dachas along the shore, now another elite is enjoying the sea. They say a meter of this land costs ridiculously expensive.

Finnish Bay

Forgive me for this fallen horizon, I was trying to picture this perspective with the stones which are common to this area (especially up there to the North, in Karelia and Finland). Here’s a more straight one with… a shower :)

Wanna take a shower?

A bit surreal with all that wind and clouds and people walking in coats:

Wanna take a shower?

We actually went to a health resort situated very close to the shore to visit our relatives and decided to join in and walk along the water too, meeting everything from this golden statue (obviously a Soviet sculpture left here from the good ol’ times)…

Golden couple

to ehm Ibiza resort bar!

Ibiza bar?!

…and windsurfers enjoying rare sun in their swimming costumes:

Finnish Bay

The sky was amazing (especially through polarizing lenses) – the sun appeared but closer to the end of our visit, so when we were walking along the shore, the sky was more of a ‘drama-drama’drama’ style:

Finnish Bay

So, yes, we do have the sea in St Petersburg, but… Baltic Sea is a rather cold one =)

Finnish Bay

Anyway, sitting there and listening to the waves made us really appreciate (and partially realize) the fact that we DO HAVE SEA IN ST PETERSBURG! :)

Finnish Bay

Moreover, just about 30 minutes later – and you are already enjoying the sun!

Finnish Bay

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Finnish Bay

We also walked in the ‘forest’ nearby, breathing in the pine trees and making our way through the sand hills which gave the name to this place (Dyuny in Russian). Back at the health resort, we spotted these friends who were mock-fighting in a moment:

Friends

And this three-legged fox who was peacefully lying in the sun:

Three-legged fox

The entire family and their izba-style house:

Large family

Almost every animal had their story in that mini-zoo next to the resort (there were also rather threatening-looking crows who were just dreaming to snatch those tourists’ fingers, it seemed : ). The resort itself bears the signs of the recent renovation which as it is normal in Russia is half-finished. We even tried some food at the ‘restaurant’ (ex-canteen) where the patients dine and I for the …th time came to the conclusion that there is no meat-free diet – even a medical one – in Russia = )

Mountain Ash

We also spotted the trees of Mountain ash – the symbol of autumn. When the berries get that red it means it’s high time for the children to go to school : )

Mountain Ash

Just as Bird Cherry we use mountain ash for lots of things, like medicine, alcohol, flour. I’m not saying that we eat it every day but at least it’s known that you can make things out of the fruits. The timber is also used for decorative furniture. And how about decorating the lamp post with the ivy?

Lamp post

I didn’t take the photo of the completely ‘lost’ lamp post so densely covered with the ivy that we didn’t realize at first that was not a tree but lights : ) I wonder if it’s still operating in the night and if yes – how it looks like?

This post is a part of my St Petersburg series.

G.

Italian Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Italian Apple and Cinnamon Cake from silviascucina.net

This last day of calendar summer (and it’s already autumn here anyway), let me share with you this super-soft apple cake perfect for tea with your family and friends. I made it for my sister’s birthday and we ate it quite quickly… So quickly that I didn’t manage to take a photo of a separate piece of this cake. You have to believe me that each slice was tall and beautifully yellow at the top with the unusual sautéed apples + lemon zest crown.

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Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 1. Dvorets Kultury

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Before Kolpino as I have known it for 26 years becomes something completely different, here is an architectural journey from the early 20th century through 1930’s constructivism and Stalin’s neo-classicism to the 1980s brutalism. I’m trying to preserve the traces, so to say, without being particularly nostalgic. Let’s call it my way of getting to know my city better.

This is not the first time I speak about architecture here cause St Petersburg is one of those places where you would go to just to look at the buildings. Kolpino being St Petersburg’s youngest industrial brother (the famous Izhorsky plant which gave birth to this town is celebrating 292 years in 2014) used to have a variety of styles too before the war came. After which the Soviet buildings spread all over the town, especially in its oldest historical part. We still have some older buildings from as early as 19th century but if you’re looking for a limited territory with a concentration of the Soviet styles – welcome to the architectural reserve of Kolpino!

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I will make several ‘architectural walk’ posts out of megabytes of photos I took throughout the summer. Let’s start this particular walk from the Half-Circle Canal and Dvorets Kultury (House/ Palace of Culture) aka DK, a Soviet way of promoting culture and crafts among the working class. I used to study there when our school was housed in the building. We would also use DK as a meeting point and it is still a point of reference when you’re explaining location of something in Kolpino. It used to belong to the Izhorsky plant, now it’s in the city’s hands. The name remains, only its ‘title’ changes – it used to be Palace of Culture and Technology, now it’s a Cultural and Recreational Center.

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The famous wooden staircase in the old part of DK got even filmed in a movie… Imagine how many workers’ feet trod its steps to and fro before it got rented out to various non-cultural organizations. Children and adults still go here to participate in various clubs but no doubt it is not crowded by culture-hungry pionery flocking around a sitting plaster figure of Lenin (I do remember it!). And all the girls and boys got inevitable and irrevocable brown stains of mastic polish on their white stockings (no more mastic these days but we’ve experienced that with my sister). These matching brown doors I’m sure are here from the very beginning:

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The asymmetrical building itself is quite a riddle – its construction started in late 1930s so there’s a kilo of constructivism in it, then proceeded during the neo-classicism era and was complemented in the late 1980s. Its architects were pretty prolific creators of various buildings in St Petersburg. The war did not permit to finish their grandiose plan (with namely a 10 meter tower for the scientific purposes) and the almost completely ruined DK was re-built and re-designed in late 1940s, when Stalin’s Empire style was in full swing. So no 10 meter tower anymore, which was anyway erased by the nazis. But the neo-classicism was grandiose enough – if not in terms of height, but definitely in terms of decoration! Hence this spiral staircase with -unfortunately – now removed looooong-long carpet:

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spinning three floors up (or down :)

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and these bas-reliefs

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  and the chandeliers

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with even more bas reliefs

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and pseudo-Corinthian capitals of the columns

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and overall lots of columns both inside

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and outside

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It’s one of the dolgostroy of our town – these were constructions that took years to complete, normally becoming a part of the city life and city folklore. The latest (or last?) addition to this complex construction was the concert hall, finally built in 1988. It represents a true mixture of both the original constructivism, Stalin’s classicism and the late 1980s khm… style. But oh, its inside decorations with mirrors, chandeliers and crimson velvet benches are just real magic…

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These metal stands outside are still used to hold the hand-painted billboards informing the citizens about the upcoming events and new clubs. In summer DK is deserted and when we got there with my Mother after several years of no-see, the security guard was puzzled at our long walk up and down the stairs. The right wing is being renovated from the inside now and I guess it will lose what was left from the 50s (there used to be a small cinema hall and later a disco).

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DK is haunted with memories. Wait, am I being nostalgic?

 G.

Zucchini Pizza with Flax Seed Crust

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

When the rain is back with some nasty wind, all you want is to please let you stay at home and comfort yourself with some pizza and in my case – Russian-style girl-talk : ) I was looking for a quick pizza dough recipe to get the dinner ready on time, so I chose this ‘healthier’ recipe from my favourite King Arthur Flour website. It contains whole wheat flour, which I tend to add in most cases anyway, but also flaxmeal and even flax seeds! I just HAD to try it : ) Moreover I just bought those tiny crunchy zucchini, probably the last this season. So here’s my quick pizza fix for stormy days and loyal friends!

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

By the way, here is how I usually freeze pizza if I find that the dough recipe will make more than can be eaten the same day:

Arrange the topping on the dough base and place the pizza on baking paper and then on a hard cardboard sheet or a cutting board, depending on how much space you have in the freezer. Don’t forget to cover the pizza (the best way is to place it in a large plastic bag) and put in the freezer. On the day of baking DO NOT THAW, just bake the pizza at about 225 ‘C first on the lower rack and then move it to the top. The baking time might be longer than for a freshly made pizza.

Here’s a closer view of the crust:

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

And here’s my zucchini topping:

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

A year ago – On Soviet Children’s Books and More

Two years ago – Pita, Sourdough Pizza and Stewed Aubergines

Zucchini Pizza with Flax Seed Crust (crust adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com) will make a flavourful cheesy pizza with crunchy onion bites and soft puffy base. For the crust recipe ingredients and procedure, follow the link.

Changes to the original crust recipe: I used smashed flax seeds instead of whole and had to add more all purpose flour. As for the procedure, I did not pre-bake the crust which made the recipe even quicker and easier.

Topping Ingredients for 2 pizzas:

  • 2 thin zucchinis, sliced (look out for the most crunchy ones!)
  • onion sliced in rings
  • a small tin of tomato paste
  • soy sauce
  • olive oil
  • dried oregano
  • fresh dill and spring onions
  • seasonings, garlic powder
  • grated cheese

Procedure:

You may choose to pre-bake the crust as the original recipe suggests but I did not. I arranged the topping ingredients in the following order:

First comes a very thin coat of olive oil. It will be mostly needed at the edges of the base where there’s no topping.

Then there’s the tomato paste made into ketchup-like consistency with the help of soy sauce and some pre-mixed seasonings, garlic powder, chopped fresh dill and spring onions. Spread it on the base. My tomato paste layer is usually perfectly uneven : )

Then arrange the zucchini circles covering all the base. Top them with onion rings. Season with something spicy – the zucchini are usually quite bland.

Sprinkle generously with coarsely grated cheese, the remaining chopped fresh dill and spring onions plus some dried oregano.

Bake at 225 ‘C first on the lower oven rack for about 10 minutes and then on the center or top rack for additional 10 minutes until the cheese crust is browned. You will know by this very special unmistakable pizza aroma : ) Serve with some fresh veggies.

Remarks: I made two pizzas – a deep-dish round one which I baked on the day of making the dough in a greased 26 cm pan (reheated the remaining slices the next day just fine!) and a thin-crusted rectangular one which survived one day freezing alright. Be careful with the salt as the base contains already quite enough to make the overall taste a bit over-salty.

Flax Seed Pizza Crust from www.kingarthurflour.com

Result: The seeds and the use of whole wheat flour add a certain crunch to the pizza base. I assure you that you wouldn’t even guess there are flax seeds in the crust because of the topping and all the cheese, but the main point is that they ARE there, right? This pizza turned out to be extra-flavourful!

More pizza ideas: Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza and Sourdough Pizza and also this quick leftover sourdough pizza.

G.

Melanzane in Carrozza and Roasted Vegetable Tart

after rain in Kolpino

Before summer 2014 is out, let’s enjoy great dishes with fresh veggies. It seems we’re going to have a rainy autumn-like week here in St Petersburg, so comfort food is on our minds now. We doneed some energy to splash in the puddles! Both recipes take quite a bit of time so plan your meal ahead :)

Melanzane in Carrozza (Eggplant Sandwiches) from cookingwithrosie.blogspot.com

A year ago – On Soviet Children’s Books and More

Two years ago – Pita, Sourdough Pizza and Stewed Aubergines

Melanzane in Carrozza (Eggplant Sandwiches) adapted from cookingwithrosie.blogspot.com will make an unusual Italian sandwich-like dish with two types of cheese. Attention: this dish is for a day when you do NOT feel lazy =) Worth the effort, though. Rosie’s website is unfortunately not available anymore, so here is the recipe with my remarks in italics:

Ingredients:

The vegetable part

  • 1 large eggplant about 450-500 g - I used small aubergines, about 600 g
  • salt to taste

The egg mixture

  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 Tbs Parmesan or Grana PadanoI grated some Russian cheese
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh, frozen or dried parsley (finely chopped if using fresh or frozen) – I used fresh
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Breading

  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3/4-1 cup bread crumbs - I used whole-wheat bread crumbs

Filling

  • 1-2 low fat bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls) or mozzarella  or Gouda, sliced – I used Adygea cheese

Sunflower oil for brushing (you can use olive oil but sunflower oil gives the breading a nice, light, crispy texture, says the author)

Procedure:

Slice the eggplants into 0.5 cm slices, arrange them in an orderly fashion as they were cut on a baking sheet (this will help with pairing them up into sandwiches), and generously season with salt (as my aubergines were small, I have to cut some of them diagonally). Let stand for 30-60 minutes so the eggplants ‘sweat’ to release the bitterness. Pat dry with a clean cloth.

Mix grated cheese, garlic powder and parsley into the beaten eggs and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Slice the bocconcini into 0.5 cm slices. Set aside. My cheese wouldn’t slice that easily, so I made quite a mess with those sandwiches =)

Preheat oven to 170 ‘C and arrange your work station as follows: flour, egg mixture, bread crumbs. Place a baking sheet lined with baking paper at the end to put the finished eggplant sandwich.

Add a slice of cheese to every 2nd eggplant, making sure that the appropriate size is used, i.e. small piece of cheese to small slice of eggplant, etc. Tightly squeeze the sandwich between your hands. Repeat for remaining sandwiches. Place eggplant sandwiches on half of a clean dish towel, fold the towel over, and press onto each sandwich to remove excess liquid from the eggplant.

First dip the sandwich in flour, then flip a few times in the egg mixture, and finally in the bread crumbs. Repeat with the remaining sandwiches and arrange them on lined baking sheet. NOTE: Your fingers will get clumpy from the breading. Simply rub it off into the bread crumbs and it will give the coating a much crispier taste.

Lightly brush, drizzle or spray sunflower oil onto each side of the eggplant sandwich. Bake for 20 minutes on the middle rack, flip the sandwiches over (the bottoms might be a little soggy) and then bake them on the top rack for 10-15 minutes more. Cool to warm or room temperature and serve either as a side dish or as an appetizer (cut into triangles and inserted with toothpicks) with marinara sauce (we ate the sandwiches with sour cream).

Melanzane in Carrozza (Eggplant Sandwiches) from cookingwithrosie.blogspot.com

Remarks: Be careful not to make your dish too dry – I was waiting for the guests and left the sandwiches in the turned off oven… However, a nice sauce can solve the situation! I would increase the amount of garlic, probably add really finely minced garlic instead of garlic powder. Also here are the remarks from the author: Depending on how long the eggplant is and how thin you slice it, you will have about 8-12 sandwiches. Store any leftovers in a tight container in the fridge.

Melanzane in Carrozza (Eggplant Sandwiches) from cookingwithrosie.blogspot.com

Not the best photo of the sandwich from the inside but you get the idea!

Result: A dish you wouldn’t make every day because it takes time but this is something you will remember! The crispy coating is nice and even after an overnight stay in the fridge and reheating in the microwave, these sandwiches were tasty.

Melanzane in Carrozza (Eggplant Sandwiches) from cookingwithrosie.blogspot.com
***

The second recipe is something you would call a time-consuming one too. First of all, you will need a pastry recipe for this dish and here’s a good one. Could not find this website either, seems it is also unavailable now. So I’m reproducing the recipe here for the benefit of the online community.

No-Fail Pie Dough adapted from waitingforgateau.com is indeed a no-fail recipe! It will make a double crust for a large pie or two single crusts for two pies. My remarks are in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar – I added less
  • 1 teaspoon salt – less
  • 1 cup very cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup very cold vegetable shortening; cut into cubes – I used just butter
  • 11 tablespoons ice-cold water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar – I used Greek red wine vinegar

Procedure:

Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for a few seconds until combined (or do it by hand :). Add the butter and shortening and pulse 10-12 times until it resembles course meal and no large clumps of butter remain. Alternatively, you can rub in the butter and shortening with your fingers or cut them in with a pastry cutter (fingers are the surest!). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the water and vinegar and mix until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out on a well-floured surface and press it together to form a ball. Divide the dough in half and press each piece into a flat disc. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling it out.

Remarks: Used the second half for this sweet recipe with no problem: Apple Crumb Pie from www.melskitchencafe.com. I added more sugar to the filling and used cottage cheese instead of the suggested sour cream + mixed in some corn starch. However the filling was quite runny but the pastry was still resistant!

Result: Flaky and at the same time resistant to the occasional juices from the filling. Recommended! And that’s what I made with this pastry:

Roasted Vegetable Deep Tart from thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com

Roasted Vegetable Deep Tart adapted from thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com will make a huge pie loaded with all the veggies this late summer can offer! Follow the link for the original recipe. Here are my changes:

As for the vegetables I used aubergines, courgettes, carrots, onions and even roasted a whole garlic together with the veggies, wrapped in foil.

Instead of cream cheese I used a 250 g pack of tvorog (cottage cheese). No cheddar, so I grated some Russian cheese instead. I used pumpkin seed oil and added Provence mix as my seasoning.

My tart was ready in 50 minutes.

Roasted Vegetable Deep Tart from thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com

If you visit the original website, you’ll see that the tart is not supposed to look like this at all =) It’s just that with the addition of the emerald pumpkin seed oil my veggies were quite hm green and I thought that would affect the cheese mixture colour. So I did not mix the two together. All the cheese was on the top! Which made my tart into a layered pie : )

Roasted Vegetable Deep Tart from thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com

Remarks: Do pat dry the vegetables to avoid extra liquid in the filling. At the same time I found that the cheese part of the filling was not enough to get inside the vegetable part (I didn’t mix them together, that’s true).

The author suggests using a variety of vegetables – and you shouldn’t of course roast all of them (e.g. beans, peas). I would suggest adding fried mushrooms to this pie – no doubt this will add great flavour! But the roasted garlic was a great addition too!

Roasted Vegetable Deep Tart from thevicardiedlaughing.blogspot.com

Result: A huge pie for veggie addicts. The cheese crust is yummy! The roasting ‘trick’ is a good idea, giving the vegetables this special ‘smoky’ flavour. I think this tart was not that much appreciated by the main meat-eater of our family but I liked it anyway .)

Here’s a couple of recent veggie posts to get more ideas for these last summer days:

Spanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille and various zucchini and aubergine recipes and too! And you can find even more here.

G.

Three Times Chocolate: Danish Swirl Bread, Panforte and Cookies

Before this triple chocolate post gets any older, let’s bring it to back to life! Ha, no surprise it has been waiting its turn to be published form April 7th – that was 1 day before we learnt that we were all soon to be fired. But here it is, in the end. There are three recipes gathered throughout several months, a chocolate chip cookie recipe, a chocolate & nut bar recipe and a sweet chocolate buns recipe. Almost everything, except for a recipe of a good chocolate cake, which you can find here on the Chocolate page.

Panforte from www.joyofbaking.com

The first two recipes are from very much-used and much-trusted sources. We’re kicking off with chocolate bars or Italian Panforte. Probably it’s not yet the right season for them (these are very substantial and calorie-loaded things), but with the coming of the autumn which is obvious here in St Pete, the belly is asking for increasing amounts of sugar :)

Panforte from www.joyofbaking.com

A year ago – Sablé aux figues or Fig Jam Shortbread

Two years ago – Pommes. Pommes de Terre too

Panforte adapted from www.joyofbaking.com will make stick-jaw chocolate and nut bars. Visit the website for the original recipe and lots of other great ideas with video.

My changes:

Instead of almonds I used peanuts and also substituted candied citrus with prunes.  Instead of allspice I added cardamom, nutmeg and ginger. I baked the cake (cause it looks like one before you cut it) for a bit longer than indicated. I did not use rice paper, just plain parchment paper.

Panforte from www.joyofbaking.com

Result: A very nutritious and very sticky treat – it’s not for nothing that they call it ‘strong bread’ in Italian! Probably the best time to eat it would be in winter but I will not tell anyone if you try it already now : )

***

On to cookies now:

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies from www.browneyedbaker.com

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies adapted from www.browneyedbaker.com will make ship-shape cookies with crunchy nuts and chunks of chocolate.

My changes: Used hazelnuts instead of walnuts and added ginger (or rather way TOO much ginger).

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies from www.browneyedbaker.com

Remarks: Be careful when adding your spices, I was too generous with ginger  and the cookies had this peppermint flavour : ) These cookies keep their shape well while baking and do not spread much. However, they do brown quite quickly!

Result:  Four ‘ch': Crunchy, chunky, chewy and chocolate-y!

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies from www.browneyedbaker.com

A recently tried recipe of very zesty whole wheat oatmeal chocolate cookies can be found here. And if you are in for more, try these large Chocolate chip, Cranberry & Walnut  Sconies or Healthier Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies from www.browneyedbaker.com

***

And for those of you who feel like baking something sweet with leavened dough:

Swirl Coffee Bread from foodismylife.wordpress.com

Danish Chocolate Swirl Coffee Bread adapted from foodismylife.wordpress.com will make tiny tight but tasty cocoa buns.

Changes to the original recipe:

I didn’t use almond flakes for decoration. And that’s pretty much all about the ingredients. As for the procedure, I guess I rolled the dough out too thin and it did not rise that much. Also I did not use a switched-off oven for the dough to rise, just left it in a warm spot of my kitchen.

Swirl Coffee Bread from foodismylife.wordpress.com

Remarks: I made my buns so tiny that they looked rather like sweets : ) Do not roll the dough out that enthusiastically!

Result: Quite chewy and on the dry side. But I’m sure these will be really soft if you do make them bigger!

Swirl Coffee Bread from foodismylife.wordpress.com

But I do like how they look on the inside:

Swirl Coffee Bread from foodismylife.wordpress.com

Apple harvesting tomorrow. Big deal!

G.

Gatchina and Dazzling Summer Sky

Gatchina

In the beginning of August we visited Gatchina, one of the ex-royal residences of our Russian emperors, though less frequented and well-known if compared to Tsarskoye Selo or Pavlovsk. Gatchina is not situated that very close to St Petersburg either. It is thus considered the region, not a part of the city. The history of Gatchina is closely knit with Pavel, that prolific emperor who built or inherited and redesigned lots of palaces all around St Petersburg. Gatchina was inherited from Catherine the Great by Pavel and then pretty much loved by the royal family and used as a second residence or a place of refuge by the succeeding monarchs. Just look at that wall!

Gatchina

The palace pictured above, called Grand Gatchina Palace, was built by Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi in late 18th century and later redesigned in the 1840s. Its appearance is consequently quite weird: the corner towers look somewhat unfinished, the overall impression being that of an Italian palace/ castle (well, what else would you expect from an Italian architect : ). If you look at what was left after a fire during the Second World War and take into account the fact that it was completely ruined by the fleeing nazis, you’ll understand how slow and hard the restoration process must have been. Now the palace is just fine – and this very tower reminds me of Florence!

Gatchina

The first time we went there was back in school, it was an organized visit with a guide impersonating Pavel (I guess?) leading the way through the castle and even showing us the secret tunnel which would secure a safe escape to the Silver Lake. We were also hunting for a ‘treasure’ (don’t even remember what that was).

Gatchina

The territory of the Gatchina park next to the palace is really huge and I guess only know being actually taken under control (just a couple of years earlier the park was much less looked after). Still there are somewhat wild places where local people swim or sunbathe.

Gatchina

That day the sky was just great and even without noticing it I took a number of photos where the real star is the dazzling summer sky:

Gatchina

…and some more:

Gatchina

Moving closer to the popular swimming part of the park and still taking photos of the sky, be it a reflection in the water:

Gatchina

We made a large circle round the park and ended up at the Silver Lake again which was to become an epicenter for a light show that evening (we didn’t go). The sky was now painted with feather clouds. I remember calling these clouds ‘porous’ instead of ‘feathery’, the words being somewhat close in Russian, poristy / peristy (obviously inspired by the TV commercial of that ‘porous’ chocolate bar which was compared to balloons in the sky : ).

Gatchina

There’s another part of the park which we didn’t visit that time, so… Why not come to Gatchina on your own after all? I do hope I inspire you to see the good ol’ St Pete one day and, believe me, you will certainly come back as there’s always more to see.

Gatchina

More on St Petersburg and its region here.

There’s a series of photos on my native town’s architecture still ”marinating’ in the drafts. Will get to it eventually!

G.

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