Dacha in the Evening Light of August

dacha objects

A photo-post combining three fleeting things – the dacha season, the late summer evening light and… summer. As many fleeting things – these are wonderful things. Dacha flora, artifacts and other random objects – all for you in this liricheskoye otstuplenie, a poetic note.

dacha flowers

shades of pink: transparent and delicate

dacha flowers

Three dresses of the pink rose. (1) a pinker pink:

dacha flowers

(2) a less warm pink:

dacha flowers

(3) colder pink:

dacha flowers

tapochki, sleepers, not mine but very experienced and zasluzhennye, distinguished:

dacha objects

our dacha house is green

dacha objects

this is the corner (an entire wall actually) dedicated to all things DIY

dacha objects

dacha flowers

dacha flowers

in an old-school pitcher

dacha flowers

tiny and beautiful

dacha flowers

not a fan of picking flowers and bouquets – these were cut for growing new bushes

dacha flowers

our birch tree has 2 trunks – the same as our pine tree (comes with a free but very loud crow family)

dacha trees

more artifacts from the DIY corner

dacha objects

and more flowers, enjoying the evening sun with me (used to be exterminated as Barbie’s shoes)

dacha flowers

unusually orange

dacha flowers

warm and sunny

dacha flowers

It was such a warm day today – the evening seemed like we were somewhere in Aegina. And yet coming through the grass strip (with power transmission lines) there was this sudden gush of cold air as if someone just opened the freezer. We’ll miss you, summer!

G.

Two Good Sourdough Bread Recipes

Sourdough Bread from www.hefe-und-mehr.de

Sourdough bread… for me it is the quintessence of ‘Russian food’. Along with kefir of course :) Well, they do have the ‘wild yeast’ stage in common! And you can make both at home, by the way. I’m still making my kefir with this creamcheese recipe, just skipping the straining stage. And then enhancing it with a slice or two or an entire gorbushka (the butt piece of the loaf and the best piece too) of crusty sourdough bread. Here are two recipes – one of a ‘white’ bread for breakfast and the other of a ‘black’ bread for lunch and dinner.

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

I’ve been using this recipe for some time now, each time altering it but mostly making dark or ‘black’ bread with it. The recipe is perfect for those who are only beginning to bake sourdough bread. But it is also just fine for those who need a basic recipe easy to remember and a procedure easy to follow.

Sourdough Bread from www.hefe-und-mehr.de

A year ago – Three Times Chocolate: Danish Swirl Bread, Panforte and Cookies

Two years ago – Sablé aux figues or Fig Jam Shortbread

Three years ago – Pommes. Pommes de Terre too

Sourdough Bread adapted from www.hefe-und-mehr.de is a super recipe which leaves you so many ways to explore! For the entire recipe and detailed instructions, visit the link above.

My changes: I usually increase the amount of rye flour, add whole wheat flour, rye bran, seeds, etc etc. As for the procedure, I normally bake the bread a bit longer at the highest temperature, cause I really like it crusty!

Sourdough Bread from www.hefe-und-mehr.de

Remarks: I usually mix the starter in the evening, leaving it to ferment overnight, then proceed with the recipe next day. Also tried leaving the rising dough in the fridge and it baked wonderfully. The only problem here is that the dough sticks to the ‘basket’ (I’m using heavily floured glass bowl) so that when you turn it over, the top of the loaf gets damaged a bit. But this you can always remedy with a cross slash :)

Result: The crumb is thick and particularly chewy if you add seeds. The procedure is easy and flexible and the recipe is super-adaptable. Each time the bread is somewhat different although the recipe stays the same.

***

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

And here’s the ‘white’ bread, although it would have been whiter if I hadn’t added quite a lot of whole wheat flour and hadn’t used rye sourdough culture. However, this is still ‘white’ to my mind, so we’re eating it for breakfast. Made huge goryachie buterbrody (hot sandwiches) with this bread, mmm! I know, I know, this is all very cheap gourmandise but I like those microwaved sandwiches with cheese and herbes de Provence on top :)

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule adapted from  www.ashaggydoughstory.com will make two big loaves that slice perfectly to make tasty buterbrod! The original recipe (follow the link above) will give you all the necessary instructions.

My changes: Used 4-cereal mix (barley, oats, wheat and rye) instead of just plain oats. My sourdough culture is made with only rye flour so the result was darker than what it should be with the white flour culture. Also couldn’t resist the temptation to add about 500 g whole wheat flour instead of all-white flour. For the want of covered bakers I used a cast iron pan and a pan covered with aluminum foil. I also baked my loaves a bit longer.

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

Remarks: The procedure is quite flexible so you can adapt it to your lifestyle so to say. The recipe makes quite large loaves so you might want to freeze one once it gets completely cool (I normally do that).

Result: This bread tastes great and looks great – with this swirly slash on top. Don’t mind the oats that will fall off :) Just enjoy the chewy yet soft sourdough bread: crusty with airy crumb!

Rolled Oat Sourdough Boule from www.ashaggydoughstory.com

I’ve posted some more oatmeal bread recently. Adding these two recipes to Sourdough bread collection.

G.

Greek Olive Buns and Breadsticks

Eliopsomo Khoriatiko or Village Olive Bread from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com

I opened a huge jar of black olives… and here’s what I baked with them :)

Eliopsomo Khoriatiko or Village Olive Bread from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com

I’m not a fan of olives sketo (plain) but like having them in my pizza, for example. And although those olives I used were not Greek (too expensive these days…), I chose these two Greek bread recipes requiring the famous Kalamata olives. Here are two takes on the eliopsomo (literally ‘olive bread’) theme. Let’s start with the whole wheat buns:

Eliopsomo Khoriatiko or Village Olive Bread from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com

A year ago – Spanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille

Two years ago – Summer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls

Three years ago – Pommes. Pommes de Terre too

Ελιόψωμο χωριάτικο, Eliopsomo Khoriatiko or Village Olive Bread translated and adapted from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com will make super soft and salty buns with olives and whole wheat flour. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g strong flour for rustic bread – in Greece you can purchase this from a local bakery, for the want of which I used whole wheat flour
  • 1 packet dried yeast – I used instant yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
  • 10 Kalamata olives

Procedure:

In a bowl mix flour, yeast and salt. Gradually add lukewarm water. Knead 5-6 minutes (the original recipe suggests using a mixer). Chop olives and add them to the dough. Continue kneading for 2-3 minutes, till the olives are well distributed. Dust the dough with some flour and leave it covered for 30 minutes.

Divide the dough in 6 (I made 7) balls and shape round buns. Place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Leave them to rise in the oven at 50 ‘C for about 30 minutes. Increase the temperature to 180 ‘C and bake for 30 minutes. They are ready if the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on the rack.

Eliopsomo Khoriatiko or Village Olive Bread from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com

Remarks: Be careful with the salt if your olives are quite salty. Make less buns if you want larger buterbrod. I liked it that with only whole wheat flour they turned out so well – soft and puffy!

Result: Soft, salty and easy to make! Keep shape perfectly, will brighten up your breakfast – or lunch.

Eliopsomo Khoriatiko or Village Olive Bread from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com

***

Olive bread sticksfrom cookmegreek.blogspot.com

Olive bread sticks adapted from cookmegreek.blogspot.com will make soft, salty and addictive tyanuchki (stickjaw). For the entire recipe see the original post.

My changes: Decreased the amount of olives as the half-pieces just wouldn’t mix well into the dough. As for the procedure – I had to bake my sticks longer than 15-20 minutes as they seemed a bit too soft.

Olive bread sticksfrom cookmegreek.blogspot.com

Remarks: The procedure is easy though makes you keep away from adding more flour or kneading too much – these are rustic bread sticks, so do not overdo them! Careful with the salt!

Olive bread sticksfrom cookmegreek.blogspot.com

Result: Sticky sticks that won’t stick long in your kitchen! A truly Mediterranean delicacy – these breadsticks have olive oil, olives and herbs inside. Perfect with soups or sketo :)

Olive bread sticksfrom cookmegreek.blogspot.com

Adding these recipes to Yeast Bread and Country-specific recipes. More breadstick recipes here and here.

G.

Dacha Relics and Tribute to Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia

rose

Here’s a photo catalogue of some of the relics found at our dacha. With a tribute to one of the most influential children’s books of all times – the Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia.

1940 samovar

A 1940 Tula samovar with the remains of burnt pine cones (not seen in the photo). No electricity needed and no plastic – just wood and metal. Not in use now as it is all rough inside but I cleaned it anyway. More on samovars here.

Soviet postcards

Some postcards and a telegram from the Soviet times. And yes, my Mom’s cousin used to congratulate his Granny on the anniversary of the Revolution. A telegram was a common means to quickly congratulate someone on just about everything or to inform somebody of something. People used to cherish words, didn’t they? And here’s a selection of Soviet envelopes, mostly 1980s:

Soviet envelopes

Children’s Encyclopedia, 1964-1969, 2nd edition. Along with other typical books of the Soviet period owned by many families, has been the main source of information for several generations before the Internet came :). Purchased through subscription by post (one of the way to acquire quality books in the Soviet times)  for my mother. Each year two-three new volumes appeared: a subscriber would get a postcard informing them of the arrival of the new book to pick up at the post office. Used by my sister and me until 2000s. Now retired to dacha, a source for Brezhnev’s times official interpretation of history, arts, politics etc etc. I remember leafing and actually reading these brown books with non-realistic photos (both in terms of what they represent and how they do it – the colour photos are too Technicolor!), realizing already back the that the information should be handled with vigilance.

Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia

There’s a website with all the 12 volumes (text and photo) of the Children’s Encyclopedia second edition. And in case you might be interested, here’s a complete list of them, containing all that a Soviet child should (and could) learn from the official sources. Can you imagine how carefully and never-by-chance all these pictures were chosen and every single word was polished? Kids are our future… They will live in communism! (thought to come in 1980)

  • volume 1 Earth (1965)
  • volume 2 Celestial Objects. Numbers and Figures (1964)
  • volume 3 Matter and Energy (1966)
  • volume 4 Plants and Animals (1965)
  • volume 5 Machines and Industry (1965)
  • volume 6 Agriculture (1967)
  • volume 7 Human (1966)
  • volume 8 From the History of Society (1967)
  • volume 9 Our Soviet Motherland (1969)
  • volume 10 Foreign Countries (1968)
  • volume 11 Language. Literature(1968)
  • volume 12 Art (1968) – used longer than the rest, as the art is timeless!

The volume which seemed most outdated and useless in the 1990s, the 9th volume on USSR, now seems the most interesting out of the 12. Titled ‘Our Soviet Motherland’, it tells the history of the country since October revolution with all those cliches of the Soviet republics and pictures of their happy live in the almost communist world. Not a single photo or word on Stalin. Lots of Lenin and brownish-red communist-themed paintings instead.

Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia

“Morning of a Five Year plan. Building the Magnitogorsk Metal Works”. I wouldn’t like my mornings to be like this either:

Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia

Seems like Magnitogorsk (literally City of magnet) was a pretty inspiring sight for the book’s authors. The caption says that Magnitogorsk gives more cast iron than the entire pre-Revolution Russia.

Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia

1967. Parade of pionery on the Red Square (young firefighters and international folk).

Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia

My favourite colour pages – on Armenia (above) and Georgia (below). Always envied the girl eating fruit and marveled at the guys in national costumes!

Soviet Children’s Encyclopedia

Next step on the revolutionary evolution of a Soviet citizen, once you’ve said good-buy to your oktyabrenok and pinoer years, – the Scientific Communism. Yes, there were departments, entire institutions dedicated to this curious science. It was an obligatory course at any department. And nobody could graduate without passing a state exam (i.e. the qualification exam) in SC.

Bored by studying Scientific Communism? Try reading some hilarious satire underneath its cover, like Ilf’s and Petrov’s Twelve Chairs (the notoriously satiric book on the NEP period in USSR (1921-1928)) – without risking of being caught reading inappropriate literature during the Scientific Communism lectures! The original book cover is missing – as well as the contents of the Scientific Communism manual :) It was my father who created this cover because the book was so old it lost its original one.

Scientific Communism

Dacha is full of relics. Some of them are still in use. Some are packed away into the attic… And for a change some dacha rain recorded from the second floor. Love rainy summer days at dacha!

Psst, there’s a 1930s Stalin’s portrait (on a metal plate!) up there in the attic! When asked, Grandpa said that was ‘for the memory’. Then he added with a certain bitterness in his voice: “He was our hero back then, you know”.

Adding this to my On Russia collection. More dacha relics here and here.

G.

Red Currant Season: Coconut Bread and Coffeecake

Red Currant

Red currants are obviously making up for the lack of apples this year. In fact there are apples (which makes my Grandpa super-happy) but just a bit here and there (and mostly on the ground…), nothing like the mega-apple-year-of-2014! More on the sour side than sweet, these berries are something of an exclusivity of summer – you can hardly come by them in any other season, even frozen.

Coconut Raspberry Bread from www.twopeasandtheirpod.com

We’ve picked quite a lot of black currants (which I abhor, I’m sorry!) too, plus gooseberries and raspberries. So you can imagine I’ve been busy baking all sorts of berry cakes and my Mother’s been freezing the berries and also ‘grinding’ them with sugar to make berry varenye (jam) without the act of varenye (boiling, cooking) :)

Coconut Raspberry Bread from www.twopeasandtheirpod.com

I cannot say that red currants bake perfectly as they have all these seeds and they tend to become quite a sticky mass in a cake. But they definitely make a very different cake, sweet & sour. Here are two recipes that were more successful than the others I used (or were just lucky to get pictured before being eaten) and I would like to share them with you. Although neither was actually supposed to contain red currants, I think that both were pretty nice with this zesty berry.

Coconut Raspberry Bread from www.twopeasandtheirpod.com

A year ago – Good White Sourdough Bread

Two years ago – Italian Delicacies a la Russe

Three years ago – Summer Berries

Coconut Raspberry Bread adapted from www.twopeasandtheirpod.com and turned into Coconut Red Currant Bread will make an addictive super-sweet and moist berry cake! For the entire recipe follow the link.

My changes: apparently used red currants instead of raspberries (which are a bit lingering to ripen this summer), added less salt, cow milk instead of almond milk, sunflower oil instead of melted coconut oil and omitted coconut extract. I made a smaller amount of the glaze, adding flake coconut instead of coconut extract.

Remarks: I guess this cake will get super-coconutty with all the coconut extract and the almond milk but even without these it was undoubtedly coconut :)

Result: The cake tastes almost like those tvorozhny keks (cottage cheese cakes) that I would love to reproduce one day. And yet it doesn’t contain any tvorog! Very dense and yet moist, with a wonderful coconut flavour!

 ***

My Very Best Blueberry Coffeecake from www.fantasticalsharing.com

Don’t be surprised by these Christmas bunnies :) It’s just that the cake travelled to the north of St Petersburg, to a perfect cottage with a perfect garden and a perfect kitchen (my favourite part!), to visit my Mother’s friend. And that X-mas plate was the host’s choice for serving the cake in this kitchen full of light:

My Very Best Blueberry Coffeecake from www.fantasticalsharing.com

My Very Best Blueberry Coffeecake adapted from www.fantasticalsharing.com and turned into a Pretty Good Red Currant Coffeecake. Will make a large soft cake with sweet oat crumble (streusel) and berries. Visit the original website to see the recipe.

My changes: Used cardamom instead of cinnamon for the topping and sunflower oil instead of shortening / coconut oil for the batter. I decided to add more sugar as my berries were quite sour but less vanilla extract. Instead of lemon I used orange zest and, again, red currants instead of blueberries and raspberriesapricots. I baked my cake in a round silicone pan longer than 50 minutes.

Remarks: This recipe will require some time and effort as you have to mount the egg whites. Unfortunately the topping diminishes the boosting effect these egg whites bring to the cake (the top sank a bit + the berries sank to a separate layer close to the bottom) but overall the cake was very soft and crumbly. The colour is brownish (because of the brown sugar and the yolks).

Result: A cake that has very ‘country’ looks :) and a rustic taste too because of the oats and the brown sugar. Lovely!

at dacha

August – time for spinning cobwebs!

Adding this to berry and sweet recipe collections.

G.

Museum of Political History of Russia

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

It just dawned on me that I was born in the last year USSR celebrated a round anniversary of the October Revolution in its lifetime. Four more years – and the country with that name ceased to exist.  Now we discover it in the museums, striving to find the missing pieces of the puzzle. In the museums formerly known as Museum of Revolution, for example, located in a curious art nouveau mansion:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

I finally visited one of the most information-rich museums of St Petersburg so far is the Museum of Political History of Russia on the Petrogradskaya side of Neva. This St Petersburg museum definitely requires a separate post – and at least 3-4 hours to visit. I liked that the museum does not come down to being just a large banal display of USSR-related bric-à-brac. There’s a lot to learn round all these objects (if only in Russian sometimes…) and somehow all this engages you emotionally too.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

A copy of a 1929 poster by Boris Schwartz: “Vodka is a foe, savings bank – a friend!”. A Soviet poster is an art in itself. Especially those of the late 1980s – with blemished colours and same old images, stale propaganda slogans and irrelevantly outdated verses (people’s eyes would just glide over them without even noticing them). Take a look on some posters here (scroll down) – some of them are pretty absurd if you don’t know the habitual Soviet propaganda repeated throughout the years, but mostly they are just sadly good-for-nothing. Meanwhile there were those late 1980s – early 1990s posters created outside the established ideology, which pretty bold and poignant:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

The CCCP evolution: Stalin, Kruschev and Brezhnev. Who’s next?

A propaganda picture in a propaganda picture: An ideal kindergarten of the 1930s with the famous picture showing Stalin holding a happy girl whose parents he would later persecute.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

By the way, Lenin was frequently portrayed and referred to as Grandfather Lenin although he died at 54! Stalin never reached this ‘grandfather’ status, probably because right upon his death the anti-cult campaign started and so he was never mythologized as an ideal and originator, but rather as a powerful follower already during his lifetime.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

Would you like your dessert served on this 1940 NKVD plate? NKVD was the predecessor of KGB, in case you were wondering. Or would you rather prefer this 1918 plate with a menacing revolutionary “Those not with us are against us” (ironically attributed to Jesus).

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

Talking about food, here’s a veeeery Spartan BREAKFAST menu at some high-rank health resort where many of the Brezhnev’s cohort were curing their sores, dated 22nd of February, 1979. Yes, everything was regulated and ordered from the above. The menu goes like this: “Granular caviar, stuffed pike perch, tenderloin with prunes, veggies. Russian schi (soup from greens) with vatrushka, baked crabs, fried turkey. Apples in wine, coffee.” I wonder, did they ever regain their health with such breakfasts? And what were the dinners and lunches then?

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

But nor everyone was frequenting high-rank spa resorts. There was the majority of those living in pretty modest apartments, often shared with others, called kommunalnaya kvartira aka kommunalka.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

I think this reconstruction of a Soviet kitchen is rather fair and true-to-life – you can still find these two-coloured walls and the tiled floor in kommunalka and in the public places. This right corner can not be dated exactly cause people were using same things much longer than they do now – hence the ‘universality’ of such a reconstruction:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

Always in the food line, here’s how to upgrade the box where you keep your sweets with these radically red tins celebrating the 10th anniversary of the October revolution!

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

If you like trinkets, here’s something to stand out from the crowd, a medallion and a ring with Lenin:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

The room with the Brezhnev’s stagnant era had more objects that I personally could recognize and relate to. The habitual Chronicles of the Current Events reports and the lies upon lies which could fool no one, a stable but also a very stale period which led to a series of deaths – both of the succeeding party leaders and the regime itself.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

The round object on the left shows a record diameter of… I forgot what :)

As the years went by, the official art lost a lot in its creativity. And it covered every aspect of the country’s life: people used to have the same books, same wardrobes, same clothes, same kitchenware, same cherished tea sets lovingly stuffed behind the glass doors of the same furniture sets, same everything… and in order to possess these commodities, people used to stand in lines and give bribe – on other words, GET as opposed to purchase. “Where did you get that?” was the first question one asked the happy owner of one of these commodities (or an even happier owner, if we are talking about something from abroad). More on this – in the Ironiya Sudby movie.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

And this corner is a very witty idea:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

It is the Soviet jokes corner – I got stuck there for some time :) You just pick up the (old school heavy Soviet) receiver and listen to all those anecdotes which used to brighten up the Soviet life, were spread all over the country and repeated even within the nomenklatura (establishment), but which could easily cost someone their life. One of the jokes I enjoyed best goes like this: Why is the Soviet sun so joyful in the morning? Cause it knows that when the evening comes it will be in the West.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

There were Western LPs illegally copied on the X-ray slides (‘music on bones’), there were entire books copied as photos, there were people making tape recorders from spare parts at military plants to record censored singers. And there were books, magazines and other stuff (re)typed or hand-written in the still of the night while working at some heating plant – those were called samizdat copies – literally published on one’s own.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

And if you were working for the government instead of being a dissident, this is how the Soviet spies could hide their microscopic (for those times, 1950s-80s) cameras – with a fake button which you attach to your inconspicuous overcoat!

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

That was the last room I visited (while I was there the storm started), living the museum really tired but information-full. A few words about the two mansions it’s located in: the one in the first two pictures of this post is the 1909-10 Brant mansion, connected to the adjacent Kschessinskaya’s mansion, the prima ballerina. More photos of these two mansions here. Now that I’ve been inside I can tell you that Kschessinskaya’s house must have been super-lush. Not that I liked it that much, a bit too heavy to my mind, though the use of wood makes it less monumental and cold. In the next room there’s a beautiful wooden staircase which Lenin must have mounted o deliver his revolutionary speech, I guess.

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

A reconstructed room telling the story of Kschessinskaya’s life (with some of her costumes) and mansion. Never liked these plisse curtains, they were the must for all the Soviet establishments, e.g. palaces of culture:

Museum of Political History of Russia, St Petersburg

Important info on the Museum of Political History of Russia: The museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm (Wednesday until 8 pm) except Thursdays. Closed every last Monday. Location: Kuybysheva Street 2/4 (Gorkovskaya metro station). Tickets cost 200 rubles. For those interested there are some Soviet-themed souvenirs. There are audioguides and excursions in English, German and French (+ in the rooms with no tags in English there are brochures with translations). There’s a branch on Gorokhovaya Street telling the history of the Political Police in Russia but I’ve not been there. Plan for quite a lengthy visit – the museum covers the country’s history from Catherine II (18th century) up to today!

By the way, should you have a spare crimson jacket from the 1990s, the museum will be happy to accept it as a gift! :)

Adding this to my St Petersburg series and the posts on Russia. More St Petersburg museums here and here.

G.

Birthday Kovrizhka and Chocolate Chip Muffins

Lenten Honey Kovrizhka or Postnaya medovaya kovrizhka from www.pravmir.ru

How come it suddenly feels so 1st-Septemberish on the 1st of August? It was dramatically windy today but sunny too – and yet there was this autumnal light and the mountain ash trees all covered in red berries that made me shiver a bit. I just hope those were fake signs! You see, this year summer merely forgot its way to St Petersburg :)

Lenten Honey Kovrizhka or Postnaya medovaya kovrizhka from www.pravmir.ru

I’m sharing with you the recipe of a Russian gingerbread-like (or rather pain d’épices) cake traditionally made with honey. Its Russian name is kovrizhka – and I can assure you the only sound of this word brings up so many sweet memories! It’s even more evocative than pryanik (gingerbread) – honey, raisins, nuts, spices… Kovrizhka is a diminutive of kovriga, which is a measure of bread (something like a loaf of bread but round).

Lenten Honey Kovrizhka or Postnaya medovaya kovrizhka from www.pravmir.ru

Kovrizhka can be made plain and quite flat (it’s also considered a lean food as it doesn’t contain eggs, milk or butter) but it is sometimes sandwiched with varenye (jam) in between and glazed with sugar. This is exactly what I did some days ago – turning a plain kovrizhka into a layered cake for my Mother’s birthday. Well, it’s kind of obligatory to make a birthday cake, right?

Lenten Honey Kovrizhka or Postnaya medovaya kovrizhka from www.pravmir.ru

A year ago – Chasing Alexander Pushkin in Tsarskoye Selo

Two years ago – Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza

Three years ago – Fruit Post

Lenten Honey Kovrizhka or Postnaya medovaya kovrizhka translated and adapted from www.pravmir.ru and turned into a 2-layer birthday cake.See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbs honey – half honey half apricot jam
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbs cocoa or ground coffee
  • 0.5 cup raisins
  • 0.5 cup ground nuts – I processed some grilled peanuts in a blender
  • 0.5 cup sunflower oil
  • 1.5-2 cups all purpose flour
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of ground coriander
  • jam, chocolate glaze (see further) – optional

Procedure:

Place sugar, oil and water in a pan, place over low heat and add honey. Mix well until the sugar and honey dissolve. In a separate bowl mix soda, cocoa or coffee and spices, then add this mixture to the liquid mixture. Mix well. Add nuts, raisins and flour sifted with baking powder. The amount of flour may vary: the mixture should look like thick sour cream.

Bake in a baking dish lined with parchment paper or greased and floured (I used a round silicon pan without paper or lining) at 200 ‘C for 30-35 minutes. You can eat kovrizhka plain or layer it with jam.

Lenten Honey Kovrizhka or Postnaya medovaya kovrizhka from www.pravmir.ru

Remarks: My cake took less time – it started to burn actually, so I took it out earlier. Be careful! I used this recipe to make a layered cake, cutting it in two and spreading some chunky apricot jam in between. I normally do not like raisins but here they are just right! I also liked the zestiness of the peanuts – they worked well both inside and on top. I also glazed the cake with chocolate icing (see further).

Result: Tasty, chewy but soft, flavourful. I’m sure it will be very rich even without all the extras. Once you bite in this kovrizhka you menacingly become unstoppable… Beware!

Lenten Honey Kovrizhka or Postnaya medovaya kovrizhka from www.pravmir.ru

As for the glaze, I think it’s high time I share with you this family recipe!

Chocolate Glaze, the family recipe we traditionally use for my Mother’s spécialité – the all-time birthday cake. This amount is enough for glazing one cake.

Ingredients:

  • 5 Tbs sugar
  • 3 Tbs cocoa
  • 2 Tbs milk
  • 50 g butter

Procedure:

Mix all the ingredients together in a non-glazed pan and bring to boil, stirring constantly.

Remarks: You can adjust the ingredients if the glaze is too runny or thick. The glaze will set while cooling so use it while it is still warm. The best thing is to try to get the glaze leftovers from the bottom of the pan! :)

Result: An easy and quick recipe with basic ingredients! A perfect Soviet practicality showcase :)

***

And now a bonus recipe which has been waiting its turn in the backlog for some time already:

Chocolate Chip Muffins from www.browneyedbaker.com

Chocolate Chip Muffins adapted from www.browneyedbaker.com will make cute little muffins. The only drawback is that the amount of the muffins is just not enough =) As always – visit the original website for the entire recipe.

Chocolate Chip Muffins from www.browneyedbaker.com

Changes: Used more sugar and a whole chocolate bar of Osoby, the best quality chocolate from St Petersburg!

Remarks: Had to bake these muffins a bit longer. You might want to double the recipe because… well, just believe me :)

Result: Super-nice! Soft and not rubbery at all, with melting chocolate inside…

Adding these recipes to Russian / Soviet, Chocolate and Sweet collections.

G.

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