Pavlovsk Is Beautiful

Pavlovsk

Pavlovsk Park close to St Petersburg is beautiful any time of the year. In winter on sunny day like this it is majestic.

Pavlovsk

For the lack of time and for the laziness I rarely get out of the city to meet with the nature not just on the pages of Michail Prishvin’s diaries (I’m reading his 1948-1949 diary now).

Pavlovsk

We came back with pink cheeks and too much fresh air in our brains and blood. Feels like we’ve been to a forest … with a 100 RUB entrance fee 🙂

Pavlovsk

While I was (swiftly) walking along the park lanes my Dad was making his magic with the camera: there was yet another photoshooting of girls in traditional Russian costumes designed by the enthusiastic promoter of all things Russian Marina Shadenkova. Spot the curious squirrel!

 Photo courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin

Model Marina. Costume by Marina Shadenkova. Photograph courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin

 Photo courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin

Model Marina. Costume by Marina Shadenkova. Photograph courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin

Photo courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin

Model Olga. Costume by Marina Shadenkova. Photograph courtesy of Vasily Mulyukin

What I particularly love about his photos is when he captures and reveals the beauty of the person he’s photographing. I guess that should be the ultimate goal of it all.

And this was one of the paraphernalia used for the shooting which still serves its owner so good we could only marvel at how great this old hand-made wooden sledge can keep the balance!

Pavlovsk

You can see some of my Father’s new photos here. Soon to appear on his website too.

Pavlovsk in summer, Pavlovsk in spring. I’m now missing a post on Pavlovsk Park in autumn.

G.

Pane a Spiga con Patate or Spike-Like Potato Bread

Pane con Patate

These last days of the year I’ve been baking a lot – making up for the days I’m going to be away from the family oven soon 🙂 Among all that I could manage to bake and squeeze into the freezer for my parents, this potato bread in particular stands out of the crowd. This is an Italian recipe which originally calls for lard but which I quite successfully turned into a vegetarian version, using butter instead.

Pane con Patate

It looks kind of funny too. It’s supposed to resemble a spike (spiga) but mine looks more like some insect. Well it might as well but it certainly tastes like white bread! 🙂

Pane con Patate

A year ago – Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 6 – Prospekt Lenina

Two years ago – Old-Fashioned Apple Slab and Greek Crumble

Three years ago – Goodbye 2013

Four years ago – Let Me Invite You into the New Year

Five years ago – Flammekueche

Pane a Spiga con Patate or Italian Spike-Like Potato Bread translated and adapted from the original recipe at ilpane.blogspot.com will make a giant loaf of soft and sweetish white bread.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g flour (or farina 0 if you can get it), sifted
  • 200 g water
  • 12 g fresh yeast – I used an equivalent 1.4 tsp of instant yeast
  • 10 g salt
  • 15 g sugar
  • 25 g home made lard – I used butter instead
  • 300 g of boiled and pureed potatoes (weigh them after pureeing)

Procedure:

Place all the ingredients in a big bowl, adding the pureed potatoes last. Knead the dough pretty well, about 10 minutes, then place the dough into a greased bowl. Leave to rise for 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and form 2 logs (batards), one smaller than the other (roughly a 1/3 and a 2/3) and leave them to rise for 30 minutes. With a help of a rolling pin or just with your hand make an indent in the center of the bigger log and place there the smaller one, pinching it so that they stick to each other (I had to reshape them both after the 30-minute rise as they were quite puffed at that point). Cover the loaf and leave it to rise for 40 more minutes. Dust it abundantly with ground bran (almost forgot to do it and dusted it with lour instead) and cut the top part with scissors to resemble a spike (I cut the lower part too and in a much freer fashion so to speak 🙂 ). Bake in the preheated 220 °C oven for 30 minutes or until your bread is done (mine took a bit longer).

Pane con Patate

Remarks: I used leftover potato puree which my Mother makes with milk and butter (plus salt). There were little bits of it visible in the crumb and I think the puree also added sweetness to the bread. I guess that eaten with some soup or cheese will counterbalance the sweetness. The loaf is huge but has baked through just fine.

Pane con Patate

Result: Soft and really white, a tad on the sweet side with a contrasting ‘burnt’ crust. Flavourful. The recipe is quite easy (having leftover potato puree helps a lot too) and yet the result is pretty impressive. And it does taste Italian to me! 

Pane con Patate

The air bubbles and the crust:

Pane con Patate

If you are looking for more Italian bread, here’s another – sourdough – version of potato bread (also with herbs) Pane con Patate ed Erba Cipollina, sourdough oatmeal bread Pane di avena a lievitazione naturale, leavened Italian Panini all’Olio, Pane Tipo Altamura, Tuscan Bread, Stirato or Italian Baguettes, or simply Italian Bread.

This post goes to the Leftovers, Yeast Bread and By Country recipe collections.

G.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Inspired by a colleague who brought us some Iranian pistachios to the office (those were good!) and another colleague who baked her own sukhariki (Russian for rusks) recently, I just had to make some biscotti too. With pistachios.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

I ended up following an American take on an Italian recipe and using Greek pistachios, Russian chocolate and dried fruits from Finnish muesli which do not necessarily come from Finland as you can imagine 🙂 And that having in mind to ‘finally follow a recipe to the letter’. No way!

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

A year ago – Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 5 – Around Railway Station

Two years ago – Old-Fashioned Apple Slab and Greek Crumble

Three years ago – Vermont Sourdough and Yellow Roses

Four years ago – All the Soviet Children…

Five years ago – Flammekueche

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios adapted from Chocolate, Raspberry, and Walnut Whole Wheat Biscotti on www.kingarthurflour.com will make crunchy sweet rusks, almost 100% whole wheat if you follow the recipe 100%. The recipe is on the website; here are my changes and remarks:

Ingredients: had to use a mixture of wholewheat flour + a bit of all-purpose flour as the batter seemed too sticky to handle; added less salt; instead of freeze-dried raspberries (what are they anyway?) used raisins and other dried fruits from muesli; used whole pistachios instead of chopped walnuts.

Procedure: did not flatten the logs that much for the first bake and thus the biscotti turned out smaller (shorter) in size; the procedure might take some time but there’s something so enjoyable in it that you’ll want to do it again.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Remarks: Already after the first bake the biscotti (or rather logs of biscotti) looked pretty attractive with a crack along the top. Be careful with the timing: during the second bake you’ll have to flip the biscotti over halftime through and they might seem not that crunchy enough. However, 10 minutes after they will be more than crunchy, believe me! By the way, these biscotti do not contain any butter or oil. I would add less sugar next time, as chocolate and dried fruits already contain sugar.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Result: Chewy, crunchy, sweet. The pistachios (from Aegina) I used were slightly salty which added that little something in contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate. The (original) raspberries should have contributed to the appearance too, however even with the modest raisins these biscotti have a very rustic look.

Want more biscotti? Try these Almond Biscotti or the Greek Ouzo and Pistachio Paximadia or simply Biscotti.

Thanks God we’re past the shortest days of the year, the light will gradually come back, drop by drop. We’re having no snow and consequently no sun here in St Petersburg. Wearing sneakers at the end of December reminds of my other December, 6 years ago in Thessaloniki, almost entirely spent in a T-shirt 🙂

This post goes to my Chocolate and Sweet collections.

P.S. Domes of the St Sophia Cathedral in Veliky Novgorod on some of the photos on a Catholic Christmas Eve unintended.

G.

Ryazan and a Bit of Moscow

Ryazan

On the first weekend of December I continued my adventures in Russia visiting Ryazan, and old city some 180 km away from Moscow. I took a train from St Petersburg which arrives pretty early in the morning. After getting some more sleep and a substantial breakfast at the hostel I went out to see the sights. It was snowing and there was unfortunately no sun at all. My first stop was at this church (Borisoglebsky Cathedral) which has a street running underneath it:

Ryazan

It was super slippery walking there but here it is from the other side:

Ryazan

Walking a bit forward to the Ryazan Kremlin I found this wooden house with a menacing note that informs its tenants of an imminent resettlement this summer… I hope they will somehow keep the building (just two steps away from it is an almost entirely burnt down wooden mansion ‘under reconstruction’).

Ryazan

The door was open:

Ryazan

I can imagine it’s not very easy living in such place but it’s so elaborate and just beats flat all the later built stuff around… Note the external thermometer outside of the window – don’t believe the weather forecast, trust your own sight:

Ryazan

Finally I got to the Kremlin where the tourist life was about to begin. It was Saturday after all:

Ryazan

It’s a pity there’s no observation point on any of the bell towers in the city (or did I miss anything?) cause it would be great to see the landscape – and the cityscape – from above. The rives Trubezh and Lybed, the tributaries of the larger Oka river, create a curious and beautifully carved landscape with meadows and hills.

Ryazan
Somewhere beyond the city lies the territory described by the Russian writer Konstantin Paustovsky whose short stories we all read as children in Russia. The old-school wooden building in blue is the river pier from where you can travel to the Oka river:

Ryazan
The Kremlin is traditionally situated on the top of the hill surrounded by the river streams. This is a part (ruined) of the Shelter for People (as opposed to the Shelter for Nobles situated nearby) and the Church of the Holy Ghost with a non-common two-pinnacle style.

Ryazan

I really liked this People’s Shelter building which curves a bit in the center:

Ryazan

The Ryazan Kremlin was founded in 1095 (which is also considered to be the foundation year of the city itself) and it continued developing mostly throughout the 13-18th centuries. Even though its walls are made in brick is preserves the traditional white-washed wall style:

Ryazan

I really like all those architectural details:

Ryazan

Enhanced with the snow:

Ryazan

These two buildings house the local History Museum where I spent almost third of the day, not only escaping from the cold but also actually learning something about the region – and about my country too.

Ryazan

There was this exposition on a woman who collected local crafts in the beginning of the 20th century. Looking at all those intricate embroidery, lace and skillfully woven cloth made me sigh and conclude that we’ve lost such a huge part of our heritage. We don’t know it, we ignore the meaning of all those colours and symbols and patterns.We don’t even know the parts of the traditional Russian costume.

Ryazan

There is also these reconstructed halls which look pretty touristy although I appreciate their attempt at recreating something super-(kitchy)-Russian:

Ryazan

After the museum I went on exploring the Kremlin (and the city).

Ryazan

The windy and mostly white-washed wall territory of the Ryazan Kremlin has a later Assumption Cathedral with this amazing mosque-like door which was unfortunately closed as it can only be visited during the warm(er) months. This is the main church in the city.

Ryazan

Here it is seen from the mound together with the bell tower and the wall inside which there is a… toilet 🙂

Ryazan

The mound looks really cool:

Ryazan

There’s a short street called Rabochaya (Working) running almost back-to-back with the mound. It has several obviously non-inhabited wooden houses like this one, built somewhere in the beginning of the 20th century I suppose:

Ryazan

This is another cathedral which is decorated with the colourful tiles looking particularly good against the (decadently non-) white walls:

Ryazan
Looking at the Kremlin from the Soborny (Cathedral) park and the Church of Spas-na-Yaru:

Ryazan

With all the churches and cathedrals, Ryazan has two Bezbozhnaya streets – Atheist or literally God-less Streets. TWO. Pervaya (First) Bezbozhnaya and Vtoraya (Second) Bezbozhnaya. They probably have other problems to solve than to rename those two streets, like the center of the city in a somewhat bad state:

Ryazan

I wondered off the Kremlin into the pedestrian Pochtovaya (Post) Street visiting of course the local post office in the search of ANY postcards that won’t be sold in packs. The green building behind the statue (to some famous nobleman) used to be the city’s main bank. Ryazan has a number of imperial buildings dating back to as early as the Peter the Great’s times.

Ryazan

As I spent quite a bit of time in the museums I did not see some of the minor musts of the city. What I can tell you is that the city is a bit of a maze and I discovered most of the sights by actually getting lost while trying to find some other sight. I really liked the presence of several rivers in the city and the way Ryazan builds up on their banks. The only drawback was that I couldn’t find that much of local food there: when I asked about anything local, a puzzled shop-assistant told me they have local kotlety (meat patties) 🙂   So I bought this black bread from the Tula region (another old city around Moscow, famous for its pryanik, samovar and weapons) instead:

Moscow

This is a sourdough rye bread made with fermented rye malt, molasses, kvass wort concentrate (used to make the traditional beverage kvass) and such (a variety of) spices as allspice, black pepper, cardamom, coriander, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. The bread is called Starorussky Nasuschny (Old-Russian Daily or Vital) and it has three bogatyr (aka old-Russian supermen) pictured on its package. The bread was soft and really flavourful! To accompany it I bought some – finally – local  cheese:

Moscow

The cheese – called Myagky Ryazansky (Soft from Ryazan) was somewhat close to Adygea cheese but more dense. The cheese is made from cow’s milk and salt (not too salty). I used it for a pie with fresh coriander and tvorog from the same dairy farm.

So my verdict on Ryazan: it’s big and thus less cozily attractive as Vladimir (or Suzdal). It has interesting stuff in its museums and a rather concentrated old center. Not many local crafts / food detected though. Should be a very nice place to walk in summer with the rivers, hills, an island and the meadows.

Moscow

Later that day I took a fast double-decker train that circulates between Moscow and Voronezh (the region I visited last November) and in just two hours I was in Moscow. The weather was expected to be quite harsh but we ventured out on a (substantial) walking tour in the district of Khamovniky where the craftsmen would make and sell their linen fabric (the now – light – swear word ‘kham‘ originally meant linen fabric) many many years ago. I have never been to this part of the district which is situated closer to the end of the bend that the Moscow river creates (here it is on the map). Our first stop was at the Novodevichy Convent which we all know about from the school history lessons and for the famous people buried there and which is planted right there in the middle of the huge megalopolis. The Convent, one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Moscow, has survived almost intact from the 16-17th centuries and is now sort of an open-air museum of Moscow baroque architecture. It is called Novodevichy for a reason (oe a number of reasons): it being new in comparison with the other – older – monasteries and a convent (devitsa = girl) also used for exiling unwanted tsar’s wives and other royal females, like Peter the Great’s grandmother.  

Moscow

While wandering in the district we also had a chance to admire this late 17th century church of St Nicolas in Khamovniki which after an apparently recent renovation looks pretty cake-like. They say Leo Tolstoy used to frequent this church as he lived just several meters away:

Moscow

And it was exactly his house that we also visited that day – located in the same formerly Dolgokhamovnichesky (Long / Big Khamovnichesky) Lane, now Leo Tolstoy Street. Tolstoy lived here in 1882-1901 and created many of his works like The Kreutzer Sonata and Resurrection.

Moscow

The wooden house appears quite small from the outside but has actually quite a number of rooms as it got rebuilt and upgraded several times since its construction in the early 19th century. They say most of the things (I mean exhibits) are Tolstoy’s original belongings. Thanks to his fame and the general love and respect from the official Soviet side, we can now see not a reconstructed but indeed preserved interiors.

Moscow

Some of the rooms look super modest (like the tiny bedrooms with tiny beds and almost nothing else) whereas others look pretty kitchy and crowded with things. Even if you’re not that into Tolstoy’s writings, I would recommend visiting his museum for the sake of the ambience, as a peek into the life of Moscow intelligentsia in the late 19th century. The territory is surrounded with a fence, there’s a garden and some auxiliary constructions (should be nice in summer – as all things are!). It’s also such a quiet place in the middle of the high-rise high-tech Moscow that you can hardly believe it was not erased to the ground. It reminded me of the recently visited Surikov’s museum in Krasnoyarsk – these places just take you away from the real life for a moment.

Moscow

Tried to get some food pictured for my future posts – but in vain. There was a weekend of sunny days but… nothing new or unusual to share with you.

Adding this post to the Travel collection.

G.

Winter Dreams of Vladimir and Suzdal

Suzdal - Vladimir

I recently ventured out on a short escape from the city life to two of the Russia’s so-called Golden Ring of historical cities, Vladimir and Suzdal. They are situated close to Moscow and there’s a direct train that will take you there overnight from St Petersburg. Both cities are among the oldest in Russia classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and both have a long story to tell.

Suzdal - Vladimir

I arrived in Vladimir so early in the morning that managed to gain several hours of sleep at a hostel before going out to explore the sights.  First, I took a bus to Suzdal, which long long ago used to be even larger and more important than Vladimir.

Suzdal - Vladimir

A local bus took me to Suzdal pretty fast and when I got there I was among the very few tourists (more of them arrived later) who were not scared by the wind, snow and general gloomish atmosphere.

Suzdal - Vladimir

However, it actually added to the overall impression of a tiny town resembling an open-air museum more than anything else.

Suzdal - Vladimir

With the whitewashed walls and the white snow (which do not seem that white when you come close to them) and the white sky, Suzdal in winter is a perfect place for listening carefully to its secrets, not disturbed by the hoards of tourists.

Suzdal - Vladimir

I took multiple pictures from all the angles although I was constantly worried that my camera’s battery would freeze. It’s obvious that in summer you are supposed to spend much more time near each point of interest just because it’s warmer but at the same time you probably will not as you will be facing loads of tourists trying to do the same.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Can you feel the fragility and the sophistication of Suzdal in winter?

Suzdal - Vladimir

Its old walls told me stories of the past: after all the town counts almost 1000 years of written history!

Suzdal - Vladimir

It was huge before Moscow became prominent and it had so many churches as no other Russian town could boast of.

Suzdal - Vladimir

But now the only thing that keeps it alive is the tourism: the smallest of all the Golden Ring cities (the concept was introduced in the Soviet era) has the greatest amount of tourists.

Suzdal - Vladimir

The things that you might want to visit in Suzdal are all situated within a walking distance, starting from the Trading Arcades (see pictures 5, 6, 8) and the nearby Kremlin (see the photo above and 5 photos down), which is the oldest part of the town (10th century),..

Suzdal - Vladimir

…with this 13th century church that has a very attractive door:

Suzdal - Vladimir

and the 16-18th century halls and Archbishop’s chambers with whitewashed walls:

Suzdal - Vladimir

It was 10 am when I got to the Kremlin – so deserted:

Suzdal - Vladimir

But the restaurant’s door was half-open:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Just noticed the somewhat conflicting pavement – too new to match with the whitewashed walls.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Looking at the picture above taken from the wooden Church of St. Nicholas makes me travel back to that moment.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Cold.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Snowy.

Suzdal - Vladimir

While the town was patiently waiting for the buses to come in with the tourists, I went to the open-air museum which gathers log-houses and wooden churches of the 18-19th centuries exemplifying the traditional Russian architecture.

Suzdal - Vladimir

For me, the most interesting part is what you can see inside of the log houses.

Suzdal - Vladimir

I know that all this is done for the tourists but…

Suzdal - Vladimir

…it’s so cozy inside! and warm 🙂

Suzdal - Vladimir

Inside almost each house you’re welcomed by a lady or two dressed in traditional clothes who is ready to tell you about the old habits, explain to you the use of all those objects and… discuss politics and smartphone applications 🙂

Suzdal - Vladimir

There are also two windmills, several storehouses and other constructions you would find in a village. There is also a stone house of a well-off merchant.

Suzdal - Vladimir

Leaving the cozy museum of the wooden architecture, I went back to the Kremlin:

Suzdal - Vladimir

…and then proceeded on till I got to the Monastery of Saint Euthymius which I decided to leave for future since I wanted to see Vladimir in the daylight too. On my way I spotted numerous facades, this one, for example, is in the Old (Staraya) Street :

Suzdal - Vladimir

this one is very festive:

Suzdal - Vladimir

and this one looks beautiful:

Suzdal - Vladimir

and this one looks fancy too:

Suzdal - Vladimir

I liked this surviving house dating back to the 17th century with this small ‘baby’ attachment, to my mind – for storing stuff.

Suzdal - Vladimir

I took my old-school bus back to Vladimir and walked there quite a bit along the main street, occasionally turning into the adjacent streets when something caught my eye. Like this tile:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Or this Art-Nouveau school (now university):

Suzdal - Vladimir

It’s interesting that from our first visit to Vladimir about 16 years ago I can hardly remember anything. Even this hallmark of the city, the Golden Gate, somehow did not get engraved into my memory:

Suzdal - Vladimir

It’s lower part is authentic (12th century) while the upper part was added / renovated in the 18th century. The center of Vladimir is pretty low-rise to say the least:

Suzdal - Vladimir

And here’s how it looks from the top of the ex-water tower which is now a museum dedicated to the old Vladimir: how the town looked like before and what the life there was like.

Suzdal - Vladimir

The top floor provides you with a view over the town with its small houses, churches and hills.

Suzdal - Vladimir

A street close to the museum with the road post:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Further along that street:

Suzdal - Vladimir

Another view over the city:

Suzdal - Vladimir

The dusk was already there when I got to the Assumption (Uspensky) Cathedral:

Suzdal - Vladimir

But it looked even more sophisticated and a bit eerie in this bluish light:

Suzdal - Vladimir

The horizon got lost in the snow:

Suzdal - Vladimir

When I got to the St Demetrius Cathedral (12th century), the daylight was gone:

Suzdal - Vladimir

The town turned its lights on and I walked here and there popping into local shops and ended up buying pryanik with cherries (they say Vladimir used to be famous for its cherry orchards) and wild apricot and lemon jam from Dagestan 🙂 I also bought this bread called Mstyora bread:

Mstera Bread

It’s a light rye bread made with rye malt and coriander made according to the recipe from Mstyora in the Vladimir region. Mstyora is actually better known for its miniature art. They make miniatures with a black background similar to the more popular Palekh art which I used to dream of when I was a child – I begged my Mom to buy me a tiny lacquered box to keep my precious objects there.

On the first photo: Stained-glass window at the Vladimir bus station.

This post goes to the Travel series.

G.

Bulgarian Peach Sladkish and Czech Jam Kolache

Sladkish s Praskovi

With the lack of the light and the overall November blues atmosphere I seem to be reluctant to take photos of the things I’m baking these days. To make these pictures I had to use a lamp… Each year November seems to catch me off-guard, such a hard month. December somehow passes much easier as half of it at least is taken over by all the New Year and Christmas preparations (for those who do get involved). And then the days grow longer. But as for now, we are still a month away from that!

Sladkish s Praskovi

So why not dream about sun with this bright yellow cake (made extra-yellow thanks to the lamp 🙂 the recipe for which comes from the sunny Bulgaria. This country is famous for its peaches (as well as roses – and yogurt – and brine cheese…) so no surprise these guys know how to use them. The peaches I used were from Greece though 🙂 After baking with apples for so many months in a row I was really relieved to bake with something else!

Sladkish s Praskovi

1 year ago – Heritage Days in Avignon

2 years ago – Petroskoi or Petrozavodsk, Capital of Karelian Republic

3 years ago – Multigrain Bread and the Best View

4 years ago – Ramble On

5 years ago – 1 Idea for 2 Delicious Dinners

Sladkish s Praskovi or Bulgarian Peach Cake translated and adapted from www.zajenata.bg will make a big white cake with sunny peaches on top.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg peaches (or other fruit), sliced – I used almost an entire can of (Greek) peaches in syrup, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (200 ml) sugar
  • 1 tea cup sour milk or smetana – I used tvorog (5 % cottage cheese) + smetana (15% sour cream) + kefir
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour – I also added some vanilla extract
  • ½ package baking powder – measured out something like 2 tsp
  • 100 ml vegetable oil – I used sunflower
  • a pinch of salt
  • powdered sugar, for decorating the top – skipped that

Procedure:

Beat the eggs with sugar, add smetana or sour milk, oil and salt. Then add in the flower sifted with the baking powder, so that you get a thick smooth mixture.

Grease and flour your baking dish and preheat the oven to 180 °С.

Pour the batter into the baking dish and bake for about 5 minutes. Then take the dish out of the oven and arrange the peach slices on top of the par-baked batter. Return to the oven for 30 minutes more. When the cake is ready, cool it and decorate it with powdered sugar.

Sladkish s Praskovi

Remarks: Although I par-baked the cake for more than 5 minutes, I also needed more time for it to be ready during the final baking. I guess the baking pan was a bit small for this cake. So I would add more peaches or bake the cake in a larger pan. Be sure to drain your peaches thoroughly if you’re using canned fruit like me.

Sladkish s Praskovi

Results: This cake can easily be used as a birthday / gift cake. It looks nice (even though it sunk in the middle a bit) and it keeps its shape. But as soon as you start cutting it, the peach slices inevitably fall apart 🙂

Grandma's Kolache

My second recipe that I baked the same day comes from a probably less sunny country, the Czech Republic. I have this idee fixe each time I want to bake something from the comfort food category – and that is jam envelopes, konvertiki s povidlom (pryaniki or Russian gingerbread belong to this category as well). This recipe comes nearly close to the thing I wanted so much.

Grandma's Kolache

Grandma’s Kolache or Czech Envelopes with Jam adapted from www.mrbreakfast.com will make 20 or so soft buns filled with your favourite jam. Follow the link to see the entire recipe. Kolache derives from the Old Slavonic kolo which means circle or wheel, and the Russian and East European bread kalach is actually round (more or less – depending on its local variation).

My changes and remarks:

I used butter instead of shortening, added less salt and vanilla extract, but had to put in more flour. As for the filling I chose homemade apple puree and just a few of the buns had apple jam inside.

I made less kolache – only 20 instead of the suggested 24.

I baked my kolache a bit longer than stated in the recipe. The jam started flowing out of the buns when I moved them to the upper shelf in the oven for several minutes. So the next batch I baked only on the middle rack and they rose better. On this photo the top kolache is with the apple jam (I used mostly the fruit part) and the other two are with the apple puree:

Grandma's Kolache

Result: These very soft mini-pies will remind you of your childhood years… even if you have never tasted jam envelopes before 🙂

Adding these recipes to the Country-specific and Sweet collections where you will find other recipes with peaches and apples.

G.

Tram to Polytechnic University

Tram to Polytechnic University

My recent tram trip to the Polytechnic University campus and park started from the deserted Summer Garden in the heart of St Petersburg. It was a Sunday morning and there was me and an unusual combination of snow and leaves. There was not even any ice on the canals and rivers of the city back then. What a sudden winter attack in early November!

Tram to Polytechnic University

Winter and snow works magic and makes the city – and probably any place in general – more silent. Have you ever though that winter is a silent season? Even a busy city succumbs to this silence.

Tram to Polytechnic University

The city on a Sunday morning is slow and particularly in such frosty weather is also less populated which helps soak in the atmosphere and pay more attention to the details. Which apparently I did as almost all the photos I took on my way from the Summer Garden across Neva to the Peter and Paul Fortress on Petrogradskaya Side were all about…

Tram to Polytechnic University

street lights. Which usually grasp my attention anyway. So here we go:

Tram to Polytechnic University

never actually noticed this peculiar one guarding the gates to the Peter and Paul Fortress:

Tram to Polytechnic University

love those 18th century windows

Tram to Polytechnic University

while the square in front of the Peter and Paul Cathedral looked particularly theatrical:

Tram to Polytechnic University

a deserted path looking more like some movie set:

Tram to Polytechnic University

what a curve!

Tram to Polytechnic University

Then I walked to the terminus of the tram 6A and was lucky enough to get on one which was standing there as if waiting for me. It was only some minutes later that I realize I’m pretty much not used to tramway style of life! The lady was obviously not in a hurry, she checked all the indicators and chatted with the conductor about what they were eating this weekend. At first I was sitting a little bit nervous with the fact we were not moving anywhere but then I started getting into the tramway style of life… Tramways are not all new and warm but they have this stubborn old-fashioned something about them that makes trams and the people using them something of a sect. If you get on a tram no one INSIDE the tram will look at you kind of strange (like, why do you use this slow tram and do not use metro instead?!). They all take it easy, the time and the distance.

Tram to Polytechnic University

Tram 6A starts from the zoo and runs through the Petrogradskaya side onto the other side of the river Neva, to the Vyborgskaya side where it has its terminus at the Finlandsky Railway Station. There I got off and had to wait for quite a time to get on the next tram which would take me back first and then up north.

Tram to Polytechnic University

Tramway 40 has quite a long route though it used to be even longer. It crosses two islands and gets back to the Vyborgskaya side. It was for the first time that I saw the city from this point (I don’t drive so usually experience the city either walking or… taking the metro which is the fastest means of transport), I mean, from the middle of the streets and bridges. Here is the refurbished Aurora cruiser, by the way, and somewhere on the other side of Neva my workplace:

Tram to Polytechnic University

Back to the Petrogradskaya side the tram runs along river Karpovka and stops there where I walked some time ago visiting those Art Nouveau and constructivist spots of the island. Here are two Art Nouveau buildings, a small mansion which belonged to a family of artists and a city tramway power substation.

Tram to Polytechnic University

The best place on a tramway is at the back. It might be quite a bumpy ride if you choose to stay there but then you can see the whole panorama. As we crossed the Kamenny Island, we got back to the Vyborgskaya side where we proceeded to such places in the city where I have never been. Well, starting from this square (Svetlanovskaya square):

Tram to Polytechnic University

This reminded me of the important role that the tramway played in the Siege. It stopped operating only during the hardest winter of 1941-42 but then continued to serve the besieged city in spring 1942. By the way, before the USSR broke up the city tramway network was number one in the world with its 600 km of tracks. It’s a pity most of those crazy routes crisscrossing the entire city are now disused.

Tram to Polytechnic University

I had to get off tram 40 in the middle of the road as there was some accident along the line but we were very close to my destination that day: Polytechnic University campus. And there was sun which brightened the day and made me more resistant to the cold. I wondered off the main building along the sleepy academic buildings most of which were completed in the beginning of the 20th century.

Tram to Polytechnic University

The campus is massive, it starts from the previous metro station Ploshchad Muzhestva and stretches up to the Politehnicheskaya metro station. It’s open to public and I spotted quite a lot of families with children. They wouldn’t pay extra attention to this early 1930s constructivist block though:

Tram to Polytechnic University

My Grandad graduated from this university and he lived in one of the dormitories built in the 1930s which have been partially taken down now (even the street he still recalls the name of doesn’t exist anymore). From what I understand, his dorms should have also been built at around the same time. I still have to discover that district near Ploshchad Muzhestva which I only saw from the tram window. My next point of interest was this hydraulic station, one of the most attractive constructions in the area. Built in 1905 to resemble a watchtower and a garden pavilion at the same time, this tower supplied water until 1953 and also served as a laboratory.

Tram to Polytechnic University

The tower stands in the ‘forest’ or park which occupies quite a chunk of the campus. There was so much snow there that I already thought of skiing which I haven’t done for many years. I didn’t wander further (or farther) as I was getting cold, so I headed to the nearby Politehnicheskaya metro station, saluted the ever present pigeons and…

Tram to Polytechnic University

… oh yes, took metro back home, the fastest but much less nostalgic nor anywhere close to being a sightseeing means of transport (if we don’t take into consideration the stations themselves, like Avtovo one). Will try to dig out other peculiar tramway lines to discover more unusual spots of the city.

This post goes to the ever-growing St Petersburg series.
G.

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