architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Vorontsovsky Palace

This is how it looked on the day I arrived in Alupka, on the Southern coast of Crimea – the Ai-Petri mountain perfectly vivid and shining under the sun. Next morning the top of the mountain was obscured by clouds (mist) which should have told me that the weather up there would be a little bit cold but… I didn’t even pay attention to that, it was so sunny down there. And that’s how the Ai-Petri and other adventures began that day.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

The cable road in Miskhor leading to the over 1200 m high Ai-Petri mountain is just a short walk away from the Vorontsov Palace, so there I went and very soon found myself and three other tourists (two of them from St Petersburg) on our way to the top in… a motor car and not a cable car ūüôā That’s one of the ways to gain money for the local men who take the tourists up to the mountain in a car with a few stops here and there for the price of a ride on the cable road.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Our first stop was at the Uchan-su waterfall (from the Tatar ‘flying water’ – which it is, falling from such a height it makes your head tired from looking up) on the Southern slope of the Ai-Petri mountain, where the guarding ladies (with a cat) will let you in once you pay a 50 ruble entrance fee (I immediately recalled The Twelve Chairs by Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov – how the extremely resourceful main character was collecting unsanctioned entrance fee so that the Proval or Fall, a cavern with a lake in the Caucasus, would not… fall).

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Already at the waterfalls did we start to feel some kind of a chill – it was gradually getting colder the closer we we getting to the top of the mountain. Meanwhile, our resourceful driver drove us up to the next stop – at the rotunda overlooking Yalta the access to which is supposed to be forbidden but apparently not so at all in the absence of the guardians. I know I know, I took innumerable photos of the views which cannot render even a tiny bit of what you feel when you are there yourself…

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Then we drove more along the narrow (to say the least) serpentine road up the mountain, listening to all the legends our driver was eager to share. After some more stops we got off the car just before reaching the cable road station to see some tiny white and yellow flowers and… this:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

No, that was not cotton-wool used as fake snow in the old Christmas decorations. I cannot say we were not at all surprised to see this in May but… Given how cold it was up there, it was easier for us to believe that was real snow! And if you stay on that cliff open to all winds and biting cold long enough, you become as crooked as this tree!

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Oh that colour! My mind though…, well, it was quite frozen by the time we arrived at the top of Ai-Petri, so I can now barely recall the sensation. But I remember that looking down there I had only one idea in my head – there it should be sunny and warm, no more mist, no more strong wind!

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

In fact I got so cold and also instantaneously tired from the nauseatingly persistently offered service (grilled meat, ponies, excursions, whatever you like – how do they all survive up there?!) that I jumped into the first cable car available. They say in winter when the roads are covered with snow, the cable car is the only means to get provision to those who live on the mountain. Brrr! We made it back to the station with a stopover somewhere in the middle where you change cars in 15 minutes against about a 2 h ride up there. ‘Flying’ over the vineyards:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

When I got out of the cable car and started defrosting a little bit, I headed towards the bus station at the entrance to the Vorontsov park and got on the marshrutka (a commercial bus) that goes in the direction of Yalta. My target was the Swallow’s Nest, one of the symbols of Crimea. First, you get rid of all the souvenir shops greeting you at the bus stop, then you walk many steps towards the castle and then you see this:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Everyone’s there for the iconic view (there’s also another one from the sea if you take a boat) of this fairy-tale castle that sits on the cliff and seems to be sailing to the horizon. They say it looks like Miramare Castle in Trieste but most certainly it resembles a toy, a miniature castle, even when you get there and stand close to its entrance. The Castle is hanging there for over a century, originally built for the riches it was then abandoned because it started falling into the sea. It was under construction when I was there in May.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Done with the castle, I hopped on the bus which took me to another must of the Southern coast of Crimea – Livadia Palace, the one where they held the Yalta Conference in 1945. While Churchill was hanging out in the Vorontsov Palace, the President of the US was stationed here in Livadia, the former Nicholas II summer residence. Well, one of them.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

I have to say I was much less impressed by Livadia Palace and I decided not to wait for the excursion group. Built round the same time as the Swallow’s Nest, this rather squarish palace seems a bit too… square. However, the park was beautiful as well as the view towards Yalta and over the sea.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Spring in Crimea is gorgeously luscious:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Much as I enjoyed the nature (there’s this Tsar’s or Sunny Path that runs through many palaces and parks which I would love to take in the future) I was too tired to continue my trip along the coast¬† and got back to Alupka where in the evening I however found some strength and attention to explore a ghost sanatorium.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

How to get there: I suggest to give in to the promises of the drivers (you will find many of them at the Miskhor cable car from about 10 am) and go up the Ai-Petri mountain in a car and then descend using the cable car. If starting from Yalta, take a marshrutka from the bus station towards Alupka and ask the driver to stop at the kanatka (cable car). If you wish to visit only the Castle and the Palace, the same bus will take you to Livadia (you will have to walk from the stop to the palace), and then you can proceed to the Swallow’s Nest taking any bus going in the same direction. These local buses make numerous stops at sanatoriums, hotels and other places so your journey might take some time. However, I managed to squeeze in these three musts in about 6-7 hours starting from Alupka.

Will continue my Crimean adventures soon, there’s so much I’ve seen and looking through the photos I realize there’s so much I have seen but haven’t really noticed!

This post goes to the Travel collection.

G.

pies · sweet

Red Currant Pie with Ground Oats and Peanuts

Red Currant Pie

Berries from dacha. Some of them are now frozen, some of them turned into a sort of zhivoe varenye (live confiture, consisting of berries strained with sugar, no boiling involved – the best way to preserve all the good stuff in the fruit), some of them eaten raw (gosh, they are so sour!) and some end up as a filling to numerous cakes, muffins and this time also a pie.

Red Currant Pie

This summer with June and July almost sun-less, has not given the berries enough sugar so they are eeeextra sour. Thanks God, no apples this year – I can only imagine how sour they would be…

Red Currant Pie

Red currants are traditionally extremely sour. Yet, I like baking with them, they seem to give that special ‘it’ to the cakes and pies.

Red Currant Pie

After making quick cakes and muffins, I’ve finally got over my laziness and here’s a pastry pie I baked today with the last red currants from our dacha – soft and zesty. Why peanuts in a berry pie? Well, I just had some in front of me.

Red Currant Pie

Same goes with why I decided to add this tolokno (see Remarks below) layer to the pie 0 I guess I just had it on the table at that moment too! However, it seems it was not that bad an idea after all – it has given the berries an extra soft (and sweet) layer and also prevented the juices from destroying the bottom of the pie. I think it worked in a sort of custard-y way.

Red Currant Pie

1 year ago – Lemon-Gooseberry Bars

2 years ago РGreek Olive Buns and Breadsticks

3 years ago РSpanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille

4 years ago РSummer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls

5 years ago РPommes. Pommes de Terre too

Red Currant Pie with Ground Oats and Peanuts

Ingredients (as with most of my recipes – the amounts are very approximate!)

  • 150-200 g sugar, divided
  • lemon zest, to taste
  • 90-100 g butter, cold or from freezer
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • handful of peanuts, ground into flour
  • all-purpose flour, enough for the pastry
  • 2-3 Tb oat flour (preferably tolokno¬†or kama, see Remarks)
  • 1/2 cup warm water, or more as needed
  • fresh red currants

Procedure

First, make the pastry. Cut cold butter into small pieces, mix in about 50-70 g sugar, depending on how sweet you want your pastry, lemon zest and the egg. Working rather quickly before the butter softens too much, add a pinch of salt, ground peanuts and start adding all-purpose flour, delicately but swiftly kneading the pastry with your hand. My idea was to make it rather soft and crumbly so I did not knead it into a disk. Leave the pastry covered in the fridge for at least 30 min.

Meanwhile, prepare the oat flour layer. I used the easiest method for making kasha from tolokno (see Remarks), by mixing it gradually into a small bowl with some warm water, adjusting the amount of flour to achieve rather thick consistency. Add in about 50 g of sugar (the mixture will get more runny).

Line a round or rectangular baking dish with parchment paper. Take the pastry out of the fridge and distribute a bigger (2/3) part of it on the bottom, by gently rubbing it through your fingers. In this way you’re creating a more ‘aerated’ sort of pastry layer rather than a smooth one, so no worries if there are ‘holes’ in the bottom layer. Keep the rest of the pastry in the fridge.

Pour the oat mixture over the bottom pastry layer and scatter red currants on top, finishing with some more sugar, depending on the sweetness of your berries (ours are as usual super sour). Take the remaining pastry from the fridge and rub it through your fingers over the berries. There will be more spaces in the top layer with berries popping out as you’ll have less pastry for it but that’s exactly what you need.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Bake for about 40-45 min. until the top layer is golden and the berries are happily bubbling away.

Red Currant Pie

Remarks

Tolokno¬†aka kama or talkan, is a traditional grind of slightly toasted whole oats, considered to be healthier than what you get with the industrially milled oats. In Karelia they eat it with berries and it’s such a treat! You can of course use oat flour or grind some oatmeal instead.

Red Currant Pie

My¬†pastry ‘recipe’ is not anywhere close to what you would call classic, so feel free to use your favourite recipe. Anyway, I have to confess, putting enough butter into the pastry does make a difference – it’s just what I wanted – soft and crumbly!

Red Currant Pie

Result

Sweet-n’-sour in one bite, very soft and peanut-y, with distinct flavour from the oats detected.

Red Currant Pie

This recipe goes to the Berries and Sweet collections where you will find many more recipes with red currants in particular, like Cardamom and Red Currant Cake, Coconut Red Currant Bread, Pretty Good Red Currant Coffeecake, Moelleux aux Groseilles or Redcurrant Cake, Red Currant Meringue Pie, Red Currant Flan and Red Currant and Marzipan Swirls among others.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Ghost Soviet Sanatorium

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

In continuation of my post on Vorontsov Palace and Park in Alupka here is my second one in the Crimean series in which I indulge myself into one of my favourite pastimes – exploring decadent places, sometimes but not necessarily including running away from dogs.

Vorontsovsky Palace

When I was walking down to Alupka’s center from where the Sevastopol-Yalta bus dropped me off on the highway, I read a sign on the bus stop – Sanatory Solnechny (Sunny Health Resort), there was even a booth nearby which was supposed to be greeting guests. It was closed though.

Vorontsovsky Palace

On the same day I spotted this mansion with this gate and a fountain behind it. The sign however read Vkhoda Net, no entrance… There were apparently several more of such mansions around with some signs and numbers on them. I realized these were the remains of that very sanatorium. So next evening I decided to go and see if I could actually take a better look at the place.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Sanatoriums were massively introduced in the Soviet Union driven by the idea that even the sole vicinity to the sea, fresh air and sun is capable of making people healthier and more productive. For instance, the Gulf of Finland coastline is stuffed with sanatoriums and children’s camps, all meant to let the sun-deprived citizens of Leningrad benefit from the pine forests and sandy beaches.

Vorontsovsky Palace

People would get heavily discounted putevka (vouchers) to such health resorts from their work places – or from a medical organization. And although a sanatorium is now mostly considered to be a place for elderly people lazily moving from one medical procedure to another throughout the day and enjoying their dietary restricted meals (adapted to the patient’s ailment), that was a way for many people to get some rest with the benefit for their health – at least once in a while.

Vorontsovsky Palace

This sanatorium in Alupka was treating people with TB and nervous system-related health issues – with the view over the mountains, rest in the beautiful park and walks along the sea included. Sign me up! Too late though – seems like it was shut down just recently, its website merely saying that ‘the distribution of vouchers has been suspended’.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

I don’t have any blood-curdling story to go with this ghost sanatorium, there’s just this sad but seemingly inevitable fact that most of the unprofitable Soviet heritage in Crimea – as in many other places across Russia – goes wasted, abandoned, looted and burnt down.

Vorontsovsky Palace

I’ve googled this sanatorium and they say it was established in 1917 (rings a bell?) out of various nationalized mansions and dacha that were unfortunate enough to be built by rich people in Alupka before the revolution.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Little did they know back then that thousands of Soviets willing to recover from illnesses or to regain some health would flood into their leisure houses and their private rooms would be turned into common bathrooms, dining halls and massage cabinets.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Hence, this place in Alupka is double decadence – first it was abandoned by its owners and then it was (very recently) left by the people who ran the sanatorium. Some of the buildings however seem to be used as apartments (that’s where I got driven away by the dogs) – although the ‘medical service’ car parked outside manifests that those who occupy this place are probably its former employees.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Looks like the door to this mansion got a little bit … blocked:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

This building is way below the ground:

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Now nature is taking its own back, turning these places into a sort of savage woods.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

One of the mansions got particularly unlucky as it was turned into a dump …. with a few cats really loving it there. Meanwhile, how do you find this balcony?

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

Govorit Moskva…’ (This is Moscow speaking):

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

This blue house was on the ‘beach’ (there’s not one there, everything is either cemented or full of rocks), I was there in May and someone already wrote ‘Alupka Summer 2017’ in red paint on one of its sides (the hammer and sickle sign from the photo above was spotted near the ‘children’s beach’):

Vorontsovsky Palace

One of the mansions belonging to the sanatorium is just below the hotel I was staying at – it is already in a half-burnt state and the hotel’s owner has the intention to expand his premises incorporating it too. I hope at least one of them will get a proper – and delicate – facelift.

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

… They say Abkhazia is the place to go if you’re interested in decadence overtaken by nature. Will go there one day.

This post goes to my Travel series.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Vorontsov Palace and Park

Vorontsovsky Palace

Crimea has mesmerized me. It is so multifaceted, it’s so sincere and so yet-to-be-discovered. I’ve definitely had the most enjoyable days of spring 2017 in Crimea when I took a short break and dedicated it to my favourite lifestyle – on the road.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Crimea is unique and yet I found there so many things you would typically admire in so many places in Europe – since I had never been to any of the ex-Soviet Black Sea regions / states before (the southernmost I had travelled in the post-Soviet territory was Samara on Volga), the only points of references for me were Italy, France, Greece… And all of them I could find in Crimea.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The unrivaled beauty of its nature, the simplicity of life and the decadent notes (not to say atmosphere) of a lost Soviet empire (plus cats everywhere :)) all make Crimea a perfect place for me. Except for their dairy products and bread, they do have to work on these two in order to win my heart and respect 100%.

Vorontsovsky Palace

I was travelling alone, without a car and huge budgets, I felt safe and could get almost everywhere using the local transport. People were open and eager to help – and if you avoid high season and ridiculously touristic places, you will get the most out of your Crimean adventures.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Just try not to have high expectations in terms of service and infrastructure, give Crimeans some more time to get over this tricky period and adjust to the demands of a different category of tourists who are no longer satisfied with the Soviet standards. Yet another tip: use bigger cities like Sevastopol, Simferopol and even Yalta as transport hubs and places of cultural interest (rich and important museums are there) but keep to smaller places where there’s a bigger chance of finding the authenticity well preserved – unless not the best specimens of typicized Soviet architecture is what you are looking for.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Although I spent my first day (that was Russian National holiday, Victory day on the 9th of May) in Sevastopol where I met my friend from the Erasmus Mundus times, I’d like to start from Alupka on the Southern side of the Crimean Peninsula. I’ve only been to a fraction of the peninsula (and probably the most touristy one as well – the YuBK or the Southern Coast) but every day I spent there was packed with impressions and could easily make for a separate post. This one will be dedicated to Vorontsov Palace and Park in Alupka (aka Vorontsovsky Palace), a place well known as a¬† setting for various popular Soviet films.

Vorontsovsky Palace

(insert toad sounds here)

Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest, Livadia

I’ve been to several parks in Crimea but I liked this one the most. I would just live there, I don’t need the palace, a shed would suffice with such a natural (and horticultural) beauty around you.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The park is huge and there’s no need to hurry up: take your time while you wander along its wonderful sunlit parterres and shadowy paths winding around stones and brooks.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The park was designed by a German while the palace was created by an Englishman (who also finished off a certain Buckingham Palace, they say).

Vorontsovsky Palace

Later, a certain Sir Winston Churchill stayed here during the Yalta conference. I visited the Palace on my first day in Alupka and quite liked it – probably more so from the inside than from the outside as it represents such a mixture of various styles that you cannot really make head or tail out of it.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The palace is worth visiting (there are audio guides available at the entrance which are included in the ticket price). There are castle-like rooms richly decorated with oak panels and almost Hermitage-like parlours with the view to the sea.

Vorontsovsky Palace

Two parts of the building are connected by a winter garden with marble statues and exotic plants. The gallery leads to this enormous dining room with a mantelpiece and some eastern motifs corresponding to the palace’s (other) Moorish facade.

Vorontsovsky Palace

You can spot this other facade in the photo below. This lion and the roses actually reminded me of a similar ‘composition’ in Pavlovsk where we went today.

Vorontsovsky Palace

That view though… the Black Sea at its best!

Vorontsovsky Palace

A delicate open gallery which got me occupied for a while. It is conveniently located in the shade of the palace, close to the exit to the park.

Vorontsovsky Palace

The 40 ha park occupies half the town or so it seems, especially to those who come to Alupka only to visit the palace. I would however suggest taking a stroll to the left (facing the sea) and there along the coast you will find the so called Rock of Aivazovsky (the marine painter born in Crimea) from which there’s a great view towards Yalta and over the majestic Ai-Petri mountain. I wish I could live in that gorgeous place…

Vorontsovsky Palace

Alupka doesn’t really attract you as a town in itself, though (apart from the park and the palace) there are several places – wonderfully decadent – that I will tell you about a bit later (I hope).

Vorontsovsky Palace

In the evening after the sunset I took a stroll along the sea shore (no way you can swim there, it’s all concrete including the so called Children’s Beach) and inevitably (and with great pleasure) made my way up to the hotel through the garden taking yet another glimpse of that beautiful tree growing (hugging) the tower gate of the palace:

Vorontsovsky Palace

The place where I stayed in Alupka for 2 nights was reasonably priced and untypically tasteful, well-equipped and looked after for the Russian standards (not mentioning Crimean) – it’s called Chetyre Sezona or Four Seasons. I witnessed one family coming back to this place after they got really dissatisfied by merely seeing their next hotel on their route.

Vorontsovsky Palace

How to get there:

I took an inter-city bus (about 1.5 h) that goes from Sevastopol bus station to Yalta and asked the driver to stop in Alupka. Well, technically, you will get off at a highway that goes above the town, so you’ll have to walk down to the sea and then to the left. Another way is to ride all the way to Yalta and take a marshrutka (a small commercial bus) which will take you to the Vorontsov Park straight away using a local (lower) road. Everywhere you go in Crimea there are marshrutka buses with many stops along their way which makes it quite handy if you travel around without a car and would like to save on taxis (which will cost about 10 times more).

Can’t believe I’ve eventually started my Crimean posts!

This post goes to the ‘Russia’ section in the Travel collection.

G.

cookies · muffins · sweet

Sugarless: Oatmeal Cookies and Fruit Muffins

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

My sister is temporarily on a no-added-sugar diet so I’ve been experimenting with sugar-free baking for a while. She is also avoiding honey and industrially made juices which turned it into a bit of a challenge. So bananas, dried fruit and fresh fruit have all been summoned instead to substitute sugar and make my sister enjoy her meal anyway.

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Here are two of the recipes I’ve come up with: oatmeal cookies and muffins with dried fruits and fresh apples.

1 year ago РTrans-Siberian Trip Part 4: Siberia Begins with Tyumen

2 years ago РBirthday Kovrizhka and Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 years ago РWhile Zucchini Are in Season…

4 years ago РItalian Delicacies a la Russe

5 years ago – Fruit Post

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • about 300 g old-fashioned oatmeal, roughly ground (or a mixture of oats, rye, barley and wheat flakes) plus some quick-cooking oats, whole
  • 60 g butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 banana, preferably overripe
  • dried apricots and dates, chopped
  • sesame seeds, ground
  • mixed nuts, roughly ground
  • optional add-ins: ground flax seeds (aka coarse flaxmeal), flax bran*, wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cinnamon, cardamom
  • pinch of salt

Procedure

First, beat butter with the banana and eggs, then add the rest of the ingredients in no particular order (I added while quick-cooking oats last). Adjust the amount of flour and/or add-ins according to the consistency. Cover and Let chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. Then form dough balls (preferably the size of a small tangerine) and place on a baking mat / baking parchment. The cookies won’t spread so mo need to space them a lot. Slightly flatten the balls with your finger.

Bake in the preheated oven at 180-190 ‘C for about 15 minutes (depending on size). My cookies did not brown much on the top but looked apparently cooked on the bottom.

Remarks: Add more dried fruits for a sweeter result. These smell delicious in the oven!

Result: Cheeeewy cookies for those on a sugar-free diet; for sweet-tooth people these cookies won’t be as attractive though they definitely contain quite a lot of nutrients and healthy stuff.

And here’s the other recipe:

Sugarless Fruit Muffins

Sugarless Fruit Muffins 

Ingredients

  • 3 small eggs
  • 100 g dried apricots
  • A handful of dates
  • A handful of hazelnuts, toasted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 150 ml sour cream (smetana)
  • 50 ml sunflower seed oil
  • Flax bran*, wheat germ, ground flax seeds (aka coarse flaxmeal), ground old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 200 g all-purpose flour, adjust the amount accordingly
  • A tangerine, peeled and chopped
  • Half an apple, diced
  • Cinnamon
  • Sesame seeds, for decoration

Procedure

Scold dried fruits with boiling water, drain, pour some more hot water and let them soak (I usually use a colander placed on a deep bowl). When they get soft enough, drain them (you can use the water in the recipe but I chose sour cream instead) and stone the dates.

In a blender, reduce dried apricots and hazelnuts into a sort of chunky puree (I left dates un-blended). Beat eggs with sour cream, then beat in the oil. Add the fruit and nut mixture into the eggs. Thoroughly mix baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into the flour and add it to the eggs and fruit mixture. Add the extras (ground oatmeal, bran, germ, flaxmeal) and the dates. In a sort of a last-minute inspiration, add in chopped tangerine and some apple. Mix well but do not overmix.

Preheat the oven to 210’C. Divide the batter into the muffins cups and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for about 17-20 minutes (mine were baking on the upper shelf together with bread below them). Left sit in the cups a bit and then leave them cool on a wooden cutting board.

Sugarless Fruit Muffins

Remarks: I added flaxmeal hence this somewhat darkish colour but you can add any healthy extras you desire. Same applies to the dried fruits, nuts and the last-minute ingredients you throw in – choose them to your liking but don’t forget to check that the dried fruit do not contain added sugar (sometimes they do add it to the cranberries). You can also add extra chopped dried apricots or mash in a banana for a sweeter result.

Result: Though you have to be on a no-sugar diet to appreciate these in terms of their very low sweetness, the muffins are soft, good in texture (not rubbery as I feared) and they rose nicely.

Adding these recipes to my Sweet collection.

*Flax bran – a recently discovered flax seed-derived thing, looks like very roughly ground golden flax seeds. Might be just a new name for coarse golden flaxmeal (as opposed to the more traditional ‘dark’ flaxmeal). Been adding it to my sweet baking.

This post was made using mobile phone pictures. But I think I’d rather keep to my good ol’ camera!

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · sweet

Midsummer Post about the Best Russian Ice Cream

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

This year’s midsummer post is about the best ice-cream in Russia – sakharnaya trubochka or sakharny rozhok (sugar tube / sugar cone). Although this type of ice-cream is traditionally associated with its —Āountry of origin, Italy, where it is known as cornetto, millions of Soviet kids are forever grateful to a worker of the First Leningrad Refrigerating Plant for inventing a waffle-rolling machine… and thus making their lives a little bit merrier.

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

Personally I’m not a big fan of super-sweet ice-cream with dozens of add-ins – I prefer the plain vanilla ice-cream in crunchy waffle instead. The extra-creamy one. Glazed with chocolate that delicately breaks when you have your first bite. With that tiny ‘tail’ of the sugary waffle cone filled with chocolate. And that’s exactly what you get with¬†sakharnaya trubochka. An even plainer type of ice-cream that I also like is vafelny stakanchik, vanilla ice-cream in a waffle cone shaped as a glass (hence the name). And contrary to the gelato or other ice-cream-ball-types, it’s filled with the creamy stuff right to the end.

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

By the way, they’ll never get you if you say you’d like a¬†sakharnaya trubochka (tube) in Moscow – they call it rozhok (cone, cornetto) there instead. Well it’s true, it doesn’t really look like a tube but this name just caught on and if you ask kids in St Petersburg which ice-cream they are dreaming of, they’ll immediately say ‘trubochka‘.

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

As its very Soviet name suggests, the Leningrad Khladokombinat #1 was the first refrigerating plant (cold-storage facility) to open in Leningrad in 1934 – and the first one in the country to start producing this very type of ice-cream. The legend has it that a worker from the Experimental workshop Dmitry Smirnov invented waffle-cone-rolling and filling machine and the country has been thoroughly enjoying sakharnaya trubochka ever since (more precisely, since 1946). They say he was also responsible for inventing other mechanisms thus making such ice-cream types as stakanchik and briket (a brick of ice-cream in-between two layers of waffles) available in the USSR.

Sakharnaya trubochka ice-cream

Although they claim they still make this ice-cream according to the state-imposed and state-controlled standard (GOST), Sakharnaya trubochka‘s list of ingredients these daysdoes not seem particularly enticing (I doubt they had coconut butter E476 and soy lecithin back then). However, the main ingredients are still there: cream, milk, condensed milk, butter and vanilla for the ice-cream itself, flour, sugar, butter for the waffle and cocoa for the glaze. Warning: when buying a trubochka, check if its cone is hard enough, otherwise you will miss on the¬† bet part of it – the crunchy sugary waffle cone.

Previous year’s midsummer posts:

2016 РSpinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry for Midsummer

2015 РMidsummer: Samovar, Teacups and Saucers

2014 РMidsummer Roses in Pavlovsk and Almond Puff

2013 – Midsummer Berry Smoothie

2012 РMidsummer’s Black Currant Rhubarb Cake

Adding this post to the On USSR / Russia collection.

P.S. I took these photos last year in August when I had my one and only ice-cream of that summer. This summer I had it a bit earlier in July but this year again it’s not that type of summer in St Petersburg when you would want an ice-cream every day. Global warming is definitely happening somewhere else.

G.

Family recipe · no-dough · on USSR / Russia · vegetarian

Stove-Baked Potatoes

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

This summer feels like a lingering spring. Though most of June it looked like autumn – isn’t it a bit early to sit in front of the stove yet?! Thanks God, we are having pretty warm days now and are already dying from ‘heat’ (22 ‘C) :). And the White Nights period is still on:

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Since I’m (again) searching for a job and can move around freely, I’ve spent several days at our dacha, unfortunately dressed in many clothes and trying to warm myself and the house up by feeding the stove with all that paper junk. Among which I found this Geography notebook from 1997:

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Yes, back then we learnt that Pluto was a full-fledged 9th planet in the Solar system (what a loss!). I remember the teacher gave each pupil a planet’s name and we had to quickly rearrange in the planets’ order. We did the same with the months of the year and I can vividly recall my fear because I didn’t really study the months at home for that lesson! However, nostalgia did not prevent me from eventually throwing this school memorabilia into the dacha stove as well.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Heating pechka (brick stove) is almost obligatory even in summer because our house is wooden and poorly isolated. It feels pretty cool inside during hot days which is nice but it cools down a bit too much once the heat is gone (in our case the heat has not been here at all). We used to heat soup or other things using the metal ‘plate’ on top of the stove but you can also cook things inside the stove too.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

The ‘recipe’ I’m going to share with you today is actually a no recipe at all, it’s just a way of making up a lunch or dinner which requires two main ‘ingredients’: a stove and potatoes ūüôā Ah yes, the third ingredient is that grainy salty salt!

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

My grandparents would bake us some potatoes in the residual heat left over from heating the stove when we spent our school holidays at our dacha. By the way, they constructed the stove themselves back in the 1970s when they were allotted a plot near Sinyavino in the Leningrad region. The dacha era was on!

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

So, backing potatoes in the stove goes like this: you wait till you get burning coal in your stove and then place some potatoes with the skins on (no need to clean them) right inside that coal & cinder mess. Shut the stove door and wait for about 40 minutes to 1 hour. You can check the doneness from time to time (it depends on the amount of heat left and the size of your potatoes) by fishing one of the potatoes out and touching them with your fingers (ouch!). If it feels soft and you can almost squash the potato through with your fingers – the potatoes are done.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

So grab some salt and peel the potatoes with your fingers, creating mess all around (your face included), gobble them down while they are still hot! The best part is this burnt crispy layer which lies right beneath the skin. The rest is tender and almost sweet. New (baby) potatoes work best here – they are small and so will bake through in less time.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

If you’re afraid your potatoes will burn too much or in case you prefer a cleaner type of meal, wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil before placing them in the stove. But this won’t be the authentic rough old-school way, you know.

P.S. I’ve tried baking potatoes in a bochka, a metal barrel traditionally placed outside the dacha plot (so that all your neighbors can enjoy the smell), used to burn down all that cannot decompose naturally (according to my Granddad). So I guess anything goes here!

Adding this recipe to Lunch/Dinner collection.

G.