pies · sweet · sweet bread · traditional Russian recipe

Some Soviet Things for a Change

the book with vatrushka

As promised before I’m posting some photos from that healthy lifestyle propaganda Soviet book – here photographed with Nina’s vatrushka. I’ve chosen those pages which always attracted me most. We used to “read” (=look through especially the photos) that book with my sister and we would play some games (e.g. imagining we’re running a hospital and we are having patients, well, you know children, you were ones!) using the table dictating the hours when a child should eat and more precisely – WHAT. The diet is perhaps really healthy but you wouldn’t certainly envy a poor mother who’ll have to cook all that variety of dishes for her child each day =)

more sweets

The book is called Detskoye pitanie (Feeding a Child), it’s from 1958, created by the academics (!!! everything was stable (=stagnant) and here to stay for looooong years, remember?) and was a desk book (or better kitchen table book) for some generations of Soviet mothers. It was not just propaganda for a healthy lifestyle from the beginning of your life, it was a most obvious propaganda of enormously wonderful and happy life of an average Soviet – healthy, with a varied diet and lots of delicious wholesome goods you’re supposed to be able to buy. The book contains incredibly colourful photos and funny stories about feeding a naughty child, limericks and recipes of course, although they ask for some impossible ingredients not only for that time but now already for ours… But I will try to make something … make-able one day=) Ahhhh, just look on the left, what a variety of candied berries, halva and candies! And that 50s packaging – oh my, they were worth buying just for the boxes they were coming in! Wonder if anything from that avalanche ever reached an average Soviet table, though… Well, anyway, here’s a slide show for you (there are more photos from this book on the Internet, it seems the generations that were brought up on it cannot take it out of their heads=)). The book images have got mixed with my later added photos for this post, so just skip them (I’m not that computer savvy and couldn’t make out how to leave out some pictures):

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My Soviet recipes – though not coming from that book – are however quite wholesome too, unless you eat them all alone in one go… =) I had some 100 g fresh yeast so the best solution was to use it for some Soviet yeast dough things. Ok, here we go, a batch of new experiments with taciturn Soviet recipes:

First of all let’s prepare some “sour dough” (kisloye testo) which is universal as you can use it for both sweet and savoury dishes. It will make a lot, so be prepared for at least 2 pies of 20-25 cm in diameter and some dough for a smaler pie or small buns (sweet, for example) left. This variant is with vegetable oil and thus not that traditional, perhaps. Than we’ll make a traditional cabbage filling for a pirog (=pie, not to be confused with Polish pierogi which is ravioli) and the dough leftovers we’ll use for some sweet buns.

pie with cabbage and eggs

Russian Pirog with Cabbage and Eggs (adapted from “Russian Cuisine Recipes“, Retsepti russkoy kuhni by Kovalyov and Mogilny, 1991, pp.180 and 199)


for kisloye testo (dough)

  • 1 kg all purpose flour – I substituted some part of it with whole wheat flour and bran for an extra wholesome charge =)
  • 500 ml lukewarm water
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs white sugar – leave it out if you want your dough to be completely “sour”, but even with this tiny bit of sugar your savoury pies won’t be sweet!
  • 25-30 g fresh yeast – substitute it with an equivalent of dried yeast, if you want

for the cabbage and egg filling

  • 700 g fresh cabbage – that will be more than enough for 2 pies and I used even less than 700 g
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tbs vegetable oil – I used less, adding some water
  • salt, to taste
  • optional – some sour cream/smetana/yoghurt for making the filling encore more soft and a bit for brushing the pie


First, prepare opara, or poolish, a traditional kind of starter for yeast dough in Russia – and I prevent you that it will take quite a lot of time. In an enamelled pot/bowl mix 500 g flour with 500 ml water and 25-30 g yeast, cover the pot with a kitchen towel and let stand in a warm place for 1,5-2 hours. It will expand quite drastically so don’t make my mistake by covering a bowl with a towel, cause your towel will be sucked in by the dough and you’ll have a couple of nasty minutes trying to get rid of the opara from your towel – better cover it loosely with a plastic wrap (or shower cap which works just fine!), though if you use a tall pot a towel will be allright. After your opara has risen (maybe it will take less time if it’s unusually warm=), add salt, sugar (if using) and oil, adding eventually the rest of the flour and kneading till it doesn’t stick to your hands (it took me more flour, as usual).

Return the dough in the same greased bowl and let it rise for 2 more hours (or less), till it has risen again. Now your dough is ready for handling.

I suggest starting making the filling while your opara is rising or during the second rise – it’ll be better if your filling is cool when you add it to the dough cause otherwise it will make your pie too soggy. The cabbage is in the season – still – here, it costs little and we happened to have it in the fridge, so I chose this filling, which is anyway very nice. But you can make any kind of filling, e.g. rice+mushrooms, fish, meat, carrot+sour cream, cottage cheese or even sweet types such as apple, poppy seeds+honey etc.

cabbage and egg filling

Clean the cabbage, discarding nasty leaves, trim the stalk. Chop the cabbage (I cut it in quarters than just slice it and chop with a huge knife, but don’t worry about large chunks, they will certainly soften while baking!), heat oil in the pan (I added some water to the oil) and sauté till almost cooked (it will be soft and tender and smell mmmmmm=). Meanwhile don’t forget to hard boil 2 eggs and chop them nicely. Then mix these 2 ingredients together, adding salt to taste.

As we’re making zakrity pirog (=sealed, covered pie), we’ll need 2 pieces – for the base and the cover. Divide the total amount of your dough into 2-3 parts (according to your baking pan/skillet in which you’re going to bake, you can even take a square pan for a true Russian pie!), take 1 part and divide it into 2 almost equal parts, cause usually the base is larger and the cover is smaller (and cover the rest of the dough with a wrap; if you’re not going to use it soon, you can put it in the fridge thus retarding the rising). Roll out on the slightly larger piece on a floured surface till 1 cm (or so) so that it’s larger than the pan you’re baking in. Roll the dough over your rolling pin (as if wrap it) and transfer it to the pan, making necessary adjustments – cover the sides with dough too and if it overlaps the edges of the pan, just cut the extra dough off, you’ll use it later. Put the filling on the base and level it (here I also used the optional sour cream – my addition – just on the top of the filling so that it will be even more soft). Roll out the other part of the dough a little bit smaller than the first, transfer it to the pan again using the rolling pin and seal the edges. Here a truly Russian woman will read you a long lecture on how to seal the edges but I just sealed them and than twisted them in between my fingers to achieve at least some aesthetic result =). If you have no idea how to pinch them, just seal the base and the cover with your fingers and tuck the sealed part under the base more or less, thus you’ll assure that it won’t fall apart during baking. I also add a hole in the centre of the pie for the same purpose. Leave the pie covered for 15-20 minutes meanwhile preheating the oven to 200 ‘C. Brush the pie with some egg/sour cream (egg’s better but some sour cream will do too), prick the surface with a fork in several places and bake for 30 minutes (that’s how long I did it, there’s no time limit for a Soviet recipe=)

Result: My pie was tall, huge and delicious (though on the photo you don’t see the height, it was very tall!)! The dough rose allright, it was boosted with some whole wheat and the filling was just enough. We were a crowd of 5 with two gentlemen who love eating, so there was just a piece of pie left for tomorrow. The rest of the dough more or less I gave to my sister along with the rest of the cabbage+egg filling. A small piece of dough that was left after the two pies I used for some sweet buns, that I created out of a tiny improvisation. Here’s what I added on a rolled out piece of dough:

buns are still there... =)

I brushed it with some yoghurt which I thought was – as stated on the label – for salads but turned out to contain sugar enough to be quite sweet. Than in a small bowl I mixed several tablespoons of unsweetened cacao, white sugar, cinnamon, ginger, chopped toasted nuts (mmmmm!), all of which I scattered over the dough surface and rolled the whole piece into a roll starting from the larger side. Than I cut the roll into small pieces and arranged them cut side down (and up=) on a greased skillet in a form of several rounds. I brushed the whole thing with yoghurt after letting it stand for 10 minutes and scattered some vanilla sugar on top which anyway completely melted and disappeared. The buns were ready in less than 20 min. I suppose, I took them out and poured over the top some more yoghurt (which I wanted to finish).


I made the pie  and the buns in the evening, a nasty time for making photos with my camera, so I could take some pictures the next morning while there were some buns still left =) they were really tasty, especially thanks to nuts and cocoa!

All of those things are gone as you can imagine =) and lots of things have been made after (and before), I will keep you up-to-date!

Today I’ve been to 2 interviews (no result, the jobs were not ‘mine’ at all), tomorrow one more. On verra.

See u soon, keep baking!



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