sweet

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.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg · travel

Autumn in Vyborg, a Rusty but Sunny Day

Sunny Vyborg

I just realized I failed to this final post in my ‘Autumn in…’ series covering several Sundays spent in and about St Petersburg this autumn. It’s now so very Happy-New-Year-like in the city that looking at these photos I took in Vyborg back in October makes me recall what’s there underneath all that thick layer of snow 🙂

Sunny Vyborg

That was a rusty but sunny autumn day in Vyborg, actually a really warm day which is not very common for this northern town. Vyborg attracts me by its non-Russian looks and its atmosphere of a really old city which grew around the castle step by step.

Sunny Vyborg

Vyborg Castle is the city’s must par excellence. You just have to go there. It’s still been renovated and they keep digging all around it, discovering new layers of history. This time we had a chance to walk around the immense walls of the castle.

Sunny Vyborg

And of course we made sure to spend some time on top of St Olaf’s Tower (and even more time waiting in the line to get there). And of course I made sure to bump my head on that metal thing while telling other to be careful and keep their head low.

Sunny Vyborg

I absolutely love the rusty and rustic look of the castle. I would even want them to forget about renovation and just keep it ‘frozen’ as it is. Please.

Sunny Vyborg

And although nothing doesn’t really change much in the castle (apart from the new zones that they’ve now opened to public), each time I return I photograph the same details.

Sunny Vyborg

We didn’t go to the museum this time as we we trying to ti catch the fast train back (a bit over 1 hour compared to a slow train of 2 hours or a very slow train of 3 hours, cause it’s Sunday and all the babushkas have to get on at the dacha stops in between Vyborg and St Petersburg). The museum is situated behind this wall inside the castle:

Sunny Vyborg

And here’s not your regular entrance to a (castle) restroom:

Sunny Vyborg

It was a shame spending so little time in the city that day but the sun really helped enjoy every moment.

Sunny Vyborg

Autumn seems so warm and cozy in these photos.

Sunny Vyborg

Lines:

Sunny Vyborg

Note the shoemaker’s vane:

Sunny Vyborg

Knitted chair decorations next to a 16th century burger’s house:

Sunny Vyborg

Each time I go to Vyborg I tell myself that I will finally go away from the old center to see the Finnish Art-Nouveau parts of the city but so far I only managed to catch a glimpse of the Alvar Aalto’s library. Anyway, that was a very fine day.

Sunny Vyborg

More information on Vyborg in my previous post.

This post goes to St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · travel

Back to Autumn in Berlin

IMG_0097

I didn’t go to Berlin just to catch the golden autumn while it was snowing in St Petersburg. Although it really felt like I was traveling back in time and getting that bit of autumn which got lost under the unexpectedly early snow. We actually planned the trip to see Zemfira live once again this year so here’s how this weekend away came about. I seem to enjoy such trips built around a concert, they transform the experience into a real adventure sometimes like that journey to the south of France back in September 2015.

IMG_0054

It was so good to take myself out of the routine, including that personal routine which resembles something like a box that you put yourself in and then don’t even notice unless you start travelling.

IMG_0059

First day was a little bit slow to begin (we had an early flight but then lost quite a bit of time standing in various lines) but turned out to be quite a long day in the end. We visited Potsdam, ate our lentil soup witо coconut milk (good!) and were just on time for the beginning of the concert same evening.

IMG_0066

It was my second time in Potsdam so I didn’t mind missing the main sights and having a longer walk in the Russian Village through alleys of multicoloured trees and looking at the city from the Belvedere tower instead:

IMG_0084

They say it gets really crowded in summer but that day we were virtually the only visitors in Belvedere to enjoy the wind and the somewhat solemn and silent landscape. It costs you 4.50 euros to get inside but it actually turned out to be worth it.

IMG_0093

They also say that this ambitiously looking palace (which was supposed to be but a first part of an entire project) was falling into ruins but finally taken over by the locals and turned into a must place for summer day hanging outs. It seems like Berlin has quite a lot of such initiatives carried out by local people who get hold of disused space and turn it into public places open for all.

IMG_0108

We got back to Berlin when it was already dark and as we were getting closer to the venue we heard more and more Russian speech. My Italian friend called to tell me she was probably the only non-Russian-speaking person there and when we finally got inside too we realised it was as if we never left Russia at all. The concert was different from the one I attended in St Petersburg this March, it was smaller in scale though definitely not shorter. It was more like a concert in a club with a very enthusiastic crowd.

IMG_5778

On the next day we continued our walking and music-related (and inspired) journey marching across Berlin and visiting both residential districts and touristy places.

IMG_0115

Starting from our nice hostel (with a funny name The Cat’s Pajamas) situated on the border of Kreuzberg and Neukölln…

IMG_0122

…we crossed the river Spree (it was so windy on the bridge and yet almost every arch had a homeless dweller in a sleeping bag)…

IMG_0128

…and arrived in Friedrichshain where we first of all stumbled upon an indie-looking place full of graffiti and bikes which did not appear particularly… clean. We walked out of it into the more family-friendly looking streets…

IMG_0132

…where we had some quality foodie time at the local market with amazingly looking vegetables and cheese from all over Europe. As you can imagine, I really liked walking in the residential areas of Berlin.

IMG_0135

Then we hurried up to the indie cinema hall where they were still screening that new documentary about the Beatles’ touring years but first got a little bit confused when we read “this is not cinema” across the wall of the – presumed – cinema hall building:

IMG_0138

We liked the film and got almost as excited as all those crazy kids shouting their lungs out at the Beatles’ concerts. There was also several photos and some footage that I had not seen before. We left the calm districts of Berlin after that to get to the touristy center, stopping on our way for yet another bowl of lentil and spinach soup (which was really good!).

IMG_0139

And then we saw the wall

IMG_0142

and Alexanderplatz:

IMG_0156

and a lovely sunset over the ultramodern parts of Berlin while walking away from the crowds:

IMG_0157

On our last day there was sun and there was quite a bit of walking before we headed off to the airport. We visited several parks gorgeously decadent under their – mostly – yellow veils and got to the Tempelhof field which used to be Berlin’s airport and now is something like a space run by people who won it back and did not let it be occupied by new commercial and residential estates. It has this communal garden with a beehive right there in the middle of the field where we wondered looking at how things can be recycled in a fun way (although I guess in several years all this stuff will look a bit miserable as it already starts to disintegrate).

IMG_0166

The rest of the field is taken over by joggers, cyclists, running dogs (!), refugee camp activities, etc etc. The ex-airport building (soooo long!) is occupied by the German police and military, as I found out. Gosh was it windy out there but also so sunny!

IMG_0164

The third day really helped me catch that spirit of Berlin which makes it so special. When in Berlin, drop the entire business of trying to fit it into the usual frame of European cities. It will disappoint you this way. But if you just relax and stop demanding and expecting too much it will not disappoint you. Especially if you enhance your experience with local markets, curious cafes and parks, and all that with a very good company, you do start to like Berlin.

Adding this post to the Travel series.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg · travel

Autumn in Gatchina

Gatchina

if I were an artist, I would paint autumn. In our parts an artist needs to be very swift cause autumn does not linger for long and you’d have to paint from memory!

Gatchina

This post continues (and most probably concludes) the “Autumn in…” series. We went to Gatchina, a somewhat neglected royal residence to the south-west of St Petersburg. It is a town in the Leningrad region mainly famous for its palace and beautiful (and big) park. Gatchina with its palace looking like a medieval castle used to be one of the royal family’s favourite places to escape from the capital where they felt not that easy at times.

Gatchina

It’s been a while since I last (and for the first time) went to the palace which is a museum now though we’ve visited the park relatively recently. In summer it’s gorgeous… In winter it all seems to be just lost in snow. I remember that when we went there in winter we got stranded in the park trying to get away from the ski tracks 🙂

Gatchina

The palace is still undergoing renovation after all those years of neglect and its being completely ruined during the war. It was built in the second half of the 18th century by (certo!) an Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi.

Gatchina

It has an underground passage where the tourist guides would diligently stop and tell their chilled (it’s cold down there!) listeners all the legends about it (it was built for mere entertainment though) and would make them repeat some phrases which would then be repeated by the echo.

Gatchina

I can hardly remember anything from our visit to the palace with my schools years ago apart from the fact that we were greeted by the emperor Pavel the First and his wife and then set off to treasure hunting (I cannot even recall what exactly we found in the palace after all!). But it’s obvious that the work is going on and more rooms are now open. We liked the third floor most cause it represents a somewhat nearer-to-us life, that of Alexander III and his family, i.e. late 19th century.

Gatchina

Just when we were ready to go wander in the park, the sun came out though the wind remained. Soon oh so soon it will all be covered with snow. But now there was this autumnal sunlight that doesn’t already shine but… pours? flows? It definitely feels like it’s much more thick than that of summer, if you know what I mean.

Gatchina

It was a pity leaving the park with all that sun in the sky but the temperature and the wind wouldn’t let us stay long. What should we visit next time?

This post goes to the St Petersburg series. And I’m going to travel tomorrow in the wee hours.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg · travel

Autumn in Oreshek Fortress and Dacha

Oreshek in Autumn

While it’s snowing outside (first snow in St Petersburg today) I’m continuing the “Autumn in…” series with Oreshek Fortress and our dacha which are relatively close to each other. This time we went to Oreshek with a train which stops almost at the pier from where there’s a boat on which you can get to the island.

Oreshek in Autumn

It was a super windy day but there was sun which brightened the things up and made us stubbornly wind-resistant. The Neva looked very agitated – even more so than in May earlier this year:

Oreshek in Autumn

This is where the river Neva takes its start, flowing right from the Ladoga Lake. And it just crashes into the island with all its force. The island actually looks (and feels) like a ship forever moored right in the middle of the river.

Oreshek in Autumn

The rusty colours of autumn.

Oreshek in Autumn

…and the mossy colours of autumn:

Oreshek in Autumn

And at our dacha – the never-ending apple story that we’ve got ourselves up until ears this year. That day we’ve raked (a new word for me but definitely not at all a new activity!) a lot all the dead leaves and it felt good. Really good.

Dacha in Late Autumn

the dying colours of autumn:

Dacha in Late Autumn

the withered colours of autumn:

Dacha in Late Autumn

and a sudden pink delight:

Dacha in Late Autumn

delightful from all sides:

Dacha in Late Autumn

More “autumn in…” posts are coming soon.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg · travel

Autumn in Tsarskoye Selo

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

I’ve been travelling in and about St Petersburg and its region these months and there’s quite a lot of photos in the autumnal mood. I will start the series “Autumn in…” from Tsarskoye Selo.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

We came to Tsarksoye Selo (aka Pushkin) when the leaves were all over the place but also still on the trees. We didn’t go to the palace or to the place where Pushkin studies but wondered quite a bit through the park(s), also visiting that Art-Nouveau spot of the city which looks even more decadent with the fallen leaves.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

There was very little sun that day. Actually, this autumn is not very generous on good weather at all. We had Indian summer for 1 day only which is not common even for such a notoriously grey and cold place as St Petersburg.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

(Habitually) putting my winter hat on in the mornings doesn’t strike me anymore – we’ve been doing this since the beginning of October this year. Will be doing the same during the next 6-7 months.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

Good God, spring is so far away, one could actually stop believing in its existence after more than half a year of winter in these parts! I start doubting there’s anything warm and comfortable on this planet somewhere in October.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

However, I do enjoy the decadence of autumn, the clear air and the long shadows. And the subtle reflections on the smooth dark mirror-like  water.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

Especially when there’s sun which creates the contrast and accentuates the lines. Without it the colours are a bit bleak like on this photo.

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

I love those colourful maple leaves, their rustling sound when you walk on the grass. Girls were making wreaths with the leaves, a somewhat forgotten skill from childhood.

 

Tsarskoye Selo in Autumn

If you’re in St Petersburg in autumn, don’t miss a walk in one of the parks in and around the city. Take a flask full of flavourful tea, some sandwiches and a warm scarf. And a good company!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post goes to St Petersburg series.

G.

Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

Horiatiko fillo

My sister came back from her Greek trip some weeks ago and brought us gostintsy (souvenirs) from the sunny country. We now have our stock of oregano refilled and I have new Greek books which will help get me through the winter. And there was this herby olive oil from Corfu as well:

Horiatiko fillo

That was a good excuse to make one of my favourite things when it comes to savoury and comfort food – pies. A successful marriage between Russian fresh cheese filling and elastic Greek pastry made with olive oil was it, and as I had no Greek alcohol required for it too, I used some (pseudo) Russian vodka. The pastry recipe comes from Dina Nikolaou, Greek chef who travels around Greece and then presents the region from the gastronomic side of life on TV. The great thing about this pastry is that it doesn’t need lots of time to rise – it actually only rests half an hour in the fridge and then the yeast makes its magic right in the oven, rising the pastry just enough to be soft and not enough to get all soggy! Teleio!

Horiatiko fillo

1 year ago – Orange and David Gilmour

2 years ago – An Autumn Day in Lappeenranta, Finland

3 years ago – Bread-therapy for a Tired Traveller

4 years ago – Autumn Colours and Karelia

5 years ago – Creamy Peach Tart and Kitchen Reborn

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry (pastry recipe adapted from Village Pastry with Olive Oil, Horiatiko fillo me elaiolado / Χωριάτικο φύλλο, με ελαιόλαδο from dinanikolaou.gr) will make a Greek-size pie with a soft filling and just enough pastry (I know I’ve said this about so many pies but you just can’t keep yourself from saying this when you taste it!).

Ingredients:

for the pastry (enough for 2 big pies):

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 30 ml or about 3 Tbs olive oil (I had to add some water too)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 30 ml milk (mine was 2.5% fat)
  • 8-10 g fresh yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup (100 ml) lukewarm water (I used 1.5 tsp active dry yeast instead)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs tsipouro or ouzo (well, I had to go for vodka!)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the filling (enough for half of the pastry recipe):

  • 500 g 5% fat cottage cheese / quark (tvorog) – might as well be feta or brynza or a mixture
  • leftover mashed potatoes (optional but good)
  • some grated hard cheese
  • 2 small eggs
  • fresh herbs like spring onion, coriander and parsley, chopped
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano and seasoning like khmeli-suneli

Procedure:

First, make the pastry: Place fluffed flour in a big bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in olive oil, beaten egg, milk, yeast with the water it was dissolved in, tsipouro / ouzo / vodka and add salt and pepper. Knead lightly with your hands until you get soft and flexible dough. (Here I had to add a bit more water cause my 500 g of flour seemed like a lot for the indicated amount of liquid). Divide the dough into 2 equal parts, wrap in plastic foil and place in the fridge for 30 minutes (I left them there for more than an hour).

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Mix all the filling ingredients (a good idea would be to add all except eggs and try it for salt) and put aside.

Now you can proceed with assembling the pie: Take one piece of the pastry and roll it out finely on a floured surface (I used only one piece of the dough both for the bottom and the top layers). It should be larger than the baking dish you’ll be using so that the borders are covered too. Place it onto your greased / laid with parchment paper baking dish. Roll out the second piece (or the leftovers from trimming the overhanging edges, which I did) to the very size of your baking dish – this will be the top layer.

Place the filling evenly on top of the bottom pastry layer and cover it with the top layer, pinching the edges. Don’t forget to cut slits in the top layer to help escape the steam (and occasional cheese liquid).

Bake in the preheated to 200 ‘C oven for about 30 minutes. The pie should start getting brown on the top (the top layer got browned faster than I expected so keep an eye on it).

Horiatiko fillo

Remarks: You will get more pastry than you would need for a very big pie (I baked my pie in the biggest cast iron pan we have, greased). I’m keeping my second half wrapped in the freezer for future comfort-food pies.

Horiatiko fillo

Result: The pastry is just perfectly elastic and keeps shape nicely – it also rolls out easily after its rest in the fridge. The filling was a bit too bland to be called Greek, so I would suggest adding either more salt or a different kind of cheese like the salty feta or brynza (super-salty brine cheese) or at least making it 50/50 with the cottage cheese.

Horiatiko fillo

When you take the pie out of the oven, the pastry is all smooth at first but then these nice cracks appear on the surface patricularly when you cut your huge slices. And the top of this pie is also crunchy, oraia!

Horiatiko fillo

To make your life even more comfortable and cozy in this cold season (we’ve somehow skipped the autumn here and headed straight into oh-no winter, you just read some Moomin stories!

This post goes to country-specific recipes and Lunch / Dinner suggestions where you will find more Greek / Greek-inspired pies.

G.