St Petersburg · sweet · traditional Russian recipe

Bird Cherry Birthday Cake

Bird Cherry Cake

This is my second attempt at making a Cheryomukhovy Tort or Bird Cherry Cake. You might have never heard of this bird cherry tree at all. You might have never even thought you could eat anything made from it. And yet it is one of the traditional ingredients in the Northern and Siberian cuisine.

Bird Cherry Cake

Last summer for instance we tried some bulochka with bird cherry filling in the Urals.  And my first attempt at making a bird cherry cake was back in 2014, after I bought a small package of bird cherry flour in Novosibirsk. This time I managed to get the flour in St Petersburg – it can be found in eco / bio / health stores and even in bigger supermarkets in the baking department. Funny enough, the flour I bought during my roaming on Vasilyevsky island last year is produced in Ulan-Ude, where we suffered from extreme heat just a couple of month earlier, in the summer 2016.

Bird Cherry Cake

I have doubts that the bird cherry flour can be found that easy outside Russia, so if you go on the Trans-Siberian one day, do try this thing. Such a distinct flavour – of almonds and some booze at the same time! This is why I decided to make a bird cherry cake for my Grandpa’s 85th birthday – something different for a change. And here is the recipe. And although you might never actually use it you will at least know how this exotic thing is made.

Bird Cherry Cake

1 year ago – Peanut Butter Post

2 years ago – How to Make Silky Cream Cheese at Home

3 years ago – Two Spinach Pies and Spinach…Rice

4 years ago – Polenta, Sempre Polenta and Broccoli

5 years ago – Two Rrrrrye Breads (Raisin and Riga)

Bird Cherry Cake or Cheryomukhovy Tort adapted from the recipe on the bird cherry flour package by aiuduhlesa.ru. Will make a huge multi-layer cake with distinct – or should I say never heard of? – flavour and dense crumb.

Ingredients:

  • 6 (!) eggs
  • 100 g sugar
  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • 300 g bird cherry flour
  • 180-200 ml sparkling water – mine has lost its bubbles, see remarks
  • 1 heaped tsp baking soda
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 3 cups of high fat sour cream (smetana), for the icing – used less, see remarks
  • 5 Tbs sugar, for the icing – used a mixture of powdered and regular sugar

Procedure:

Beat the eggs with sugar until foamy. Add half of the sparkling water (100 ml) but do not stir. Add the flours and start mixing the batter with a spatula or a spoon (do not beat). Pour lemon juice onto the soda (it will bubble like hell) and add it to the batter. Gradually add the remaining sparkling water: your batter should resemble thick sour cream (I had to add more water). Leave the batter for about 10 minutes. It should get all bubbling and airy (mine was not…).

Divide the batter between two greased round pans (26-28 cm in diameter) and bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes at 180’C. Leave the layers to cool completely.

Meanwhile, get your icing / filling ready: beat the sour cream with sugar pretty well until the sugar dissolves. Cut each cake layer in half (I did it with the help of a special string but you can do it with a thread or a knife) and start building the cake. Take a half and place it on a plate cut side up, spread the sour cream filling and cover with the next layer,again cut side up. Proceed till you have your last layer, this time placing it cut side down on top. Ice the top layer with the remaining sour cream and decorate it with grated chocolate or some bird cherry flour (see remarks).

Bird Cherry Cake

Remarks: 300 g of bird cherry flour seemed like a lot after I added all the all-purpose flour to the batter. I wonder if you should actually use less of whether it’s just that I used less soda and still water instead of sparkling? Yes, I thought we had some sparkling water in the fridge and it turned out to have lost its ‘bubbling power’ by that time. Three cups of sour cream might also seem a bit too much but in the end you do get a lot of layers! I would add more sugar to the batter and use all the three cups of sour cream next time. And yes, although there’s no butter or oil in this recipe, there are SIX eggs 🙂

Bird Cherry Cake

As for the decoration, I sprinkled the top with finely ground flaxmeal – it’s rather neutral in flavour and taste, which doesn’t interfere with the bird cherry flavour. I did it not only for the sake of the desired ’85’ pattern but also because the top layer sour cream mixed with sugar and left overnight (although in the fridge) tend to acquire a brownish colour (no fear, it’s only natural!). So you would actually need something to decorate the top with (leave it to the last moment before serving) in case you’re not planning to serve the cake straight away. Leaving the cake in the fridge overnight is preferable so that the layers soak in the sour cream. 

Result: A big cake with the unusual flavour and the traditional sour cream filling which looks like a chocolate cake and yet is not. With minor changes to the recipe this can make a pretty good (birthday) cake. 

Snowy Saturday

Bird cherry tree is closely associated with the coming of spring: it blossoms lavishly in May, emitting its perfume all over the place. And since the weather changes back to cold for several days at exactly the same moment, there’s this persistent belief that it’s not a mere coincidence. In brief, when you see a bird cherry tree ready to show off its white flowers, there will be some cold days ahead. It works every year.

Snowy Saturday

We are quite far away from May now…

Snowy Saturday

Woke up today to seeing this outside our windows:

Snowy Saturday

And yet the days are growing longer and there’s even more light with all the snow. And you start hearing birds. Winter is beautiful but it’s just so long.

Snowy Saturday

This post goes to the Russian and Sweet recipe collections.

G.

bread · no recipe · pies · sweet · sweet bread

Apples. Again. A lot

Dacha Apples

Apples are back! Which means apples are gathered, apples are picked up from the ground, apples are given out to all our friends, apples are eaten raw, apples are baked as is and in cakes, apples are made into compote, apples are grated, cut, chopped, sliced, mashed … everything is done in the attempt to make them disappear! 🙂

Dacha Apples

We’ve spent the entire weekend picking them up at our dacha – we filled all our baskets and the plastic bags too. Apples normally come in large numbers every second year, but this year with its un-summer-like summer we were quite surprised that the apples are not only many but also quite sweet!

Dacha Apples

And all that without actually picking the apples from the tree – we just gathered what fell (and is constantly falling) onto the ground. It has been windy as hell here in St Petersburg and the region recently. But this was a very fine late August weekend. With the soft sound of apples falling sneakily behind your back (it just suffices to turn away from the trees for a moment!) or… directly on your head! And so they are now baked in numerous cakes:

Apples

and pies:

Apple Pie
with tons of cinnamon!

Apple Pie

THE best apples that grow in our ground and probably just the best apples are Bely naliv (aka Papirovka) – they are early to ripe, resistant to cold winters, sweet&sour in taste and juicy. Some of them grew to real giants of apples but then they get a bit too mashy, as if you were eating a potato. Here they are on the tree…

August Improvisations

…and making company to some freshly baked sourdough bread. Other types of apples that we have at our dacha include Baltika (pictured in the beginning of the post, with these cute red stripes), Osenneye polosatoye (Stripy Autumnal, with red strokes) and Zvezdochka (Star, winter sort, so thank God we’re to get their harvest some time later; they are red in color).

August Improvisations

And.. as we discovered on Sunday they are now accompanied by plums too. Who would believe we live in the North-West of Russia with all these fruits?

Dacha Plums

For the collection of recipes with apples, see this page.

G.

French recipe · sweet

Moelleux aux Groseilles for My Mother

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

In between the series of the Trans-Siberian journey posts, here’s a simple and yet very delicate red currant cake that I’ve made for my Mother’s birthday. With all the berries we are having now at our dacha, this was just ‘what the doctor prescribed’. Enjoying the sourness of our northern berries with the sweetness of the summer days.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

1 year ago – Petrogradsky and Aptekarsky Islands in Details – no recipe in this post

2 years ago – Chasing Alexander Pushkin in Tsarskoye Selo – no recipe in this post

3 years ago – Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza

4 years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies

Moelleux aux Groseilles or Redcurrant Cake adapted from the lovely lavenderandlovage.com will make a French-style dacha-inspired upside-down cake with that sweet & sour combination in one bite. For the entire recipe, follow the link above. Here are my changes and remarks:

As far as the ingredients go, I used 2 small eggs instead of one large egg and also regular (though quite fine-grain) sugar instead of caster sugar. I substituted all-purpose flour + baking soda for the self-rising flour as well. I also thought that adding at least some vanilla extract would help veil the egg flavour, so I added some to the batter.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

As for the procedure, I suppose 200 ‘C was a little it too much. I and could see through the oven window that the top was browning too fast, so I decreased the temperature to about 180 ‘C for the last 10 minutes or so (the total time being 30 minutes). I used a bundt tin and didn’t line it with paper, just greased it generously.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

Remarks: The northern berries are normally quite watery and sour (or with the best-case scenario – just not sweet enough) so the top of my cake was a little bit too moist in some parts. Although the soft and yet ship-shape cake counterbalanced this moisture (and I turned it out of the form almost in its entirety), I wouldn’t add any more berries for fear of creating too much liquid on top.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

Result: This French-style upside-down cake is easy to make but interesting enough thanks to this combination of the tangy berry topping and the airy ‘base’ part (after all, it’s a moelleux which means soft & delicate in French). My Mother particularly praised it for this sweet & sour combination.

Moelleux aux Groseilles (Redcurrant Cake)

… And if you find the tangy berries a bit too much, you can always add a bit more icing sugar on top (anyway, it will disappear entirely after some time, being absorbed by the berries)! Or even eat it with some whipped cream as the author suggests. If you are interested in other ways to use red currants in baking, try this red currant meringue cake, red currant coffeecake, red currant flan or any of these options.

Mama's birthday

Just some photos to save the moment. Dried mulberries (from a local tea & natural stuff shop) in a clay cup (from my Trans-Siberian trip), such a treat for sweet-toothed!

Mama's birthday

And some freshly baked sourdough rye bread.

Mama's birthday

Will come back soon with the continuation of my travel posts, I’ve got aaaall the Siberia to tell you about.

This post goes to Berries, Sweet and Country-specific recipe collections.

G.

pies · sweet

Russian-style Pear Cheesecake

Pear Cheesecake

When you have pears hard as wood and two packages of Russian tvorog, you just go and make an improvised cheesecake. It turned out to be quite Russian, I should say, because tvorog is pretty grainy compared to the much softer cream cheese. Anyway, here’s a more or less accurate reconstruction of that improvised Russian-style cheesecake with pears:

Pear Cheesecake

1 year ago – Deli Bread with My Un-Favourite Ingredient

2 years ago – Dying Eggs for Easter the Natural Way

3 years ago – Apples and Oranges

4 years ago – Biscotti and On Soviet Food Stupidities

Russian-style Pear Cheesecake will make a soft but rich cheesecake with that very tvorog texture and flavour.

Ingredients:

for the base:

  • 90 g of butter, cold
  • 70 g of sugar, but actually to taste
  • about 180 g of flour
  • an egg
  • some cold water
  • a dash of nutmeg

for the cheesecake:

  • 500 g 5% fat tvorog (or a grainy type of farmer’s cheese)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g or more of sugar, to taste
  • 2 Tbs of cornstarch
  • a pinch of vanilla extract
  • 4-5 small pears or other fruit
  • some ground cardamom

Procedure:

First, make the base: mix flour with sugar and nutmeg, then cut in cold butter. I usually work in the butter with my hands after I precut it into pieces. Your mixture should resemble crumbs. Mix in the egg and add the water little by little so that you get a kneadable dough. Do not over-knead though. Cover the bowl and leave it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, you can start making the filling. Rub the tvorog with the sugar, mix in the eggs one by one, add the cornstarch and the vanilla. Slice the pears in your preferred fashion (I leave the skins on and do not pay too much attention to the appearance).

Grease a round springform pan. Now take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it a bit bigger than the size of your baking pan / spread it in the pan with fingers (which I did). You should be able to make quite tall borders with this amount of pastry. Lay the pieces of pears all over the bottom, sprinkle with some cardamom. Then pour all the cheese mixture on top. Give it a nice shake to distribute the mixture evenly.

Bake at 160-170 ‘C for about an hour (check at 50 minutes). Leave to cool and then keep refrigerated. It will slice better after some time in the fridge.

Pear Cheesecake

Remarks: No need to buy unripe pears for this cake 🙂 And I think any fruit will do as long as you like it! I didn’t add any sour cream (smetana) either which might have added a creamier taste to it. Also, be careful with the sugar – mine was a little bit too sweet!

Pear Cheesecake

Result: A chewy kind of cheesecake, if you know what I mean. It is more like the Russian zapekanka which is made with tvorog, eggs, sugar and a bit of flour.

After some time in the fridge, the slices were not falling apart that much and looked more ‘professional’. But I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures 🙂

Pear Cheesecake

This recipe goes to the Sweet and Russian collections.

G.

German recipe · sweet

Lebkuchen, German Gingerbread

Lebkuchen

I know it’s springtime but I was craving for something hearty, flavourful and full of spices, honey and zest… A Russian pryanik or kovrizhka might be a very good option but my choice fell on this German gingerbread recipe instead:

Lebkuchen

It reminded me of the Alsatian pain d’épices (or spice bread) which is usually sold in those huge bricks and is actually called Lebkuchen too.  It’s particularly popular during the Christmas season but as it is also a characteristic local treat, it’s sold all year round.

Lebkuchen

I’m dedicating this post to my – now – overseas friend Jana who I guess will appreciate this recipe! Janaki, you can try making this Lebkuchen to your new friends, I’m sure they’ll love it!

Lebkuchen

1 year ago – Discovering Cityscape with Cheese and Yogurt Biscuits

2 years ago – Darnitskiy Bread

3 years ago – Travelling Muffins and Wandering Bread

4 years ago – Pane al Cioccolato… Senza Cioccolato

Lebkuchen or German Gingerbread adapted from www.kingarthurflour.com will make dense, brandy-flavoured gingerbread with cracking icing and bits of orange peel! Go to the original website (which I love dearly) for the entire recipe.

My changes and remarks:

Did not use lemon oil and orange oil but lemon and orange zest instead; forgot about almonds completely (but the batter was super thick without them already); used cardamom instead of cloves; omitted crystallized ginger. I also made less glaze for which I used brandy.

Lebkuchen

Remarks: The brandy glaze adds even more flavour to this gingerbread although it makes them less children-friendly. I didn’t make my glaze super thick, I think there was already enough sugar in this recipe. Love the bits of the orange zest – would really suggest to use (larger) peel instead of finely grated zest. I forgot about the nuts but if you manage to incorporate them in this super thick batter, go for it!

Lebkuchen

Result: These fragrant and spicy squares are such a délice! The cracking sugar icing, the chewy and dense ‘body’, the flavours! No need to wait for the festive season 🙂

Lebkuchen

Adding this post to Country-specific and Sweet recipe collections.

G.

St Petersburg · sweet

Chestnut Coffee Cake and St Petersburg in February

St Petersburg in February

It’s March already and yet St Petersburg is treating us with a harsh winter comeback. As if the nature has just realized that it slept over all those days in December when it was warm and decided to have its revenge. We all hope for the best though!

St Petersburg in February

I took these photos while walking along the super windy Neva embankment back in the beginning of February. I don’t normally walk much around the city during the day so I grabbed at the chance to see the frozen river…

St Petersburg in February

…and the canals on the way there and back.

St Petersburg in February

The Hermitage and the space around it is usually so crowded with people that you just don’t get a single moment when there’s nobody there. However on that day there was just one group of tourists and I could take these rare-moments photos.

St Petersburg in February

I won’t tell you about the bureaucracy of the Hermitage and how very Soviet it looks from behind, when you have to deal with the back-office and not the touristy parts. It’s pretty much the same in all the state institutions which the contemporary Russia inherited from the USSR. People’s names and generations may as well change but the ways do not, they seem to be perpetrated with an impressive stubbornness.

St Petersburg in February

When walking back I passed this favourite spot of mine – the Prachechny bridge and the Summer Garden. Just a week ago it was closed because of all the water that flooded the park but now it’s more like Winter garden all over again!

St Petersburg in February

On the other day I was making my usual speedwalking to the place where I work and took these snowy pictures of the Inzhenerny (aka Mikhailovsky) Castle built for the emperor Pavel. By the way, I finally went there and saw it from the inside…

St Petersburg in February

…and it was boring! It’s a pity that with all those renovated halls and decorated ceilings they couldn’t make something authentic out of it – and I guess people just forget that they are in a castle (although a fake one) and treat it as an exhibition. It’s now a part of the Russian Museum and hosts a collection of portraits (which I find very boring) and a several temporary expos.

St Petersburg in February

However, the second part of my visit was way more interesting – a lecture about pop-art and popular culture at the Lectorium of the museum. The speaker was a very knowledgeable and truly hilarious man who actually translated both Lennon’s books into Russian back in the 1990s. And if you’re familiar with the texts and the playing around with words that Lennon was so fond of, you will understand what a challenge that translation (or rather re-construction?) that was! So now I got my copy of Lennon’s book signed: “In the absence of the author – signed by the translator” 🙂

St Petersburg in February

And now some food – which this time was quite experimental as first I had to roast the chestnuts and some of them burst in the oven 🙂 and then they wouldn’t cook through and wouldn’t peel either… I have tried chestnuts in jams but not baked so this time it was also a tasting experiment. And yes, for some reason I found chestnuts sold at one of the cheapest supermarkets in February and not in autumn when they are in season in our part of the world…

Chestnut Coffee Cake

1 year ago – Italian Sourdough Bread with Potatoes and Herbs

2 years ago – Sunflower Seed Rye Sourdough or We Need Sun Here

3 years ago – Thessaloniki

4 years ago – Mangoes and Rye to Welcome Spring

Chestnut Coffee Cake adapted from bonappetit.com will make a rather curious cake with a chewy chestnut and chocolate filling and a sugary topping. Visit the original website to get the entire recipe.

What I’ve changed: As I had no almond flour or meal I actually used some weird Korean tea made from almond + pumpkin seed + walnut meal. And for the chestnut filling, o-ho-ho, I had to roast the chestnuts I bought and then clean the oven because even though we cut a cross into their surface they just decided to burst out 🙂 As for the cake itself, I used strawberry yogurt instead of sour cream. I didn’t lined my pan with paper and yet the cake – which by the way rose nicely but then fell down – was easy to take out.

Chestnut Coffee Cake

Remarks: I would suggest using already roasted chestnuts – unless you’re a super chestnut-roasting professional, of course 🙂 Otherwise, the chestnuts might not cook through properly and your cake – just as mine was – will be a bit weird with quite chewy chestnut bits which added something, well, weird to the taste and the texture. I would also suggest covering the top with aluminum foil while baking as it got burnt in places and didn’t look as pretty as I would like it to.

Chestnut Coffee Cake

Result: Weird 🙂 But that was an experiment! The cocoa in the filling made it taste almost chocolately although there was no chocolate added. The sugary crust (topping) is very sweet but the filling is somehow not. Overall this cake is quite crumbly and nonuniform in the taste and texture. 

Chestnut Coffee Cake

This post goes to St Petersburg series and Sweet recipe collection.

G.

sweet

Peanut Butter Post

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

I wanted to make a birthday cake for my Grandpa and one of the recipes recently added to my collection required peanut butter. This thing is somehow not popular in Russia (I’m no fan either), costs a lot and can be found only in a limited number of stores. So I naturally thought, why not make my own? (experiments, here we go!)

Homemade Peanut Butter

What you see here is not exactly peanut butter but something reminding me of something we call shcherbet in Russia (contrary to the classic sharbat this one is not liquid but rather thick like halva, being a mixture of cream (milk), fruits and nuts, one of those Turkish delights we love here in Russia). You see, my blender is a pretty sissy one and just wouldn’t surmount so many peanuts, poor thing! So I ended up with lots of distinctive bits of nuts instead of a proper paste. When I mixed the nuts with the rest of the ingredients and I popped it into the fridge it became even less spreadable. But it worked just fine when it was processed for the cake frosting (see further)!

Homemade Peanut Butter

1 year agoHow to Make Silky Cream Cheese at Home

2 years agoTwo Spinach Pies and Spinach…Rice

3 years agoRye Malt Bread, Two Versions

4 years ago2 Energy-Boosting Sweets to Keep Your Mind and Spirit Up

Homemade Peanut Butter adapted from www.thekitchn.com will make more than a cup of thick chunky nutty treat – with all-natural ingredients! Visit the link to get the entire recipes. My changes and remarks:

I used less salt and more nuts, almost burning them while roasting as I forgot them in the oven (hence the deep brown colour). I added sunflower oil and honey as a sweetener but did not add any extras.

When I realized my butter was a tad too thick for butter I tried adding some more oil and honey but that wouldn’t help much. You just need a sturdy blender!

Remarks: You might want to keep your friends away while you’re making this or you might run out of roasted peanuts before they make it to the blender! 🙂 The author of the recipe suggests using various kinds of nuts and considering different extras like cinnamon, for example. You can also skip the roasting part or leave some nuts only just roughly ground for a chunkier peanut butter.

Result: Super chunky and super peanutty 🙂 Of course everything will depend on the blender – you might end up with a much finer paste than what I had. After some time in the fridge my ‘butter’ was so thick I could break it into bits so I also used it for the decoration:

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

Ah yes, let’s turn to the cake recipe now:

Reese’s Dark Chocolate Cake adapted from www.thenovicechefblog.com will make a very soft & rich deep-dark cake with unusual peanut frosting. I doubled the recipe to have a two-layer cake. Visit the original website for the entire recipe. My changes and remarks:

I used less butter although I doubled the recipe and still got quite a lot of frosting. However, I increased the amount of peanut butter and decreased the powdered sugar. I skipped the chocolate glaze part decorating the top with bits of peanut butter instead. 

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

Remarks: The chocolate cake is actually so super soft that it almost fell apart when I was transferring both layers from the pan. So if you choose to make a double recipe and bake the whole bunk in one pan to later cut it in two, i wouldn’t suggest this. Also, while making the batter I was careless enough to add the egg while the mixture was quite hot which almost resulted in a poached egg 🙂 Be careful! And yes, keep the cake in the fridge!

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

Result: At the first bite the cake appears quite light and fluffy but then the peanut frosting sinks in and you realize that this is quite a substantial cake after all! I think that this cake was pretty uncommon in its taste thanks to the peanut flavour. And although I’m no fan of peanut butter or buttercream, I think this cake was quite a success!

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

These photos feature the celebrated tea set of my Granny with my favourite teaspoons made in Leningrad. The teaspoons might as well been produced in the 1980s as the design rarely changed once it was approved in the USSR, but they do look very 1960s with their black and white pattern!

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake

The peanut frosting leftovers were used in this improvised peanut cake. Since the frosting was essentially a mixture of butter, sugar and nuts, I added some flour, baking powder, 2 eggs and milk. I had a limited amount of time, so had to use the fan option of my oven hence the weird shape of the cake:

Reese's Dark Chocolate Cake
This post goes to the Chocolate and the Sweet recipe collection.

G.