bread · sourdough

Black Olive Sourdough Bread

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I’ve been doing some baking according to the recipes recently. Not just what comes to my mind based on the ingredients we have at home. And you know what? It’s not that easy going back to following the instructions and measuring out the ingredients, so I’ve already had some semi-failed attempts, like flat and a bit soggy cakes and  super-spread-out bread (can’t master those recipes with a very wet dough and stretch & fold technique).     

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However this bread with Greek olives turned out nicely, it rose just about fine (with only a little bit of that dense layer at the bottom), and developed a crunchy crust with all those cracks that I like so much in bread. Inside it was very soft and remained so for several days (though was not that suitable for toasting as the olive bits kept falling out).

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Black Olive Sourdough Bread adapted from bewitchingkitchen.com where you will find the original recipe with all the instructions.

My changes:

I fed my sourdough rye starter with rye flower before making this recipe – hence an extra tangy taste and a more brownish colour. Also used plain flour instead of bread flour.

Used less olives and mine were sort of sun-dried, preserved in olives oil with paprika and thyme, made by the talented Irina from Yaroslavl. I also added in some of that olive oil which was not in the ingredient list. I think the olives provide quite a lot of extra salt which I only realised after baking the bread. It was a bit too salty for me as I ate this bread mostly with cheese for breakfast.

The white stuff you can spot at the bottom of the loaf is semolina which I used instead of the rice flour indicated in the original recipe.

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Forgot to use a container for the final rise (the usual thing with the recipes – just can not NOT forget something!) so my loaf was sort of free-form. However it turned out ok. I didn’t use Dutch oven / dish with a lid, baking the bread on an inverted rack instead.

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I just love those cracks!

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We’ve already made our early-spring trip to check how things are at our dacha. It’s been already some days since then so I won’t post the pictures with left-over snow here. Just this dry plant against the wall of our house (that needs painting).

dacha-in-april

Adding this recipe to the Sourdough Bread collection.

Liked the idea of using olives in baking bread? Try these Greek Olive Buns or Olive Bread Sticks.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Experimenting with the Soviet black and white Smena 8M camera that was given to my Mother as a present when she was still at school, in 1973 – her first photo camera. That was a popular and inexpensive model for beginners manufactured at the famous LOMO factory in Leningrad – well now you would rather call it a mind-boggling challenge! First and foremost, finding a black and white film was not that very easy, I managed to find only one type and it was quite pricey for an experiment. So I knew the price of every shot 🙂 Although that was not my first encounter with film cameras (I started with Zenith back in the early 2000s), Smena really is a Soviet austerity thing. The trick with this camera is that it is so basic that you can’t focus. Nope. No zooming, nothing, just your reckoning of how far the object is from you (which I’m pretty bad at!). And you can’t even fully get an idea of what will be in your picture once it’s developed either. I mean the thing you see in the finder when making the photo is not all what you get as a result. There are also those icons for the weather conditions that you need to choose from – I think I’ve made a mess with them every time, not mentioning the shutter speed that you have to determine yourself too. Add to this absence of a cap for the lens and a very stiff cover… Also when I had my film developed (which you don’t normally do these days, do you?) it turned out that most of the 36 shots were gone… I mean most of the film was just blank. I dunno if that’s due to the camera or to some error during the developing process but the thing is, I lost all the earlier photos that I did in January, February and March… So I’m left with the shots from early April till mid May 2018. By the way, I’ve deliberately kept the borders on the scanned photos (thanks to my Dad!) so that they have a more authentic feel (read: too lazy!).

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

The first shot that was more or less full (see a black stripe above) and the next one were taken in Tsarskoye Selo on a morning in early April, during the Easter week. That’s the church (below) and the wooden dormitories that I’ve already described in one of my previous posts. I was drawn by the interplay of the shadows and the bright sun on the walls but had no idea how it would look like in a black and white version.

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

A week later in April we took an evening walk in the Aleksandrovsky Park of Tsarskoye Selo. Again I was attracted by the shadows and the perspective of the tree alley. I had to consult my Mother as to what numbers / icons to choose. Absolutely no idea how people’s minds worked back then when everything was not automatically set! 🙂

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Next day at our dacha, trying to capture the warm evening sun of spring:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Late April – some shots taken while walking along Moyka river from – roughly – the Palace Square to Tavrichesky Garden in St Petersburg. The beginning of the active tourist season… I was not sure whether the camera would focus on the river or the lamp post…

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Trying to get that graphic repetition of the (shadow) pattern:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Here I was not sure wether the lamp would fit or not but I was more interested in the swirl:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Early May on the Palace Square, before getting my price for a Russian language competition 🙂

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film CameraExperimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

The sky was so dramatic, the wind was tough, I couldn’t hold myself from making another shot:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

And this is mid May when the weather suddenly turned to very autumn-like rather than spring-time. We took a very fast walk in Pavlovsk, near the Mariental Castle (aka BIP), see the very first photo of the post for yet another take on it:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

Obviously tried to get more of the reflection rather than of the castle itself:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

And I think this is by far the best shot – a tiny bit of decadence:

Experimenting with Black and White: Smena Film Camera

After all, I liked the challenge. Some of the photos did remind me of those I took years ago when I borrowed Zenith camera from my parents – but that was a colour film camera and much more user-friendly. With Smena I think for a moment I did get that feeling back when with every shot you make you realize that that was probably it – or nothing. You can’t take a hundred and then choose the best one with this camera, you can’t have a preview, you can’t see the result immediately, you just – well, you just ‘fire’ that thing and wait to see! Perfectly old-fashioned.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Spring Memories 2018

Spring Memories 2018

I’ve spent quite a lot of time at our dacha this spring – and later summer. And I guess I have to be pay my dues to the job I’ve been doing for almost a year now which allows me to work from any location and almost any point during the day. Thanks to that I’ve also travelled to new places since I don’t necessarily have to stay at home.

Spring Memories 2018

But at the same time too much is done on the computer which leaves me with no desire to use it any more after I’m done with the task for the day. So even if I have a desire to write to my blog, it’s not enough to actually do it. Which also made me ponder on the whole idea itself – whether I really need this blog etc etc. Ok, no more of this, let’s just leave some spring 2018 memories here.

Spring Memories 2018

The first photos are from April when there’s such an awakening around you, such a joy inside you that cannot compare with any other season I guess. I love the interplay of the seemingly dead / sleeping nature and the subtle but obviously very sturdy and vigorous new life.

Spring Memories 2018

It’s so fast this in-between season – I mean, between the winter and the full-on summer that you’d better open your eyes before it’s all gone.

Spring Memories 2018

This spring gave us a marvelous May which was in a way warmer and nicer than most of the previous summers. And it was also made pretty clear to us that we were to face yet another apple year, a very prolific one though the apples I’m afraid were record sour which made them almost inedible for those with a weak stomach.

Spring Memories 2018

We’re still dealing with the apple harvest and I can only occasionally make something non-apple in terms of desserts since we have so many of them and everyone around seem to be having the same problem so there’s just no way of getting rid of them by giving away.

Spring Memories 2018

During winter I had some thoughts of going back to Crimea to get some proper spring experience just like I did in 2016 but then I realized I’d be better off at our dacha just enjoying life and nature in a sort of a seclusion that a 0.6 ha plot can give you. While making my strolls along and across the multiple dacha cooperatives that stretch for kilometers along the New Ladoga Canal (which in its turn runs along the Ladoga Lake shore), I met quite a few people who were also enjoying their dacha life in many ways though not all of their lifestyles were so to speak healthy. I guess that the relative remoteness from the city (about 50 km) and a more relaxed and village-like atmosphere means vodka will never lose its popularity in these places.

Spring Memories 2018

I’m definitely not a village person, I mean if I were to choose, I would definitely love to live in the country but then I’m absolutely hopeless with all the hard work it entails. And I can only drink my milk already pasteurized and devoid of all the (too) natural aromas, if you know what I mean. But I’m not a city person either which makes dacha a nice sort of compromise in between. Russians love their dacha for a variety of reasons, mine is very personal cause I’ve been spending there most of my summers since my very first one. I’m grateful for those Soviets who had the idea of granting plots to their people. And I’m really thankful for my grandparents who courageously undertook such a hard task to develop a plot from virtually nothing (ex-forest) to such a cozy place. Even a 9’C day somewhere in the middle of July can’t spoil it.

Spring Memories 2018

I can brag on for ages, you know. Need to save my enthusiasm for the rest of the backlog of various posts that I keep postponing for ages.

P.S. Pictured above is the famous Cobalt Net tea pot from a porcelain set very popular in the 1960s. The pattern itself was created even before the end of the war by an artist working at the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory during the Siege of Leningrad.  I’m no fan of porcelain but this one is such an iconic pattern that it’s somehow ‘by default’ included in our inner cultural canon.

G.

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

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Tsarksoye Selo to the south of St Petersburg is a treasure trove of yet undiscovered Art Nouveau architecture. Here, a bit out of the eye of the St Petersburg experts and activists in architectural conservation, some of the beauties have disappeared without a trace over the years. But luckily some of them are left as is and some are even gradually renovated. In continuation to my last year’s spring-time and autumnal walks in the Art Nouveau realm of Tsarksoye Selo, here we go.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I think spring and autumn with their rusty colours of the nature, with their true warm light (as opposed to the ‘through’ hot light of summer) just bring out the best in Art Nouveau, they are the best seasons for spotting architecture in general – not much leaves on the trees to obstruct the buildings and no (or little) snow to cover the details. We did this walk back in the surprisingly warm early April (after which there was such a setback – raining and all that). Our first stop was at the now State Museum Tsarskoye Selo Collection (apparently – of the 1930s Leningrad art). But it used to be one of those mansions for just one family built right in the center of the city by the architect from the capital (i.e. St Petersburg then) von Goli in 1909.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Regardless of its pink painted walls, this mansion bears the signs of the so called Northern Modern style, the one which evolved in St Petersburg but was inspired by the Finnish Romantic style as well as the Scandinavian spirit in general.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Hence all the fortress-like reminiscence, such as the windows, portals and stone.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

But the mansions’ signature details is this tower rather menacingly hanging over passers-by. To my mind they even left the entrance right underneath is in disuse because of that.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Curious ‘lid’ above the balcony:

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

There is not much known about the previous history of this cute little mansion. I will one day go inside since there’s also a workshop at the ground level. I wonder whether it sunk down quite a bit over the century or was meant to be that low.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The wall on the other side which were in the shadow that morning are less… feminine, more laconic as there are no such doors or balconies, just a wall pierced by the windows.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo
Our next stop was not actually planned as I used to consider these buildings long gone and didn’t bother to check (I read about them in the book on the Art Nouveau architecture in St Pete). But since they were just some meters away from the pink mansion we bumped into them by chance, so to say.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

It was Sunday and Easter Sunday, so people were already gathering outside the church waiting for the priest to sprinkle that holy whatever on their traditional (and not so much) kulich and died eggs and whatnot.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I was drawn by the pseudo-Russian style of the church which was also lit by the warm sun to its advantage. There’s something to its volumes and features that makes you think of the very old Russian churches (which was obviously meant) but there’s also something from the Art Nouveau aesthetics which is so appealing.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

This a ‘home’ church meaning that it was built into a building, actually into a charity organization for the Russian Red Cross nurses who lived here and worked in the hospitals of the city, the whole thing being backed by the emperor’s wife herself, Alexandra (i.e. the last Russian emperor Nicholas II’s wife). And it was designed by the emperor’s own architect with a charming Italian name of Silvio Danini. I’ve already investigated into some of his creations scattered all over Tsarskoye Selo but no to this one.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

As with the prototype – the first Russian churches – the rounded volumes are clearly the best:

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The history of this church during the Soviet era is pretty much similar to those churches which survived and were not taken down (this could happen not just in the 1920-30s but well into the 60s as well – sadly). They were mostly deprived of their distinguishing features (i.e. bell towers, cupolas, of course all the interior etc) and transformed into everything from cinema halls to driving schools to bread baking plants.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

This one was used – again – to the benefit of the society, as a part of the sanatorium for the TB kids. All the icons got painted over, regardless of them being designed by the famous Viktor Vasnetsov. The 1912-1914 church then got transformed into a show room in the 1990s and was handed over to the church officials back only in 2006. And the renovation started finally which can only rejoice me. What a unique show room (they say of… doors!):

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The rest of the building has not been renovated and looks pretty sad. Though again I loved the volumes:

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Right next to the brick church is this big wooden house pretty much in the style of the very first pre-Art Nouveau English-cottage-style creations by the prolific Danini (1896-1897). It is in a poorer state than the adjacent church:

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

This was originally built as the Nurses’ dormitory and clinic, but later became a Soviet kids’ TB sanatorium (the ‘new’ 1980 Brutalist style facilities are right next door). It is older than the church (1907-08) and is right next to another charity organization (which I failed to see this time) again built by the same Danini some years earlier.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Now it’s some sort of something, no sign there but they say it will be handed over to the adjacent church some time soon.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I hope it will be renovated. This could be a nice Sunday school or something, with its large windows. Although I doubt it will be restored as such. Real estate in Tsarskoye Selo is ridiculously overpriced…

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

It does look like a wooden dacha (summer cottage). I can imagine drinking tea from samovar sitting on the verandah:

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I tried to capture these interplay of shadows that day with my mother’s first LOMO Smena photo camera, loaded with a black and white film. Still have some 10 shots to go before I can develop the film and find out whether it is actually still working (UPD: here are the results). I adore black & white photos, its aesthetics, its graphic lines and atmosphere but still have to master it.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The snow is already gone now but I’d love this early spring period to linger…

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Our last stop was actually in the nearby Pavlovsk, yet another royal-park-residence environ which is just a railway station away from Tsarskoye Selo. But this dacha is stuck somewhere in between wooden houses and posh ‘villas’, not where you would normally go to in brief.

Spring and (More) Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

This used to be a private dacha of the architect who built among others the Faberge store in St Petersburg, Karl Shmidt. Built in 1902-1903, they say it used to be painted white with green, blue and red details, but I like its current earthy colours as well. Not sure about what’s inside, they say it’s occupied by the Pavlovsk park administration.

For the autumnal part of my Art Nouveau walks see this post. For my last year’s Art Nouveau walk, see this post.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.

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

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Autumn and Art Nouveau go really well together. And where else would they go perfectly well together than in Tsarskoye Selo, an aristocratic suburb of St Petersburg. I love visiting it in autumn when the ex-royal residence is wearing its gorgeous multicolour veil. This time though we decided (ok-ok, I persuasively suggested it) to go on an Art Nouveau quest around the town. The number of Art Nouveau places is limited but thanks to the overall status of Tsarskoye Selo as a ‘country’ residence, they are mostly separate cottages / dachas. The first spot we visited was the dacha (summer cottage) of the grand duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia , now the premises of the Research Institute of Horticulture. Built in 1896-1897 – supposedly by two English architects – it is considered to be one of the first Art Nouveau places in St Petersburg.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Since the last time we were there in spring 2017 (seems like years ago), they’ve surrounded the whole area with a fence and also started renovation in one of the buildings which used to serve as a stable (also built in 1896-1897). Also, the little clock tower which used to decorate this house is gone…

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I do hope they will be careful with what is left from the original interior details (if any) – in this case you never know if the renovation is beneficial or on the contrary fatal for the building. The nearby second (reserve) home with a garage (one of the first garages for automobiles in Russia, built in 1899), slowly but steadily dying from the mold and disuse, represents a very sad picture from the inside:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Wonderfully decadent from the outside – if only there was a way to stop the building from decaying:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I don’t know the plans for the garage, but I hope they do something about it pretty soon as the roof is falling in:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

An un-standardized door:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

An un-standardized window:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The previous times I was there I didn’t pay much attention to the fountain erroneously thinking it was a later addition. probably thanks to the fact the dacha is somewhat off the main road and the fountain is almost in the ‘woods’, it survived till today – and who knows, maybe even its mechanism is still working?

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Another thing which I didn’t explore earlier was this hobbit-like pavilion near the greenhouses (not sure if these are the original ones) – also built in the Art Nouveau style and now full of junk.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The entire pavilion seems to be growing out of the ground, merging with the garden. It has obviously sank over the last century which only gives it a more ‘natural’ look. If only it was also kept in a better condition…

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Our next Art Nouveau stop was the ex-store of the Guards Economic Society, built already in the late Art Nouveau period when in St Petersburg they were mostly moving towards the retrospective styles (1911-1914). But the ‘province’ (although Tsarskoye Selo is very close to the city) is a different thing.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

They say the building continued to be used as a shop even in the Soviet period but now it’s hard to say what’s there. There are security cameras and yet half of the building seems to be abandoned.
Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Apart from the decadent stone staircases…

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

with trees growing through them, …

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

and original glass in the windows,…

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

there is also a pavilion in the same pseudo-English style nearby (as well as two other pavilions of an uncertain function):

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

I wish I could visit that shop when it was just open. Or even now, to see what’s hiding inside behind those large windows – and also what’s up there in the pinnacle? What’s inside the small pavilion is better not seen 😦

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The third stop was the mansion of count Gudovich (built in 1901-03), now a kindergarten, situated just outside the Catherine Park.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

You cannot go close to the building as the schools and places like this are now mostly fenced in (we had plans to get hired as cleaning ladies to get inside 🙂 so we just wandered around peeping through the fence. Must feel like a sort of Hogwarts to the kids!

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

One of the details that catch your eye is the grate and the gates designed by Art Nouveau guru Robert Metlzer. The grate reminds me of the Northern Modern style that was a very popular movement within Art Nouveau. It brought into the architecture all those Scandinavian fairy-tale elements that make you think of fortresses, ammunition and creatures that turn into stone.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The gates are still operating:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

There are also street lights but sadly no bulbs:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The forth stop was connected to the first automobiles in the Russian empire – though now it has more to do with the agriculture of the Leningrad (St Petersburg) region as it houses some of the departments of the local Institute of Agriculture. The garages were built in 1906-1907 to house 2 new Delaunay-Belleville cars bought for the emperor.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

When we saw this bas-relief we couldn’t decide whether that was a car or a tractor – such is the aura of the place now 🙂 But it actually depicts the introduction of the first cars in Russia. And here is the garage:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Now students sit in there listening to their lecturers. What a transformation for a garage!

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The building in the background is the one with the bas-relief.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

A pavilion nearby was built later and has a glass roof for more light. I guess they use it to house some specimens of agricultural machinery:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Faded colors of autumn:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Natural decadence:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Beautiful door of the nearby dacha of Alexander Pushkin:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The day was really nice so I decided to leave the architecture for a while and go enjoy some nature. The Alexander park (a free-entrance counterpart of the more popular and more regular Catherine park) was surprisingly green for late September and although the sun was already setting down, I enjoyed my walk along the alleys up to those corners that you normally miss out.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Although this is a landscape park and so it’s not exactly all nature… But the combination of the natural beauty with the tricks of the architect makes you love it no less.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

A lamppost next to the ruins of the Chinese Theater:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

One of the bridges bears the name of the factory that produced it – the famous one that is also responsible for major metal constructions found here and there in St Petersburg, the San-Galli Factory:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Since the summer started a month later than it was supposed to, the autumn also arrived late(r) this year. The autumnal hues were just beginning to make their appearance:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Four friends:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

On my way back:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

The golden evening light of September…

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

…made the Catherine Palace less pompous and a bit warmer:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

While it made the gold look even gold-er 🙂

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

Baroque palace meets civilization:

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

And as my final stop, I entered the 1860s Lutheran church with its rows of white benches and a boy changing the plates with the numbers of verses to be read next day. I came just after the organ concert finished. The church originally opened for the German instructors working at the nearby Lyceum (where Pushkin studied) and had services also in Finnish and Estonian languages up until 1931. Then it acted as the premises for a factory, gestapo and a driving school. Miraculously, it didn’t suffer much destruction through all that.

Autumn and Art Nouveau in Tsarskoye Selo

More pictures of autumnal Tsarskoye Selo are here in my last year’s post.

Adding this post to the Environs section of the St Petersburg collection.

G.

no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Our dacha in St Petersburg region (aka Leningrad region) is one of those places for me, a city dweller, where I can get closer to the nature or at least follow the seasons that are much more distinct here than in St Petersburg. It’s a pity our dacha is a classical summer cottage type and we perform our dacha activities from somewhere in late April until early November, so I have never actually seen it in winter. But the transformation that the nature undergoes moving from summer to autumn for me always starts at our dacha – you can feel it in the air, in the light and even in the soil. In this post I would like to share with you just a glance of this transformation. Let’s start with…

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Early July – this year it resembled early June as the nature was one month behind the ‘schedule’ (now it seems to have gone one month ahead). I was burning old leaves leftover from last year, cleaning our plot from the many useless things that normally constitute the ‘wealth’ of most old-school dachas.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Everything was very June-like green and very slow. Apart from the grass (read: moss) and the puddles – both grew pretty fast this summer.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Late July – the beginning of the end of summer, supposed to be the best days in terms of weather with the peak warmth. This July as I said was rather like June which means we were not that spoiled with sun but rather overloaded with rain.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

I just adore that evening light…

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

In late July we finally reached that point where you get used to the summer and lose track of days (although this summer it was much easier to count sunny days than the rainy ones). This is the period that is hard to be defined as you just live through it, day by day.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Long days are nice when there’s sun – and in St Petersburg and its region we have the famous white nights – but with the interminable rain from dusk to dawn you don’t know what to do being stuck inside. One of the possible pastimes is baking potatoes 🙂

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

September – warm colours of early autumn, cozy time in jeans & sweater, a short Indian summer with a bit more sun that we did not get enough of during the actual summer.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

The setting sun is the most magical:

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

I started this summer wearing this old 90s sweater and I finished our dacha period in it as well.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Some warm yellow after the rain:

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

The soil was so wet this summer that we harvested some Lactarius mushrooms that popped up here and there. I will also make a separate post on our mushroom and berry picking in the forests of the St Petersburg region.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

This beard looks and feels pretty weird 🙂 The mushroom grows its beard when it gets old.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

The fluffy Astilbe:

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Astilbe in the backlight:

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Our apple trees follow their own schedule – they give fruit every second year. And with every new second year they do it more and more assiduously, giving us more apples that we can possibly process ourselves. This year only the most broken tree with almost no roots (it fell down under the weight of 200 kilos of apples once) miraculously gave a couple of sweet apples (the much-suffering trunk of the tree is pictured in the 1st photo of this post).

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

October – gathering fallen leaves and getting warm through that; everything gets transparent and you can suddenly see much farther; cold graphics of autumn; nature becomes distant as if hiding from you and slipping through your fingers.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

I think I’ve broken every record in gathering fallen leaves this autumn. My back says I’ve been a bit too zealous…

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

And yet I have my favourite leaves in autumn – the super-multi-coloured leaves of chockeberry tree (haha, what a name in English – but in fact pretty exact!). My Granddad used to make a sort of extra-tart wine from these berries – it leaves such an aftertaste in your mouth you can hardly get rid of.

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

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 – Greek Olive Buns and Breadsticks

3 years ago – Spanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille

4 years ago – Summer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls

5 years ago – Pommes. 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 CakeRed Currant Meringue Pie, Red Currant Flan and Red Currant and Marzipan Swirls among others.

G.