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.

sweet

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Inspired by a colleague who brought us some Iranian pistachios to the office (those were good!) and another colleague who baked her own sukhariki (Russian for rusks) recently, I just had to make some biscotti too. With pistachios.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

I ended up following an American take on an Italian recipe and using Greek pistachios, Russian chocolate and dried fruits from Finnish muesli which do not necessarily come from Finland as you can imagine 🙂 And that having in mind to ‘finally follow a recipe to the letter’. No way!

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

A year ago – Architectural Walks in Kolpino Part 5 – Around Railway Station

Two years ago – Old-Fashioned Apple Slab and Greek Crumble

Three years ago – Vermont Sourdough and Yellow Roses

Four years ago – All the Soviet Children…

Five years ago – Flammekueche

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios adapted from Chocolate, Raspberry, and Walnut Whole Wheat Biscotti on www.kingarthurflour.com will make crunchy sweet rusks, almost 100% whole wheat if you follow the recipe 100%. The recipe is on the website; here are my changes and remarks:

Ingredients: had to use a mixture of wholewheat flour + a bit of all-purpose flour as the batter seemed too sticky to handle; added less salt; instead of freeze-dried raspberries (what are they anyway?) used raisins and other dried fruits from muesli; used whole pistachios instead of chopped walnuts.

Procedure: did not flatten the logs that much for the first bake and thus the biscotti turned out smaller (shorter) in size; the procedure might take some time but there’s something so enjoyable in it that you’ll want to do it again.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Remarks: Already after the first bake the biscotti (or rather logs of biscotti) looked pretty attractive with a crack along the top. Be careful with the timing: during the second bake you’ll have to flip the biscotti over halftime through and they might seem not that crunchy enough. However, 10 minutes after they will be more than crunchy, believe me! By the way, these biscotti do not contain any butter or oil. I would add less sugar next time, as chocolate and dried fruits already contain sugar.

Whole Wheat Biscotti with Chocolate and Pistachios

Result: Chewy, crunchy, sweet. The pistachios (from Aegina) I used were slightly salty which added that little something in contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate. The (original) raspberries should have contributed to the appearance too, however even with the modest raisins these biscotti have a very rustic look.

Want more biscotti? Try these Almond Biscotti or the Greek Ouzo and Pistachio Paximadia or simply Biscotti.

Thanks God we’re past the shortest days of the year, the light will gradually come back, drop by drop. We’re having no snow and consequently no sun here in St Petersburg. Wearing sneakers at the end of December reminds of my other December, 6 years ago in Thessaloniki, almost entirely spent in a T-shirt 🙂

This post goes to my Chocolate and Sweet collections.

P.S. Domes of the St Sophia Cathedral in Veliky Novgorod on some of the photos on a Catholic Christmas Eve unintended.

G.

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.

bread · pies · sweet

Lemon-Gooseberry Bars

August Improvisations

I’ve made these bars with whole lemon and gooseberries recently and my family liked them. There’s no particular recipe for them as it was a part of my improvisations with the ingredients I had at the moment. There was this lonely lemon hanging out in the fridge for some time and those 30% sweet – 70 % sour gooseberries from our dacha 🙂 And some butter in the freezer! The dough recipe was inspired by this friend’s recipe here, I just used less butter, omitted soda+vinegar and added some spices to the dough. The lemon part of the filling was inspired by another friend’s recipe where it is the only fruit component.

August Improvisations

1 year agoGreek Olive Buns and Breadsticks

2 years agoSpanakopita and Mediterranean Vegetable Millefeuille

3 years agoSummer Goes On with Sourdough Mini-Rolls

4 years agoPommes. Pommes de Terre too

Lemon-Gooseberry Bars will make soft pie-like bars with a tangy summer berry flavour.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 100 g butter from the freezer
  • 3-5 glasses of flour
  • spices like cardamom
  • 1 whole lemon
  • gooseberries – I had a mixture of red & black gooseberries
  • 1 Tb cornstarch
  • sugar and spices, to taste

Procedure:

  1. First, mix cold butter with sugar and add eggs. Add a cup of flour and spices and see how it goes. You might need about 2 cups for the dough to be malleable but thick. Turn the pastry onto a surface and divide in two equal parts (balls), wrap them in plastic foil or put them in two plastic bags and then of they go into the freezer for about one hour. The more you chill them, the easier the grating.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Wash the lemon thoroughly, cut it in pieces and take out the seeds. Then put the pieces in the blender and wheeze them to achieve the result you want (bigger / smaller pieces). Add sugar to taste (about 3/4 of a cup I guess) and spices (ginger, mm?) and berries cleaned from all the stalks. Blend the mixture again and then by hand add the cornstarch (which will help create a less runny filling).
  3. Grate one piece of the dough to make the base for the pie – you can grate directly onto the bottom of a lined rectangular baking tin. The larger tin you use the thinner the dough and filling levels will be. Spread the filling all over the bottom layer and grate the second ball on top of the filling, covering it as much as you can (avoid too much action so that you do not destroy the authentic ‘grated’ look!). If the dough gets too soft making grating quite a hard job, put the ball into the freezer back for some time and then continue the process.
  4. Bake at 180’C for about 30 minutes.
  5. Let the pie cool a bit and then cut it into slices.

August Improvisations

Remarks: Although the berries I had were already quite tangy (to say the least), I think the combination with sugar was a good one. Just add enough sugar to cover the sourness of both. And you can use any kind of berries you have, I think. The filling will be oozing from the sides of the pie but that’ll only create this sugary extra something to the border slices 🙂

Result: Lemon-gooseberry bars, isn’t it a perfect end-of-summer vitamin booster?

August Improvisations

Check out these Double-Decker Gooseberry Scones too!

This post goes to the Sweet and Berry recipe collections.

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.

sweet · sweet bread

Korvapuustit, Finnish Cinnamon and Cardamom Buns

Korvapuustit / Finnish Cinnamon Buns

A quick food stop for cardamom and cinnamon buns from Finland. Just pour yourself a big mug of tea or cocoa and enjoy these cuties! Who cares if it’s summer outside when you can indulge yourself in some sweet treat? Do share it with the loved ones, though.

Korvapuustit / Finnish Cinnamon Buns

According to the author of this recipe, the Finnish korvapuustit stands for slapped ears. I’m not sure such a name can pay justice to these sweet buns with freshly ground cardamom though 🙂 To me they look rather like snails – the shape of some of them was pretty much similar to a snail with a snail’s ‘neck’ which got separated from the ‘body’ during the baking (see in the background in the photo below).

Korvapuustit / Finnish Cinnamon Buns

Anyway, these buns were really pretty:

Korvapuustit / Finnish Cinnamon Buns

1 year ago – St Petersburg the Magnificent and Upside-Down Pear Chocolate Cake

2 years ago – Provence and Tapenade on Crackers

3 years ago – Petrogradskaya Side, St Petersburg

4 years ago – Fried Flatbread and Beans a la Grecque

Korvapuustit or Finnish Cinnamon & Cardamom Buns adapted from nami-nami.blogspot.com will make chewy flavourful sugary buns. For the entire recipe go to the original website.

My changes: I had to use more flour as the dough seemed a bit too sticky. I substituted caster sugar with regular granulated sugar for the dough and brown sugar for the filling, and used some brown sugar instead of pearl sugar for the topping. I added less cardamom, yeast, butter and salt in the dough (also, my butter got completely melted when I was warming it up in the microwave).

Remarks: Although I rolled the dough out quite thin, the buns puffed up and the dough part got slightly oversized I think. My buns took under 15 minutes to get ready – I feared they would get too brown with the required 225 ‘C so I took them out a bit earlier.

Korvapuustit / Finnish Cinnamon Buns

Result: Apart from being very tasty and flavourful, these buns are fun to make! And fun to eat: unrolling them, pinching them off them piece by piece or just gobbling them down! Aren’t they cute?

Korvapuustit / Finnish Cinnamon Buns

You can find my blog posts on Finland here, here and here.

Craving for a different kind of sweet buns? Check out Apple Cinnamon Rolls, Cinnamon Buns, Cardamom Flavoured Cinnamon Rolls, Orange Sweet Rolls, Sweet Orange Rolls (haha but they ARE different!), Torta delle Rose or Red Currant and Marzipan Swirls.

This post goes to the Sweet and country-specific recipe collections.

G.

sweet · sweet bread

Poppy Seed Twists for Easter

So fragile, so tender!

It’s Easter time in St Petersburg and after all the excruciatingly prolific snow we are actually having an early spring! So fragile, so tender!

So fragile, so tender!

Almost transparent…

So fragile, so tender!

For this Easter I decided to make something similar to what my Mom would do for the festive table back when we were kids – a poppy seed roll. Perfect timing – I found this recipe just in time for the occasion.

So fragile, so tender!

I remember the quite longish procedure of preparing the poppy seed filling which involved taking out the gigantically heavy meat grinder: mother would process the seeds and sugar through it and we would watch.

So fragile, so tender!

And we would also collect the first herbs and methodically keep the onion skins for the egg part of the Easter festive table. If you want to learn how to dye eggs with onion peels and spring plants, click here.

So fragile, so tender!

Since forever I don’t really like kulich (the traditional Easter-time sweet leavened bread), particularly that type which has raisins inside. But my Mom would make those too (in all sorts of enameled mugs usually found in all Soviet families) and put them all in a huge kastrjulya (pot) so that they do not dry out. But we would ignore them with my sister: we were in for the poppy seed & walnut rolls!

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

1 year ago – Almond Biscotti and Sour Cream Snickerdoodles

2 years ago – Spring in Pavlovsk Park and Blueberry Muffins

2 years ago – St Petersburg the Great

4 years ago – More on Smart Use of Leftovers

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Twists adapted from www.seitanismymotor.com (who also notoriously invented the word:) will make tasty not over-sweet buns loaded with poppy seeds. For the entire recipe visit the link above.

My changes and remarks:

I substituted vegan ingredients with the usual ones (i.e. used cow’s milk instead of soy milk and vegetable oil instead of coconut oil). Also, instant dry yeast worked perfectly well for this recipe. As for the filling, I processed poppy seeds in blender (first I rinsed them and soaked in hot water for a while) and added honey instead of molasses or agave nectar. I didn’t add milk for the filling as it was already too runny, so had to ground some peanuts and throw them in too.

Then, when I was already folding the dough, the filling would just threaten to escape and break through the dough, so I decided to stop rolling the dough out (the second rolling) and made ‘twists’ instead of circles. I don’t have a donut pan so placed my kringel on a silicon mat.

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

Result: Soft and chewy, just like I wanted. The flavour is nice and tangy (there’s all that lemon zest in the dough and the filling!). And the combination of poppy seeds + nuts is always a blast! I would add just a tiny bit more sugar though but not too much so that the balance is preserved.

Mohnkringel or Poppy Seed Buns

This recipe goes to the Sweet collection.

For more poppy seed ideas, check this Cardamom Flavoured Cinnamon Rolls.

G.