no-dough · sweet · vegetarian

Tasty but Tricky Experiments with Agar-Agar

Tasty Experiments with Agar-Agar

Agar-Agar or simply agar is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin, made from a certain species of algae. Algae – for dessert?! Exactly. Agar is neutral in flavour and is considered to be pretty wholesome as it is 0% fat and 80% fiber. Although I’m not a big fan of these jelly things, I was surprised at how flexible they are and how creative they allow you to be.

Tasty Experiments with Agar-Agar

Making desserts with agar-agar turns out to be very easy – though a bit tricky at times. For instance, if you try to cheat on the amount of the agar-agar powder you’re using you might end up with a sort of tasty compote instead of jelly… You see, with my third jelly experiment I was having my Scrooge moment, which was a very bad timing. Well, two successful attempts out of three is a pretty good result.

Tasty Experiments with Agar-Agar

Be careful when selecting your agar-agar powder: 10 g of seemingly same substance can have a very different effect. I bought two different brands and found out one was twice (if not thrice) more powerful than the other. So do read the instructions on the packaging – if it says 10 g per 400 ml, do not try to increase the amount of liquid.

Tasty Experiments with Agar-Agar

1 year ago – Ryazan and a Bit of Moscow

2 years ago – Orange Coloured Post: Glazed Orange Cake and Persimmons

3 years ago – Sugary Knots from My Babushka’s Recipe

4 years ago – Winter Light and Lemon Cake

5 years ago – Those Were the Days or 90s in Russia Continued

6 years ago – Birthday Mega Torte and Lots of Flowers

Fruit Jelly will make quite a few portions of sunny jelly with chewy fruit bites.

Ingredients

  • 800 ml of liquid – or half water half orange juice plus a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tsp agar-agar powder (read the instructions on the packaging!)
  • 100 g sugar
  • 2 tangerines, peeled
  • 1 small apple, diced

Procedure

Pour your liquid into a large non-reactive pot, put it on medium heat, and add the agar-agar powder teaspoon by teaspoon, whisking well after each addition. Add your sugar and whisk well. Add your fruit.

When the mixture starts boiling, whisk regularly for 5 minutes. You should notice how really thick it gets. Leave the mixture in the pot for a bit and then pour it into desired forms like cocktail glasses, shots or small glass bowls. Leave to set completely and then store in the fridge (just in case).

Tasty Experiments with Agar-Agar

Remarks

I can imagine you can add spices and virtually anything to the mixture, depending on your idea of a perfect jelly. If you want your fruit chunks really crunchy, put them into the pot closer to the end of cooking – or add them when the mixture starts boiling for a more ‘mushy’ result. The fruit jelly was somewhat nicer in texture than my previous (first) attempt with mixed frozen berries – I added them before the mixture started boiling which increased the amount of liquid and reduced the jellying power of agar-agar. So frozen fruit might be that tricky ingredient which spoils the whole thing, who knows. However, berries add that tang and a nice deep red wine colour to your jelly.

Tasty Experiments with Agar-Agar

Result

Sweet, soft in texture with chewy fruit chunks. Can also be used as an extra sweetener for your piece of cake (spreads well) or even your oatmeal / muesli. A flexible recipe that you can adapt to anything you have on hand at the moment.

Tasty Experiments with Agar-Agar
Adding this post to the Apples and the Sweet recipe collection.

G.

cookies · muffins · sweet

Sugarless: Oatmeal Cookies and Fruit Muffins

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

My sister is temporarily on a no-added-sugar diet so I’ve been experimenting with sugar-free baking for a while. She is also avoiding honey and industrially made juices which turned it into a bit of a challenge. So bananas, dried fruit and fresh fruit have all been summoned instead to substitute sugar and make my sister enjoy her meal anyway.

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Here are two of the recipes I’ve come up with: oatmeal cookies and muffins with dried fruits and fresh apples.

1 year ago – Trans-Siberian Trip Part 4: Siberia Begins with Tyumen

2 years ago – Birthday Kovrizhka and Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 years ago – While Zucchini Are in Season…

4 years ago – Italian Delicacies a la Russe

5 years ago – Fruit Post

Sugarless Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • about 300 g old-fashioned oatmeal, roughly ground (or a mixture of oats, rye, barley and wheat flakes) plus some quick-cooking oats, whole
  • 60 g butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 banana, preferably overripe
  • dried apricots and dates, chopped
  • sesame seeds, ground
  • mixed nuts, roughly ground
  • optional add-ins: ground flax seeds (aka coarse flaxmeal), flax bran*, wheat germ
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • cinnamon, cardamom
  • pinch of salt

Procedure

First, beat butter with the banana and eggs, then add the rest of the ingredients in no particular order (I added while quick-cooking oats last). Adjust the amount of flour and/or add-ins according to the consistency. Cover and Let chill in the fridge for at least half an hour. Then form dough balls (preferably the size of a small tangerine) and place on a baking mat / baking parchment. The cookies won’t spread so mo need to space them a lot. Slightly flatten the balls with your finger.

Bake in the preheated oven at 180-190 ‘C for about 15 minutes (depending on size). My cookies did not brown much on the top but looked apparently cooked on the bottom.

Remarks: Add more dried fruits for a sweeter result. These smell delicious in the oven!

Result: Cheeeewy cookies for those on a sugar-free diet; for sweet-tooth people these cookies won’t be as attractive though they definitely contain quite a lot of nutrients and healthy stuff.

And here’s the other recipe:

Sugarless Fruit Muffins

Sugarless Fruit Muffins 

Ingredients

  • 3 small eggs
  • 100 g dried apricots
  • A handful of dates
  • A handful of hazelnuts, toasted
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 150 ml sour cream (smetana)
  • 50 ml sunflower seed oil
  • Flax bran*, wheat germ, ground flax seeds (aka coarse flaxmeal), ground old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 200 g all-purpose flour, adjust the amount accordingly
  • A tangerine, peeled and chopped
  • Half an apple, diced
  • Cinnamon
  • Sesame seeds, for decoration

Procedure

Scold dried fruits with boiling water, drain, pour some more hot water and let them soak (I usually use a colander placed on a deep bowl). When they get soft enough, drain them (you can use the water in the recipe but I chose sour cream instead) and stone the dates.

In a blender, reduce dried apricots and hazelnuts into a sort of chunky puree (I left dates un-blended). Beat eggs with sour cream, then beat in the oil. Add the fruit and nut mixture into the eggs. Thoroughly mix baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into the flour and add it to the eggs and fruit mixture. Add the extras (ground oatmeal, bran, germ, flaxmeal) and the dates. In a sort of a last-minute inspiration, add in chopped tangerine and some apple. Mix well but do not overmix.

Preheat the oven to 210’C. Divide the batter into the muffins cups and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for about 17-20 minutes (mine were baking on the upper shelf together with bread below them). Left sit in the cups a bit and then leave them cool on a wooden cutting board.

Sugarless Fruit Muffins

Remarks: I added flaxmeal hence this somewhat darkish colour but you can add any healthy extras you desire. Same applies to the dried fruits, nuts and the last-minute ingredients you throw in – choose them to your liking but don’t forget to check that the dried fruit do not contain added sugar (sometimes they do add it to the cranberries). You can also add extra chopped dried apricots or mash in a banana for a sweeter result.

Result: Though you have to be on a no-sugar diet to appreciate these in terms of their very low sweetness, the muffins are soft, good in texture (not rubbery as I feared) and they rose nicely.

Adding these recipes to my Sweet collection.

*Flax bran – a recently discovered flax seed-derived thing, looks like very roughly ground golden flax seeds. Might be just a new name for coarse golden flaxmeal (as opposed to the more traditional ‘dark’ flaxmeal). Been adding it to my sweet baking.

This post was made using mobile phone pictures. But I think I’d rather keep to my good ol’ camera!

G.

muffins · sweet

Vintage Soviet Cookware and Date and Hazelnut Muffins

Mom says it’s not that vintage claiming they bought this glazed iron dish in the 80s, but to me this looks like 60s, doesn’t it? I rediscovered it at my grandparents’ place, and since it’s been out of use for quite a long time, I’ve decided to bring it back to life. Cooking in vintage (and pseudo-vintage) dishes and pans certainly adds up to the whole process, making it more enjoyable in a way.

Vintage Cookware

I’ve already tried baking bread in this vintage Soviet cookware twice and I must say it takes a bit longer than in my previous (and unfortunately now broken) glass baking dish.

Vintage Cookware

The bread turns out quite moist with thick crust, reminding me of that bread you would buy some years ago (good ol’ times, ya know).

Vintage Cookware

I baked the loaves about 25-30 minutes with the lid on and then about 25-30 minutes more without, including some minutes out of the dish as well.

Vintage Cookware

The first time I baked in this dish, the lid left an indent in the top of the loaf, the other time it didn’t. Both times I used baking parchment although I should probably try greasing the dish for a change to see how it goes.

Vintage Cookware

And here’s the sourdough rye bread baked with that very flexible recipe I’ve been using for quite a while – makes you pretty lazy though cause it’s so fool-proof and easy:

Bread in Vintage Cookware

And now on to another lazy recipe. There’ve been quite a few dried fruit recipes in the kitchen (and in my blog) recently. Well, you see, with this very capricious autumn-like summer in St Petersburg one has to find some solutions to substitute the energy you would otherwise get from the sun (and good mood). And even though we can buy nectarines from Tanzania (!), they all taste a bit bland (and sometimes are hard as wood), so you naturally turn to using dried fruits and nuts instead.

Date and Hazelnut Muffins

A pretty nice combination from my recent experiments – dried cranberries, walnuts and dark chocolate in a sort of spice cake, with brown sugar creating a crunchy crust, and these date and hazelnut muffins:

Date and Hazelnut Muffins

1 year ago – Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry for Midsummer

2 years ago – Rolling Pin Recipes: Flatbread, Pie and Sweet Buns

3 years ago – Two Ways To Make Russian Carrot Patties

4 years ago – Soviet Kitchen Heirloom

5 years ago – Sourdough Bread with Dates and Flaxseeds

Date and Hazelnut Muffins recipe will make 12 coffee-flavoured muffins. The amounts of the ingredients are quite approximate!

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 150 g sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • 50 ml sunflower oil
  • ginger
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • 300 g flour mixed with ground flaxmeal and flaxmeal flour (super fine ground flaxmeal, aka flax porridge), approximately
  • 1/2 tsp ground coffee
  • orange juice
  • chopped dates
  • roughly chopped hazelnuts, toasted / microwaved

Procedure

Beat eggs with sugar, add vanilla extract and sunflower oil. Mix flours with baking powder, soda, coffee and spices, and add the flour mixture to the eggs alternating it with orange juice (I usually do it in 2 doses, starting and ending with flour. And if I add too much of either dry ingredients or liquids, I just add more of the other). Do not overmix. Add chopped dates and nuts. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups (I was using paper cases too) and bake in the preheated to 210 ‘C oven for about 20 minutes.

Date and Hazelnut Muffins

Remarks: I added two kinds of flaxseed meal / flax flour to these muffins, a rougher and a finer grind. I think adding bran or some other kind of flour would work as well.  

Result: These are sweet muffins, with a crunchy sugary crust and a delicate coffee flavour – just a hint! They puffed up nicely too. And who doesn’t like those tasty-tasty hazelnuts?

This recipe goes to my Sweet collection where you will find more muffins and dried fruit recipes.

G.

Family recipe · sourdough

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Last weekend I experimented with spelt flour which I had never used before in baking. I drew upon my basic sourdough recipe which I use most of the weekends when baking black bread for my family. I also use it for baking so-called white bread as well. So you can almost call it a family recipe now.

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

I cannot say that the whole-grain spelt flour added in rather small amounts in relation to the bulk of all purpose flour brought in some specific flavour. Also, there was my sourdough culture which is rye.

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

So in the end,  the baguettes had quite a dense crumb with a general whole-grainy look and flavour. But that flavour they had for sure!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

1 year ago – Spring in St Petersburg. The Beginning
2 years ago – Stirato or Italian Baguettes
3 years ago – 2,800 km of Russia Seen from Above
4 years ago – What a Peach! Sunny Cake and a Zesty Cranberry Cake
5 years ago – Pane al Cioccolato… Senza Cioccolato

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes adapted from basic sourdough bread recipe originally adapted from Darnitsky bread recipe

Ingredients:

For the starter:

  • 1 Tb rye sourdough starter from the fridge
  • 100 g water
  • 100 g rye flour

For the bread:

  • 200-220 g of water
  • 150 g spelt flour
  • 200 g all purpose flour, more if needed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pumpkin seeds

Procedure:

Take a tablespoon of sourdough starter from the fridge and mix it with 100 g of water and 100 of rye flour, then leave it overnight.

In the morning when your starter has puffed up, add 200-220 g of water, 150 g spelt flour and 200 g all purpose flour, salt and pumpkin seeds. You should get quite thick though sticky dough so keep adding all purpose flour as needed. You should be able to fold the dough. Leave it covered for more than one hour, making at least one fold in between (if it’s too sticky, use either more flour or water your hands). Now you can either flour a glass bowl or a proofing basket, shape the bread into a round loaf, flour it and place it in the bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Alternatively, you can make baguettes by dividing the dough in two and then folding and rolling each part to create 2 baguettes, place them on paper / baking mat, then cover and leave the shaped dough to rise for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 225 ‘C with a pan / tray on the bottom to create steam and a reversed tray in the middle (as a sort of baking stone). Reverse the loaf onto a baking mat / paper, make several slashes and slide it onto the hot tray / slash the baguettes diagonally and slide them onto the reversed tray together with the paper. Pour some water into the pan on the bottom to create steam. I usually do not change the temperature but if I see that the loaf is browning too much, I might decrease the temperature or move it to a lower rack. The baking takes from 30-35 minutes for the baguettes to 45-50 for a loaf.

Remarks: I tried hard to shape these baguettes, working the dough quite a lot by folding and rolling and re-rolling, and they puffed up nicely in the oven, also growing quite chewy crust.

Result: Flavourful and chewy. You might not tell at once that they are made with spelt flour but these baguettes are perfect for breakfast. Pumpkin seeds are good too!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Here pictured with the precious Piave cheese from Italy’s Veneto region:

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

It was a pretty Sunday morning and I took a lot of photos of the baguettes. I also spotted this thingy here which is a projector for silent cinema reels we have of me and my sister. My Mother is being busy converting the films into megabytes of me and my sister doing the pretty mundane things – without a sound 🙂 Yes, sometimes I do feel I was born way earlier than what my passport claims!

Spelt Sourdough Baguettes

Adding this post to my Sourdough Bread collection.

G.

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 · sourdough

Improvising with Sourdough Bread or Being Lazy?

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

I’ve grown lazy enough these days to start baking without a recipe. This concerns both bread and sweet things. Not all of my free-baking experiments are successful but I guess I get some extra pleasure from those which do happen to be successful. And there’s always this risky feeling of experimenting which I do enjoy!

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

So what I do is feed my rye sourdough culture with rye flour + water and then after an overnight rest I divide it and use the larger amount for the rye bread and a smaller for white bread. Sometimes if I just need some white bread, I feed the culture with white flour.

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

Thanks to the now mature sourdough culture (been using it since 2011) I usually do no add any yeast, but this time I wanted a more ‘fluffy’ result with my white bread, so I added a bit of instant yeast to the dough. I also tend to overload my bread with seeds and bran, so sometimes it all results in quite a dense and moist crumb, just like this time when I also added rye malt:

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

Oh, breaking this just-out-of-the-oven bread is so very tantalizing!

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

Of course the rye version which I make with rye flour + all-purpose / whole-wheat flour does not rise as much in the oven – although it does rise a lot before baking, as this rye flour is so very reactive!

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

If you’re looking for a perfect sourdough bread recipe, it doesn’t exist. I mean, you should probably just figure it our for yourself. I ‘created’ mine out of Darnitsky bread recipe which I’ve been using for quite a long time already.

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

For me, the best formula is to take several tablespoons of sourdough culture from the fridge, feed it with about 200 g of water and 200 of rye flour, then leave it overnight. At this point you can either split it for two breads or make one large loaf. Then I add about 200 g of water, 200 g or more of rye flour, more or less the same amount of white flour, salt, various extras like wheat, oat or rye bran, coriander, sunflower, pumpkin or flax seeds, oatmeal, rye malt, sometimes honey etc. I try to achieve a sort of thickish dough so that it will keep the shape, if it’s going to be rye bread it will be sticky but you should be able to fold it and almost knead it. I then leave it covered for more than an hour, sometimes I make several folds and leave it for some more time to rest (rise). I then flour a glass bowl, shape the bread into a round loaf, flour it and place it in the bowl. Alternatively, I make rolls if I see that the dough (usually with more white flour than rye) is quite easy to shape. I leave it to rise for yet another hour covered and preheat the oven to 225 ‘C with a pan on the bottom (for steam) and a reversed tray in the middle (it acts as a baking stone for me). I then reverse the loaf onto a baking mat / paper, make several slashes and slide it onto the hot tray. I pour some water into the pan on the bottom to create steam (not much so that it evaporates and I don’t need to take the pan out during the baking). I usually do not change the temperature but if I see that the loaf is browning too much, I might decrease the temperature or move it to a lower rack. The baking takes from 25-30 minutes (for the rolls) to 45-50 for the loaf.

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

This might not sound as a very precise formula but then this is what I call experimenting with the sourdough! You never know even with a perfect recipe whether your bread will come out right or not, because this living thing called sourdough culture can have its moods 🙂

Improvising with Sourdough Bread

What’s your personal sourdough bread formula?

Adding this post to Sourdough bread collection.

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.