no recipe · on USSR / Russia

Russian Handmade Dolls

Russian Handmade Dolls

I remember making something with my hands – almost obligatory – every winter school break. I would then give these creations out to my family as new year gifts. For some reason when you’re a child you are never ashamed of even the clumsiest thing you make. Because anything made with your own hands gives such joy to your parents, you can hardly reproduce that with any other gift – however outrageously expensive it might be.

Russian Handmade Dolls

This time I waited almost till the last day of my winter break from work to indulge myself in some handicraft. I really enjoyed the process so quite recently I made another doll. The first one stayed with us as a gift to my Mom and the other one is already somewhere in Italy, on its way to the Veneto region.

Russian Handmade Dolls

My guide into the world of handmade dolls is this book by a talented Russian artist Yana Volkova (here’s her Instagram, her posts are partially in English). She was trained as fine art restorer and makes wonders with all those bits of cloth that in her hands get transformed into warm-coloured creations.

Handmade Dolls

I really love Yana’s sense of colour, her handicraft (not only dolls) always has this homey feel to it. I also believe she’s that kind of artist who puts their soul into work. And I think there’s something from the Russian North in her creations, in the materials and the choice of the colour scheme. By the way, she also organizes online workshops from time to time. It’s a pity none of her two books has been translated yet, though.

Russian Handmade Dolls

So, first, here’s my take on a doll called Severnaya Bereginya (literally, Northern Safeguard Deity) which is a true exercise in colour matching. It’s essentially a tightly rolled up linen (the head) that is sort of wrapped in layers of coloured cloth.

Russian Handmade Dolls

Yana insists that this doll is nowhere traditional, in fact it’s her own creation out of two kinds of northern dolls – a wooden treshchotka (ratchet) and a Komi people rag doll.

Russian Handmade Dolls

The game (or the challenge) of making this doll gets even more… intimate when you realize there’s a story behind every bit of cloth. Mother helped me choose the ‘rags’ for this rag-doll out of all those fabrics she once used in her sewing. What a lovely way to recycle stuff!

Russian Handmade Dolls

Here’s my Bereginya out on a walk on our snow-covered balcony:

Russian Handmade Dolls

Her kerchief is made from a real kerchief that I recall from my childhood. Mom or Grandma would tie it over an aching tooth or put on when we went to a forest on a hunt for mushrooms.

Russian Handmade Dolls

My Mom could also tell a story or two about other bits of her dress.

Russian Handmade Dolls

In the ideal world the doll’s face should be white but I didn’t have any white linen thick enough to hold its shape. It’s also very imperfectly rolled up (and the ‘dress’ pieces are not that straight) but I like the overall result.

Russian Handmade Dolls

I liked the blue fabric so I used it twice in the doll’s dress. By the way, the whole process of wrapping the doll’s head in cloth is such a … warm thing! As if you were caressing or protecting something small and dear with your hands. There’s definitely something special to handicraft!

Russian Handmade Dolls

I didn’t make this one though – but I just wanted to show you this addition to our clay toy ‘collection’, now standing next to the dolls we painted with my Mom in Kirov back in 2015. I got this toy from the Arkhangelsk region as a gift. It’s a troika, a trio of horses, one of the Russian symbols. The guy on the back is holding an accordion. And on that collar thing in front they surely have some loudly jingling bells.

Podorozhnitsa

This is the other doll from Yana Volkova’s book that I’ve made so far, a Podorozhnitsa, a sort of a charm that was given to a man (I mean, a male family member) travelling (far) from home, hiding it in the clothes. Its name comes from doroga, the road.

Podorozhnitsa

In her bag called uzelok (knot) she has a piece of a rusk so that the traveller she is supposed to guard fears no lack of food along his road. It is also supposed to have a coin (so that it steers him away from hardship) and a pinch of soil (so that he returns) but they wouldn’t fit into her uzelok anyway.

Podorozhnitsa

I’ve made the doll’s kerchief from a shirt.

Podorozhnitsa

Yana says protective charms are never made with a needle so the fabrics for this doll’s body and dress are just tied with a thick thread, no stitches involved. The Bereginya doll has only one element that was sewn – the arms. As another variant of this Podorozhnitsa doll Yana suggests giving her a baby instead of an uzelok, but that would be a different story.

Podorozhnitsa

I’m contemplating on making yet another doll soon. There’s one of a grandpa, a dedushka, and several more that contain grains in their ‘base’ (body) which also has (had) a specific meaning to it in the pagan set of beliefs. I’m off to selecting the fabrics!

Podorozhnitsa

Yana Volkova‘s second book is titled Home and Family Guardians (Хранители дома и семьи), 2017.

Adding this post to the ‘On Russia / USSR‘ collection.

G.

cookies · Family recipe · on USSR / Russia · sweet · traditional Russian recipe

Rozochki or Cream Cheese Meringue Roses

Rozochki

Unintentionally – but quite justified – I’ve taken a sort of a sabbatical from my writing here. With all the editing of the translations of Turkish (!) soap operas and various documentaries and TV programs, I just seem to be not very fond of computer in the evenings. But let’s do it, let’s open this new year with a revival of an old recipe that our family friend once shared with my mother.

IMG-2890

Who knows how old this recipe actually is but my guess is that it came into our family no later than 1988 – judging from one of the ‘nearby’ recipes in My Mom’s cookbook that has this date next to it. And as you can imagine the recipe is pretty laconic (see the first one at the top of the picture above). Though I would rather call it – lacuna-ic. Just as I did with my Granny’s recipe for Jam-filled Cigars, this Soviet recipe was non the easier in terms of deciphering (or rather guessing) the instructions.

IMG-2791

Before getting our teeth into the soft pastries / cookies, could we pause for a moment to marvel at this powder box from the early 1970s that belonged to my Granny. For no particular reason, just wanted to share with you my fascination for the Soviet ingenuity. Let’s unzip the box…

IMG-2788

…And ho-o-op we find the mirror and the (metal!) protective screen with a tiny lock at its right. The engraved emblem says Leningrad and bears the most recognizable symbol of the city, the Peter and Paul Fortress. And then we turn the screen over…

IMG-2789

…To find yet another protective screen – a gauze one this time that covers powder puff and the powder itself. I remember that I used to play with this box when we were coming or even staying over at our Granny’s – I used to be a fan of all things ‘lady’, imagining myself in the times of Frances Hodgson Burnett‘s stories. The other paraphernalia that played the part in my imaginary life were my Granny’s super-fine gloves, a silk scarf and a straw hat. Oh yes 🙂

IMG-2790

And now on to the food part – to the rozochki or small roses cookies (sic). The main trick with this recipe was that my mother couldn’t really recall the procedure. The instructions in her cookbook were apparently taken down at the time when they were pretty obvious and the only thing she might need were the exact figures for the ingredients. But since then (God knows when, late 1990s, I guess?) she has not baked these quasi-cookies at all and naturally the recipe has now presented itself as quite a riddle both to her and to me. But we did it, somehow.

Rozochki

1 year ago – Bird Cherry Birthday Cake

2 years ago – Peanut Butter Post

3 years ago – How to Make Silky Cream Cheese at Home (that’s what you do when you work from home)

4 years ago – Two Spinach Pies and Spinach…Rice

5 years ago – Rye Malt Bread, Two Versions

6 years ago – 2 Energy-Boosting Sweets to Keep Your Mind and Spirit Up

Rozochki or Cream Cheese Meringue Roses adapted from our family friend’s recipe.

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 1-1.5 cups cottage cheese – see remarks below
  • 100-120 g butte, softened
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1-1.5 cups flour

For the filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch of baking soda
  • pinch of salt

Procedure

First, make the pastry. Mix the cottage cheese with the butter and the two egg yolks, add in the flour. Adjust the amount of flour / cottage cheese in your pastry. It’s ok if the grains of cottage cheese are still visible. The consistency should not be very tough, just enough to be rolled out in some flour. Shape the pastry into a ball, cover and set aside (somewhere cool / cold).

Make the filling by beating the egg whites with the sugar, salt and soda with a hand-held mixer. The desired consistency here is what you would get with the meringue – a sort of a thick spreadable cream. Preheat the oven to 200-210 ‘C.

Now you can either roll out the entire piece of pastry or in parts. Use flour generously to avoid a sticky mess and rerolling. Roll it out into a rather thin rectangle and spread the filling quite generously onto the surface, leaving a margin on the long side (though the filling will start escaping anyway). Start rolling from the long end – gently and not tight – into a log. Cut the log across into as many pieces as you want (roughly two fingers wide) and carefully transfer onto baking paper / mat cut side up. Put your fingers round the bottom part and gently press them so that the upper part opens up into a ‘rose’. Repeat with the rest of the pieces and with the remaining pastry. Space the roses apart as they will puff up and also spread out even more in the oven (so you might want to bake these in two batches). Bake for 12 minutes on the middle rack and then 2 more on the top shelf (for the golden effect). Do not overbake these as they will hard up as they cool down and you don’t want to lose their softness!

Rozochki

Remarks

A few words about the pastry: tvorog or cottage cheese should be quite dry, here the drier the better, so the grainy type will do as well. Mine was 5% fat. The less liquid you have in the pastry, the easier it will be to roll it out (and the less flour you will use).

The original recipe called for 200 g of margarine but it worked out fine with just half of it – and with softened butter, not margarine.

And yes, there’s absolutely no sugar in the pastry! But the super sweet filling plus the juices it creates while baking does the trick. The entire pastry is thus soaked in this juice and becomes sweet too.

The bigger piece of pastry you take for rolling out, the more ‘petals’ (spirals) your roses will have. My first batch resulted in rather small roses (I rolled out smaller pieces) but the second one (featuring in the pictures here) was from a bigger piece of pastry, resulting in something that was more close to the original (as we remember it).

As we couldn’t really recall the procedure, the instructions above might not be the authentic ones but they were clearly the most optimal ones for these roses. The original recipe suggested eating these warm but when they cool down they are perfectly fine.

Rozochki

Result

Very sweet and soft, these cottage cheese and meringue pastries will disappear before the second batch is ready. The combination of the chewy cheese pastry and the super-sweet meringue is addictive. Can constitute a sort of a warm meal for the sweet-toothed as these rozochki are pretty nourishing.

More Soviet recipes are here. And more Soviet paraphernalia in case you are interested is here.

G.

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

Wintry Icy St Petersburg

Wintry St Pete

Here’s some severe beauty of the frosty St Petersburg – before it all melted away. No ‘winter wonderland’ for this New Year’s eve, I’m afraid.

Wintry St Pete

An icy hello from the Ladoga lake which it sends to the city via Neva river once in a while.

Wintry St Pete

The ‘rotundas’ on the Palace Bridge are there as festive decorations.

Wintry St Pete

And a view back:

Wintry St Pete

The entire city looked like this that day: as if someone sprayed it all with fake snow.

Wintry St Pete

Oh, look, there’s sun in St Petersburg, hurry up before it’s gone!

Wintry St Pete

Icy sky hues:

Wintry St Pete

And a photo from a bit earlier – the illuminated Peter and Paul Fortress:

Wintry St Pete

Adding this post to the St Petersburg series.

G.

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

Winter Has Come

Winter Has Come

Winter has come. I would argue that this year it came on December 1st when I happened to cross the Neva going from Vasilyevsky to Petrogradsky island on an errand. November was uncommonly snowless and as the tradition goes, we were completely unprepared for the snow on the first day of calendar winter here in St Petersburg. Technically, that was not the first snow the city has experienced this season but it was the

Winter Has Come

Snow turns the city into an absolutely different place. As if by some true magic the streets, the embankments and the parks change their obviously outdated soaking wet garments into pristine white cloaks. The entire city is seized with this cold crystal-clear estrangement. You feel like walking on your toes not to disturb its sleep.

Winter Has Come

Well, hello winter!

Last year winter came in November abruptly burying us under snow and cutting off at least several weeks of late autumn. Hey and three years ago I celebrated the first snow with melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cookies already in October!

G.

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.

bread · Greek recipe

Greek Bread with Yogurt

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

I just adore this little pinnacle on top of the white bread loaf I baked recently – succumbing to a sudden desire to make white bread finally. White-white bread. White as snow which hopefully will not come in an avalanche as it did last November.

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

Here it is once more:

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

And although I did cheat with this recipe using smetana (Russian 15% fat sour cream) instead of Greek yogurt, it turned out really nice and almost … creamy. It was a challenge not to throw in some extras which I’d normally use (all types of bran, wheat germ, whole seeds, ground seeds etc) but I held on tight.

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

1 year ago – Tram to Polytechnic University

2 years ago – Tarascon and Beaucaire, on Bike and on Foot

3 years ago – Enjoying Indian Summer in Imatra, Finland

4 years ago – Two Recipes for Your Loaf Pan

5 years ago – Borodinskiy Rye Bread

6 years ago – I’m Alright! Still Baking =)

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι adapted from the homely tantekiki.blogspot.com will make super-soft super-white bread perfect for cheese sandwiches or buterbrot. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients

  • 550 g all-purpose flour
  • 9 g yeast (1 package) – I used active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 300-310 ml lukewarm water
  • 80 g yogurt – I used smetana, aka 15 % fat sour cream but feel free to use (Greek) yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (Greek, please!)

Procedure

In a bowl place flour, yeast, sugar, yogurt and olive oil (as I was using active dry yeats, I first activated it in lukewarm water with sugar and salt). Dissolve salt in lukewarm water and then gradually add it to the bowl in three parts, starting to knead. If the dough is too sticky, do not add more flour but oil instead to grease your hands. Knead some more till you get a soft ball of dough. Grease your bowl with oil as well as the dough ball. Cover and leave inside your oven with the light on for 1-2 hours until the dough is fully risen (I just left it in a safe spot of my kitchen).

When the dough doubles, divide it into two equal parts and shape each into oblong loaves (I only made 1 loaf). Place the loaves into appropriate pans lined with parchment paper that you should grease with some oil (which I did not). Cover and leave to rise again for 40-50 minutes more or until they rise and cover 2/3 of the pan. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 170 ‘C.

Make 4-5 diagonal slashes on top of the loaves, spritz with some water and then brush with oil (optional). Place the loaves on the second shelf from the bottom, also placing a baking dish with some water in it on the bottom to create steam (I usually use the metal shelf placed right onto the bottom). Bake for 40-50 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. Take them out of the oven, leave for 5-10 minutes to cool and then take them out of their pans onto a cooling rack. When the bread is completely cool, you can also slice the loaves and freeze them (I normally freeze whole loaves).

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

Here the bread is pictured with some Rossiysky cheese (aka Russian cheese). Which comes in all sort of flavours and shades, can’t really make head or tail of it but can easily identify it if I taste it. Kind of moist and rubbery and usually abhorred by cheese-pampered foreigners.

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

Remarks: This bread gets dry pretty fast – as any 100% white yeast bread.

Result: Soft and almost sweet bread from Greece, for a classic Russian breakfast 🙂 Have your black tea ready!

Greek Bread with Yogurt or Ψωμί με γιαούρτι

By the way, King Arthur Flour just published great tips on bread scoring techniques on their blog.

This post goes to the Yeast Bread and Greek recipe collections.

G.

architecture · no recipe · St Petersburg

Tsarskoye Selo in Wait for Spring

Tsarskoye Selo

We went to Tsarskoye Selo right on the day when there was a blast in the St Petersburg metro. We were on the train when it happened so our escape from the city was very timely. Tsarskoye Selo is just a 30 minute train ride from the center of the city and yet it feels as if you really get into a different world and time.

Tsarskoye Selo

It’s curious that while being technically a part of St Petersburg Tsarskoye Selo is always some years behind – for me the town is stuck somewhere in the late 1990s – early 2000s. Although this doesn’t apply to the ex-royal residence and now a public park / museum, which is, well, out of time.

Tsarskoye Selo

In this time of the year – and on a work day – probably the most striking is the atmosphere in the park(s) of Tsarskoye Selo. There’s just literally no one there. The winter is not completely gone and the spring lingers to arrive, so there’s this feeling of in-between, of something suspended, waiting.

Tsarskoye Selo

The ponds are still covered with ice and the trees are graphic, resembling some black and white painting or shadow theater. Or simply ink spilled on paper.

Tsarskoye Selo

Just a few more weeks and the parks of Tsarskoye Selo will be teeming with tourists on any day of the week. But now you can still enjoy a solitary walk – or a solitary seat 🙂 And wait for the spring, open to all winds – and the view.

Tsarskoye Selo

But the birds are singing, they know the spring is very close.

Tsarskoye Selo

The color scheme of nature is brown – black – greyish white. More colors will arrive later. Can you imagine: all the colors, all the possible forms of life are there in the seemingly dead nature? Just wait and see.

Tsarskoye Selo

Here’s Tsarskoye Selo in spring, summer and autumn.

Adding this post to the St Petersburg collection.

G.