One of the interesting ways to learn about new cultures is to taste national dishes and drinks. Russian cuisine is unique, diverse, and full of different mixtures and original ingredients which can describe how people lived long before. If you have a sweet tooth, this article is exactly for you because today we are going to talk about Russian desserts.
Russian desserts differ from typical European desserts. Fine and nice pastry, tarts with cream or mousse aren’t typical for Russian cuisine. Are you interested? Then let’s talk about Russian desserts!
Guriev porridge (Гурьевская каша)
We bet that you are a bit surprised to read about porridge as a dessert and maybe you can also get some associations from your childhood. Guriev porridge doesn’t have anything in common with typical porridge which we eat nowadays for breakfast.
Guriev porridge was invented by a chef who served landowner Georgiy Yurisovsky. Once he invited Dmitry Alexandrovich Guriev (1751–1825), the minister of Finance and member of the State Council of the Russian Empire, for a visit, and for this occasion, he ordered his chef to create something unusual because Dmitry Guriev was a gourmand and loved new and interesting dishes. The chef created a porridge and Dmitry Guriev liked it so much that he even got a deal with his friend Georgiy Yurisovsky and hired his chef. The porridge was named after Dmitry Guriev.
The original recipe for this porridge is pretty simple. It is prepared from semolina and milk with the addition of candied nuts (hazelnut, walnuts, almonds), honey, and dried fruits. This sweet porridge remained very popular for a long time.
Pastila is a traditional Russian dessert that is known since the XIV century and is made from mashed apples, honey or sugar, and egg white (it can be optional). There are also recipes for pastila made from mashed berries. After apples are mashed and mixed with honey, this mass is spread on a baking sheet in a thin layer. The baking sheet should be put into the Russian stove to dry for many hours. Then the pastila is arranged in several layers inside an alder box and then left to dry in the same oven.
Pastila has different regional types. The most popular kinds of pastila are Kolomna pastila (made from mashed apples), Rzhev pastila (between apple layers there are extra layers of sorbus or lingonberry), and Belyov pastila (made from baked apples).
Bird milk (птичье молоко)
Bird milk is a very unusual name for a dessert and had to symbolize how rare and unique this dessert is. We have to admit that the original recipe is from Poland and was used in 1960th to the Soviet Union where the recipe was a bit changed.
Originally bird milk is a chocolate-covered bar with a soft marshmallow-like interior. In 1978 the Soviet pastry chef Vladimir Guralnik created a new cake that reminds original candies and which also got the name bird milk. This was a light sponge cake filled with an airy soufflé and topped with chocolate glaze and condensed milk. A distinct feature of the Russian recipe is the usage of agar-agar instead of gelatin. The recipe for this cake was even patented.
Due to the worldwide cultural connections, Russian cuisine got inspiration from other cuisines. An example of that is sherbet which is usually associated with oriental sweets.
The idea of Russian (or even Soviet) sherbet comes from the drink sharbat which is made from flower petals. But the Russian sherbet is not a drink, it is a sweet.
If you like to try sherbet, you should first prepare fondant icing from sugar and condensed milk. While making this mass, you also add maltodextrin to it and cook sirup till its temperature reaches 110-115 degrees. After this, the mass will be cooled until it is 45 degrees and then the mass should be mashed. When sherbet becomes brown, you can add some nuts.
Potato cake (пирожное «Картошка»)
One more interesting name of a dessert that doesn’t sound attractive but in real life tastes amazingly.
The story of the potato cake is not that interesting. The cake was invented at the beginning of the XXth century when the financial situation was not good enough to make cakes from good ingredients. The legend of potato cake is that owners of restaurants noticed how many leftovers they had after their restaurants were closed. So they decided to mix breadcrumbs with sugar, butter, and rum. But the mass didn’t look good so they decided to make it look like a potato and roll it in cacao powder. The new small-portion cake was a huge success.
During the Soviet era, this recipe was changed. Instead of breadcrumbs they took leftovers of sponge cake and mixed them with buttercream or condensed milk. While visiting Russia we advise you to try it.
As you can see Russian cuisine has very different types of desserts. Each dessert has its history, and each story retells a lot about people’s life in Russia. Some recipes are unusual and that is why we recommend you try them while you visit Russia. In this article, we talked about several sweets and if you like to learn more about this topic, let us know about it in the comments!