Zefir, similar to marshmallows in texture and consisting of puréed apples or other fruits, pectin, and whipped egg whites, is a popular dessert prepared in the former Soviet Union. It is considered an exceptionally safe treat because it contains virtually no fat.
This tasty treat comes in a number of flavors, such as peach, strawberry, or cream, and can be dipped in chocolate in addition. It is thought that a light wind is the name of the dish, referring to its light and airy texture. It is suggested to pair Zefir with a cup of black coffee on the side for the best experience.
The batter for these popular Russian pancakes, small but packed with flavor, varies from conventional pancakes as it is made with kefir, a fermented milk product with a slightly sour taste. In addition to kefir, for any run-of-the-mill pancake, the remaining ingredients for oladyi are typical: flour, sugar, salt, and eggs.
Similar to American-style pancakes, they are pan-fried into small rounds. When done, the pancakes turn golden brown and they are chewy with crunchy edges. They are mildly sweet and neutral in taste, while a moderate sour note is given by the kefir.
It is possible to serve these thin, thick pancakes plain or with sugar, chocolate, fresh fruit, sour cream, or a variety of fruit preserves. Fresh fruit and chocolate chips are often added to the batter sometimes. Oladyi are a traditional breakfast dish, and while they are still fluffy and sweet in the center and crunchy around the edges, they are best eaten hot off the griddle.
Ptichye moloko, one of Russia’s most beloved desserts, is a decadent cake renowned for its inverted cake-to-fill ratio: the dense, but incredibly light, almost soufflé-like layers of silky custard are divided by small, fluffy, and moist layers of sponge cake, while a rich chocolate ganache glaze covers the whole confection.
Ptichye moloko was first made in 1978 by Vladimir Guralnik, who was the head patisserie chef at Moscow’s prestigious Praga restaurant. And just like the popular milk-flavored, meringue-filled candy bar that inspired Guralnik to make the cake version, the Russian ptichye moloko (lit. bird’s milk) got its whimsical name as a reference to an old idiom denoting “something so exquisite, delicate and rare it probably doesn’t even exist”.
Interestingly, the name caught up quickly and also seemed very apt, as during the heyday of the USSR, bird’s milk cake was invented, rapidly gaining mass popularity among Soviet consumers despite being costly and comparatively difficult to buy at the time.
In the US, among Russian immigrants who often use Cool Whip and gelatin to get the correct consistency, this cake is still popular.
Kissel, also referred to as a dessert drink or soup, is an unusual fruit mixture, typically made with refreshing summer berries. Water, mashed fruit or fruit juice, and thickening agents such as cornstarch or potato starch are used to prepare it.
Kissel can be eaten hot or cold, and its consistency varies from liquid to firm and fluffy, depending on the amount of starch. In combination with sliced fruit and eaten with a spoon, liquid kissel is most frequently served as a drink, or a soup variation.
As a refreshing cold dessert, the firm variety is usually eaten, typically topped with milk, and sometimes combined with pancakes and waffles. With cranberries, cherries, and redcurrants, Russians like to make their typical kissel. Kissel and its variants, however, are also widely eaten in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, and Latvia.
Each nation usually has a special and favorite kissel fruit to use, such as gooseberries, raspberries, and even the tart rhubarb. Kissel is seen as an ancient dish in Russia, with the first written reference dating back to the 12th century.
It is a significant part of the culture of Russia and a dish frequently mentioned in myths and folk tales. It is typically prepared with a store-bought powder mix in Russian households today, but the freshly prepared kissel, with luscious summer fruit, is still considered the ultimate version of the dish.
Paskha is a Russian dish made with butter, sugar, egg yolks, tvorog (farmer’s cheese), cream and vanilla for flavoring. Traditionally, the dessert is prepared for Easter, with its white color symbolising the innocence of Christ and the Paschal Lamb.
With its top cut off, Paskha is built into a pyramid symbolizing either the Church or the tomb of Christ. It is adorned with religious symbols, such as crosses or letters on its faces. Additionally, the dish can be decorated with nuts, dried fruits, or flowers, and it is normally taken to the church to be blessed, then eaten with the traditional Kulich Easter bread.
With flour, eggs, milk, yeast, and a pinch of salt, these traditional Russian pancakes are baked. The addition of yeast is what separates them from other pancakes, since similar equivalents often do not add any leavening agents. The batter is poured over a hot plate, formed into a circle and fried on both sides for a few minutes.
The custom of cooking this traditional Russian dish comes from ancient times: it was a ritual dish, eaten during a week-long festival praising the end of winter and the celebration of spring during the pagan holiday called Maslenitsa.
Blini symbolised the long awaited Sun with its form and color. Blini are not consumed exclusively during Maslenitsa, however, as they have become one of Russia’s most popular dishes, and are also widely eaten worldwide. Blini is highly flexible and can be eaten with fillings that are sweet or savory.
Some of the Russian classics include different jams, condensed milk, while the most popular savory version is topped with fish roe or caviar.
Varenye is a traditional Russian dessert that consists of various sugar-cooked fruits and berries. In order for Varenye to be properly cooked, the ingredients should not lose their shape, dissolve or overcook. Before 1801, varenye was originally cooked with honey because Russia didn’t produce its own sugar, and imported sugar was too costly.
Today, varenye is traditionally served at Russian tea parties, and strawberries, apricots, blueberries, and cherries are the most common varieties prepared. Some exotic varieties made with dandelion, tangerine, and rose petals are also available.
It can be eaten on its own, used as a pancake topping, or as a filling for different cookies and pies. Varenye is so popular that some Russian tsars, Catherine II, and Ivan the Terrible, even had one of their favorite desserts.
Medovik is a popular Russian layered honey cake consisting of honey-infused sponges that are coated with thin layers of cream, almost biscuit-like. The custard is typically made with whipped cream or different combinations of condensed milk and butter, although there are various versions of the cake.
The cake is thought to have first appeared in the 1820s and was originally created for the wife of Russia’s Alexander I. The addition of condensed milk possibly originated in the Soviet period, while berries or even chocolate could be used in modern variants.
Traditionally, Medovik is decorated with ground walnuts and is usually served on different special occasions.
Pastila, originating from the 17th century, is a traditional Russian sweet. Light and airy puffs made from egg whites, sugar, and fruit, reminiscent of the famous Turkish delight, are a cross between candy and meringue cookies.
Pastila is traditionally made from sour apples or berries, although it is possible to use other forms of fruit as well. The most delicious variety is known to be pastila from Kolomna, and the recipe for pastila from Kolomensky was carefully preserved until the 19th century.
Around the same time, instead of honey, the confectioners began using sugar, a process which is still in use today. Pastila is commonly eaten in between meals as a dessert, although it is also sometimes enjoyed as an afternoon snack with tea.
The most popular Russian apple pie is the delicate, airy, and moist sharlotka, mainly due to the ease of its preparation. It consists of eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda, and apple slices, but in order to intensify the flavors, some people prefer to add honey or cinnamon to the cake.
The cake, which may be another explanation for its success, is very low in calories. Before serving, it is recommended to allow the cake to cool and sprinkle it on top with powdered sugar.