Monday, November 26, 2012

Winnie the Pooh Cake

Yes, I am aware that this is a pretty goofy name for the cake that is not even shaped as the character it is named after. But what can I do - this is exactly the name it has been known under, recipe passed around from home baker to home baker in Russia. It is obvious that the name is a nod to the honey that is used in the cake layers.

In fact, "honey cakes" were all the rage in the 1990s in the former Soviet Union. Again, honey is one of those ingredients that is easily available and relatively cheap, but when used in the cake dough that is cooked over double boiler before being baked, it gives the cake a distinct, strong but pleasant flavor.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies and San Antonio

I think this is actually happening. It is actually fall, even here in Texas. There is no doubt about it because I know for a fact that next week is Thanksgiving. I do not have an emotional, nostalgic attachment to this holiday - I did not grow up with it and with my family being far away, in Russia, I cannot hope to sit down to the festive table with those near and dear to me. But I do like PIE! Especially pecan. Especially if it has lots of nuts and just a little of the sweet gooey stuff.

Does anybody have a favorite pie recipe to share? I feel I've baked'em all by now: pumpkin, pecan, vanilla cream, chocolate, even both vanilla AND chocolate at the same time. Yet I am sure I am missing out on some pie gems that I have not heard about. Please enlighten me!!

While waiting for a new, wonderful pie idea why don't I entertain you with a cookie recipe? Along with a few photos from my recent trip.

So here they are: peanut butter cookies and San Antonio.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

Fall Baking

Hi there. Have y'all gotten a fill of all things pumpkin? It seems that every single blog I have read in the past few weeks has a pumpkin recipe, including my own, with pumpkin soup and lots and lots of pumpkins. But I am not done yet! I am now warming up for baking the pumpkin pie that I have been instructed to bring as my contribution for the family Thanksgiving meal. I am doing so by baking my favorite pumpkin bread first.

I used to have prejudice against pumpkin for some reason. Just didn't dig it. Then one day a co-worker brought this pumpkin bread to the office. It is good that I did not know what it was made from because I would have never tried it. As it happened, I did try it, and I loved it. It was moist, rich, and with a great combination of spices. I asked for the recipe and since then I have been making this bread several times a year, especially when I need something quick and something I know will be well received. The biggest fear for me is to lose that tattered hand written piece of paper with the recipe. By writing it here, I am hoping to keep it safe :).

Pumpkin Bread

The recipe makes two standard size loaves. I usually give the second one to a good person :).

3 1/2 cups four
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 16-oz can pumpkin puree (about 2 cups)
1 cup walnuts, if desired
1 cup raisins, if desired

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or spray 2 loaf pans.

Mix flour, salt, baking powder and spices. In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, whip eggs, white and brown sugar and oil. Add pumpkin and mix well. Add dry ingredients and walnuts or raisins, if using. Pour batter into pans and bake for about 55 minutes, until the tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Russian Tea Cookies

Although I am a Russian - born and raised - I also have a cool advantage of running a blog in Russian for the past two years, which means I can always rely on the feedback from my 2,700+ Russian speaking subscribers when I post Russian recipes. Take these cookies, for example. I have seen the "Russian tea cookies" in various publications in the States. The same cookies have also been detected bearing the name Mexican wedding cookies, kurabie, and, in my husband's Texas family, simply as pecan sandies. So when I wrote about them, most commenters were puzzled as to what exactly would make them so particularly Russian.

But no matter: these cookies are great, tender, sweet and sufficiently nutty. The best part is that just about any nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts) will do so you can make them as Southern pecan sandies, European almond or hazelnut cookies or Russian walnut "tea cookies".

Russian Tea Cookies

Makes 32 cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cups finely chopped nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 1/2 lemon or orange (optional)
powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Whip butter and powdered sugar until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients, mix until combined. Shape dough into 32 balls (using a large ice cream scoop and then cutting the dough in quarters works great). Bake about 15 minutes, until set but not brown. Cool on cookie sheet slightly. When safe to touch, roll cookies in powdered sugar and cool completely on wire rack. Roll in more powdered sugar.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Zebra Cake

Add caption

Some time ago I wrote about the neighbors that I once had, when I was a student in Russia. They were more than just neighbors - they were friends who helped me out when I struggled, either financially, or because of loneliness, being away from my family.

For some reason, Tatiana has been a lot on my mind lately. I was wondering how she is doing and where she is now. When I first moved to the US she and I used to write to each other often, but then I moved and she moved and we lost touch with each other. Enter Odnoklassniki – the Russian equivalent to Facebook. When checking my profile a couple of weeks ago I was astonished to see a message from Tatiana – she found me, 15 years after we last saw each other!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Farmer Cheese Pancakes with Berry Sauce

Berry Sauce

When I wrote about syrniki in my Russian blog a few days ago I got a bunch of comments: people were commenting on how this is their favorite breakfast food, and how it reminds them of their childhood, and how “these look just like the ones grandma makes when I visit.” This is true comfort food for Russians and I should definitely write about it here.

Syrniki are pancake-like patties (as you can tell from the picture) which are made from farmer cheese (tvorog), with some eggs and a little flour thrown in as binding agents. I had a nice picture of the farmer cheese but unfortunately deleted it before I had a chance to download it to the computer. Ugh! Farmer cheese looks a little like cottage cheese, but is drier, and does not melt when heated. They have now started selling in it better supermarkets, and also in health food stores. And of course, you can always find it in the dairy section of the Russian store if you have one in your town :).

Farmer Cheese

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