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Russian, Eastern European and international cuisine brought to you by a mother and a daughter

Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffins

Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffins

I came up with the idea of these muffins when I wanted to bake something as a little “Thank you” gift for a friend of ours who is helping us with choosing and buying a car. Of course the idea of banana chocolate swirls is not new, but I didn’t really follow any recipe except for using my Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffin recipe as a reference for making chocolate batter. I generously complemented the banana batter with vanilla in order to enhance the contrast between the moist, sweet banana swirls and the dark, rich and dense chocolate swirls. The batter was very quick and easy to make, although of course adding mashed banana and melting the margarine involves some extra bowls. I haven’t actually tried to just cream margarine instead of melting it - I suppose the batter would be  plastic enough with creamed margarine, so if you don’t want to wash an extra saucepan, try using creamed margarine at room temperature.

I was very content with the result and was happy to give these muffins away as a gift. I also gave a couple of them to my parents and left two for me and Stano to sample. I am trying to follow a healthier diet these days - five months of breastfeeding are making themselves felt and my skin and hair are starting to suffer (although I’m still getting off lightly I believe!).  One of my latest hits is an easy salad made with arugula, baby spinach, canned cannellini beans, walnuts, and blue cheese (yes, blue cheese again!). I’ve also bought a pack of organic wheat, so soon I’ll be able to jazz up my salads with wheat sprouts.

Banana Chocolate Swirl Muffin

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Persimmon Tarts

Persimmon Tart

Men are strange.
I can spend hours in the kitchen, whisking, mixing, melting, decorating, and when I finally enter the living-room bearing a plate of delicious cookies or cakes, Stano will murmur something like “yes of course, thank you, I’ll try them later, I’m not hungry now” - all this barely raising his eyes from the laptop, by the way. Aaaargh. Seems like he doesn’t share my cake love at all. Then one day, I grab a few sheets of frozen puff pastry, top them with sliced persimmons, brush them with whisked egg and throw the pastry into oven for 10 minutes. And he loves that! He asks me to make persimmon tarts again and again. I agree, they are nice and they can really come to a rescue when you need to bake something very quickly. Slices of persimmon look great on a crispy golden puff pastry, and cinnamon and nutmeg add a spicy twist to the mild sweet flavour of persimmon. But… Stano… what about all the other cakes I’ve baked?!

Persimmons
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Cottage Cheese-Apricot Rolls

Cottage Cheese Apricot Buns

To sum up things, our Christmas was wonderful. It was a very white Christmas, yet not too cold; we had a delightful dinner with my and Stano’s parents; our Christmas tree was beautiful; we all got great presents (Ivanka got the most - she’s now supplied with clothes for years ahead). Of course about one half of my gifts were food-related. I got another two Slovak cookbooks (one of which is solely about desserts and baking, wahoo), a pastry tube, funky muffin liners, and Stano gave me… maple syrup! I was in seventh heaven, because I had never seen maple syrup in Riga. And I’ve been craving crepes with maple syrup!! Well, Stano also gave me a much valuable gift, but I guess I was most emotional about the syrup… haha.

Slovak cookbooks
My humble collection of Slovak cookbooks

And here’s our perfect holiday morning treat: cottage cheese and apricot rolls, served warm for Christmas breakfast. We made tons of these, so we had to freeze the excess rolls - you can thaw them and easily re-heat them any time later. I loved the combination of cottage cheese and vanilla pudding in the filling - it made the filling very smooth and creamy. There’s a belief in our countries that you have to be in a good mood while baking; you could even try singing as you knead your dough… Apparently we felt very happy while kneading, because our dough kept rising and rising and rising…

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Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffins

Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffins
It’s good to have Orthodox Russians and Catholics in the same family, you know? Our Christmas season began on December 6th, when we celebrated the Slovak holiday of Mikulaš and filled each other’s boots with sweet goodies (or you can get an onion or a piece of coal if Mikulaš thinks you behaved badly during the year). Now Stano’s parents have come over and we’re getting ready for Catholic Christmas (everyone gives presents to Stano and his family) and the New Year (everyone gives presents to me and my family), and then Orthodox Christmas (no gifts, just a family get-together). Wahoo! Stano’s parents have brought along several boxes with Christmas cookies and mini cakes, so I’ll be posting some Slovak recipes and photos soon. Until then, I would like to present you my Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffins that I also made for the Christmas season. I find these muffins quite perfect - not too buttery, not too sweet, very chocolatey, with specks of red and green translucent marmalade candy, they kept their shape perfectly, and I finally didn’t feel like coating them with some kind of glaze to make them look puffier. I think the inclusion of melted dark chocolate added some extra firmness to muffin texture, so perhaps if they would have lasted for 3 days, they would be a little bit chewy; but they were polished off in a day.

Chocolate Marmalade Candy Muffins
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Chocolate Coated Pumpkin Cottage Cheese Muffins

Pumpkin Cottage Cheese Muffins

Buttery. Moist. Sweet. Fluffy. Aromatic. Coated with dark bittersweet chocolate and generously sprinkled with walnuts. The milky flavour of cottage cheese curds and the mild sweetness of pumpkin enhanced by the rich aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon. Perfect served for breakfast or for dessert, with a glass of milk or a cup of tea alike. I’m talking pumpkin and cottage cheese muffins!

Chocolate Coated Pumpkin Cottage Cheese Muffins
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Cheese&Caraway Breadsticks and Stylish Blogger Award

Cheese and Caraway Sticks

There’re always caraway seeds in my pantry these days - primarily for brewing Caraway drink, and we found out it’s such a versatile ingredient! We add caraway seeds to our roasted potatoes, our roasted fish and our Hasselback potatoes - and now to these salty breadsticks I baked using my favourite super-time-saving frozen puff pastry. Stano liked them so much that he agreed to help me with grating cheese and cutting dough for another batch :) These sticks are best served warm, especially in case you use 2 eggs as I did (the breadsticks are pretty soft and best eaten fresh out of the oven). If you want them crispier on the outside, use just one egg and simply brush them with beaten egg and then sprinkle cheese and caraway on top.

In this post I would also like to thank Ping of Ping’s Pickings for the Stylish Blogger Award she sent me. Ping’s Pickings is a new wonderful blog with neat and beautiful photos and delicious recipes such as Chiffon Cake with Pandan Topping, Egg White Biscotti or Eclairs. Go visit it now! Read the rest of this entry »

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Are you curious to learn more about Eastern European cuisine?
RussianSeason.net is a food blog run by two Russian-speaking women - a mother (Natalia) and a daughter (Alina) - living in Latvia. Natalia is a professional artist and Alina is the co-owner of a web directory of Russian-speaking businesses in Europe. We both cook and Alina writes posts and takes photos.
In our blog you'll find a range of (mostly tweaked&adapted) recipes from Russia, Eastern Europe, the Baltics, and former USSR. But we can't restrain ourselves from experimenting with other cuisines too :)
Stano is the guy behind the Slovak version of this blog. He is currently living and working in Latvia and is also known as the Man Who Makes Alina Eat A Lot Of Cakes, because he hardly ever eats cakes or pies she bakes. He doesn't have a sweet tooth, you see. Stano also provides us with traditional Slovak recipes - such as Halušky that he's been promising to make for 7 months now :) Just be patient - we're sure he will eventually do it!
Ivanka is the largest cross-cultural project Alina and Stano have been ever involved in:) We hope she will be a foodie too when she grows up!
Our email address is: russianseason@gmail.com

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