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

Yogurt Summer Berry Muffins

Yogurt Summer Berry Muffins

I never stop wondering why everything is so disorganized in local kitchen equipment stores. I’ve been looking for a very simple thing – muffin tins with matching paper liners. As a result, I’ve got tins of three different sizes (and all of them are too shallow) plus two packs paper liners that match none of these tins. Great. I’m hoping that if I continue collecting mismatched moulds and paper liners, someday one of the liners will fit in one of the moulds. Until then, I managed to squeeze some very nice liners with floral pattern into my six medium-sized moulds. That looked far from perfection, but better than nothing. The rest of the forms I just greased with butter. So in the end I got a batch of cakes of assorted size and style… and I liked it! Looked kind of informal. A friend of mine once said that although I try hard to put things in order, chaos is my true element. So this time I was in my element, you know :) Now I’m thinking of baking this as one big cake. I think it should look lovely with that colourful marble pattern inside.

I’ve got to say huge thanks to Patricia of Technicolor Kitchen for her post on Apple Yogurt Muffins, which inspired me to make yogurt muffins with fresh summer berries. The recipe worked out great for me, I just substituted margarine for oil and added more sugar (the original recipe highlights that the muffins are meant to be not too sweet).

Aaand then I had fresh berries in my muffins. Two handfuls of tiny sweet strawberries, juicy blackcurrants and tender raspberries that swirled into a beautiful pattern of pink, red, and purple inside these moist, buttery cakes. I loved how the heavy strawberries sunk to the bottom of my mini muffins and coloured them fluorescent pink. The muffins tasted best about an hour after I took them out from the oven – still warm and spreading a lovable sweet smell all around the house, but they were also good this morning when I grabbed a couple before going to the swimming pool. I’m definitely going to bake this as a single loaf on the weekend, when my sister returns from her trip around Central Europe! Thank you Patricia for the great recipe and inspiration!

Yogurt Summer Berry Muffins

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Strawberry Cake for My Sister’s Birthday

Strawberry Glazed Sponge Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream

My sister turned 21 on Saturday. Isn’t this a lovely age? I remember I graduated from University at 21 and went to Denmark for an internship. There I met all my new colleagues, while back home I had my wonderful family, my fun-loving classmates, and friends from University. Plus I had 30 penpals all around the world – from Lithuania to Indonesia. That’s so many people to love and admire! It felt absolutely like the whole world was in front of me… 21 - that’s when you’re a grown-up and yet very young, and your own achievements are making you proud and happy, and if anything ever goes wrong, there’s always another chance. I think 21 is one of the very best ages ever!

Of course a lovely occasion like my sister’s 21st birthday required something super-lovely for dessert. Something sweet, festive, and fluffy. Something like whipped cream and fresh aromatic berries between layers of a light and sweet sponge cake. Something that would smell of freshness and summer and would be candy to the eye, and would make that tiny “shhhhh” sound when you cut it with a knife, because it’s airy and fluffy like a cloud.

We thought all this pointed clearly to a strawberry&whipped cream cake glazed with strawberry jelly and decorated with fresh lemon balm.

The whole concept of this cake belongs to my Mom. I mean, I know this is not the first strawberry cake in the world, we just didn’t stick to any particular recipe – just our intuition and inspiration. We made a pretty huge cake (28 cm in diameter), because you see, we had guests. I’m quite sure that half as large would be enough for a normal dessert. This strawberry cake somehow reminded me of that gigantic Walnut Meringue and Chocolate Mousse Cake we made for New Year’s. When you make huge cakes like that one, at some point they start to live their own life – asking a pinch of this and a bit of that, more sugar here and less cream there, needing to be constantly under control, finally making you worry through the night – how will the frosting come out?! Haven’t you noticed this with your large cooking projects?..

Sponge Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream
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Rhubarb Meringue Tartelettes

Rhubarb Meringue Tartelettes

Rhubarb… it’s finally here. I’ve been drooling over all the gorgeous rhubarb desserts in your blogs and magazines since late April I guess, but it was only last weekend when I first saw rhubarb on the market. Of course I grabbed a large bunch of crunchy rhubarb stalks, and the next day we were already baking these tartelettes. Mom first came up with the idea of a rhubarb pie, but then we thought we’d try our new individual baking forms, so we decided on shortcrust tartelettes with rhubarb filling topped with soft meringue. This is actually a mini-version of the Raspberry Meringue Pie that we made last summer - my favourite pie ever. It’s super-versatile – you can use strawberries, blackberries or any other berries for the filling, or rhubarb, in our case. The tart rhubarb center hidden between a sweet shortcrust base and a sweet whipped meringue brings you a pleasant surprise. This is a fool-proof recipe; the hardest part is to prevent the cracks on top of meringue, which is achieved by first cooling the meringues in the oven with oven door open, and then gradually transferring them to a cooler place. I skipped this step because the sun was setting and I was in a hurry to take the photos. So, our tartelettes look pretty rustic with these cracks on top… but there’s certain charm in this, don’t you think?

The sad thing is that I don’t have that sweet tooth any longer, and while I really like the combination of sour/sweet flavours and soft/brittle textures in these tartelettes, I can’t have more than one at a time. You should know that ONE tartelette (cupcake, piece of cake, whatever sweet) used to be NOTHING for me. I could live on sweets for days. So I’m really surprised by this change and still can’t get used to it.

Another problem that seriously irritates me lately, is that there’s no decent street food in Riga. No take-away pizzas, no hot/grilled sandwiches, very poor choice of take-away drinks. I’m fed up with store-bought croissants and muesli bars, also because I’d prefer something savoury for lunch. It’s really a problem to have quick lunch in Riga, even if you work in the historical centre of the city, like I do. I recently discovered a place where you can have sushi or hot bento lunch in less than 15 minutes – that’s the only place in the Old Town which is fast, affordable and good-quality at the same time. Arghhh.
And, last but not least, I would like to say huge thanks to Barbara Rolek of Eastern European Food @ About.com, for listing our blog on her Eastern European blogroll. Check out Barbara’s latest Eastern European Beet Recipes!

Rhubarb Meringue Tartelettes

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Cottage Cheese and Semolina Cherry Cake

Cottage Cheese and Semolina Cherry Cobbler

I have no idea of how this happens, but when I look through my blog archives I see we’ve been baking and cooking a lot of sweet dishes recently. I really have no idea why we’re doing this, because when I eat out, I almost never order a dessert these days. I used to have a super sweet tooth, but lately my food cravings have changed and I have eaten no chocolate bars since my birthday, which was in January. I didn’t try the chocolates my parents brought from Venice. I didn’t eat any truffles offered at birthday parties. The only thing I still like is hot chocolate, especially half-and-half dark and white. In fact, I just don’t see chocolates as something edible any longer. They just bring no emotion to me - I stay impassive even if I feel the smell of my one-time favourite milk chocolate. Strange, isn’t it? Instead, I’ve been enjoying savoury foods like pizza, lasagna, polenta, and huge bowls of fresh salads. Perhaps the organism is running out of vitamins and asking for something healthier than sweets. I drool over your rhubarb and asparagus recipes guys – I’m so impatient for fresh greens and berries.

But, while I day-dream about fresh vegetables, my hands do quite the opposite thing. They leaf through recipe books and magazines, pick sweet dishes and cakes, and cook them. Yeah… they lead a pretty independent life!

Today’s cherry cake was actually Mom’s idea. She found the recipe in her notes, it had been copied from some newspaper, the title of which, unfortunately, we can’t recollect now. The cake is something similar to cobbler or clafoutis; berries are covered with cottage cheese and semolina batter, but you don’t turn the cake upside down when ready. Of course I’d prefer fresh cherries to canned, but welcome to reality girl :) The weird thing about this recipe was that the cake baked for an hour and 20 minutes instead of 25 minutes!! The recipe didn’t mention how hot the oven should be, but we decided to cook it on a low heat so that the cherries wouldn’t burn… as a result the cake was ready in more than an hour!

Before I go to have a slice of this mild-flavoured, moist cake and a glass of milk, I just wanted to ask: what are your spring food cravings? I’m really curious to know!

Cottage Cheese and Semolina Cherry Cake

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Simple Apple Sponge Cake

Simple Apple Sponge Cake

Interestingly enough, all of my best friends are Tauruses. Three of my best friends plus my boyfriend, to be more precise. That’s why I’ve spent all my free time at birthday parties recently (makes me feel very popular, hehe). One of my friends is mastering Ayurvedic cooking by the way, which is much more diverse than I used to think. I should ask her to write a guest post about that delicious zucchini and pea soup she made for her birthday! It was so healthy and colourful – I loved how the soup sparkled with yellows and greens when I added a spoonful of sour cream into it!

So, as you might have guessed, I’ve been so busy going out that I haven’t really cooked anything worth displaying here. Instead, Mum cooked her great and simple sponge cake with apples and cinnamon. One of our family all-time favourites, it’s easy and cheap to make. A slice of apple sponge cake with a glass of milk (or baked milk, which I’m a huge fan of) – that’s a real comfort food, don’t you think so?

Simple Apple Sponge Cake
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Apple Crumb Cake

Apple Crumb Cake

In case you were wondering, I am still alive :) I’ve had no Internet at home for over a week however (no it’s not global crisis or heavy snowfalls, it’s just… the situation). That’s the main reason why I haven’t written anything for so long again. As a kind of compensation for being offline on evenings, I’ve received my first Bon Appetit issue!! Yay! I couldn’t imagine they’d ship it to Latvia, but they did! The magazine arrived via Switzerland. I can’t wait to read every article in it!

My 26th birthday was nice. First I celebrated it at home, with family, and then we had a small birthday party with friends, also at home. I did make those Italian cookies with white wine, as well as quesadillas with sweet corn, red beans and garlic (I’m afraid I overcooked the tortillas though) for my friends, but I was stupid enough to forget my camera at my parents’ so I never took any photos. The cookies were extremely easy to make – all you have to do is combine the ingredients and form little rings of pastry. Tortillas were a little more of a challenge. The main problem was that the tortillas came out a little bit too chewy; I kept them under a wet towel as recommended, but I still had to sprinkle some water on them before baking the folded quesadillas. So this was my first experience with home-made tortillas!

And this apple cake is yet another easy recipe from our family. All you need is some patience while you chop the chilled margarine mixed with flour, turning it into tender creamy crumbles. A great alternative to apple filling is good cottage cheese blended with sugar and vanilla. This is my favourite variation of the cake. Cottage cheese slightly melts while baking, which makes the crust extremely moist, I would even say juicy.

Store the cake in a cool place, covered with a towel or baking paper, and it will be just as good even three days later.

Apple Crumb Cake
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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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