What are these Russian foods called?
July 11, 2006 3:13 AM   Subscribe

While on exchange in Russia (near Novgorod), I was served two foods that I loved but have not been able to find again, and don't know the names for. First was a confection -- semi-dried but juicy berries covered in powdered sugar, about the size of blueberries, but red with lots of little seeds, that came in a small box. Second was a cake that seemed to be made of dozens of layered pancakes with some sort of cream or frosting in between. Anyone know what these are, and where I can find them or a recipe for them in the US?
posted by waxwing to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've asked a friend, and here are some ideas:

The berries were probably cranberries.

The cake may have been this.
posted by ciaron at 5:23 AM on July 11, 2006

If the cake was a medovnik (which seems likely, Russians love giving that to foreign students), then there is a recipe in Anya von Bremzen's Please to the Table. Codicil: I have never tried making it because it doesn't look, from the ingredients, like it would come out tasting the way I remember.

If you speak Russian, this looks like a recipe for cranberries in powdered sugar. (If you don't, the gist of it: 1 kg cranberries, 800-1000 g. powdered sugar, 3-4 egg whites. Wash and dry [or possibly they mean "bake," I'm afraid-- I'm not used to translating recipes!] the cranberries. Beat the egg whites well. Add the cranberries to the egg whites and mix well. Remove the cranberries with a strainer and put them in the powdered sugar. Make sure that every berry is rolled in sugar. Dry [or bake!] and serve.) A couple of other recipes were even less helpful but had similar lists of ingredients. This page has two separate variants. (I did a yandex search for клюква сахар.)

You might also try the recipes or forums at RusCuisine. Russian Foods is an online Russian grocery store, which I have never used.
posted by posadnitsa at 5:44 AM on July 11, 2006

Another (and I believe more common) word for the honey-cake in Russian is medovik (медовик), if that helps with your search.
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on July 11, 2006

I was thinking that the cake might have been Napoleon, but Medovik does sound more likely...

Napoleon is pretty grand as well (does anyone know if it's Russian, or is it popular elsewhere in Europe?)

see picture here
posted by barmaljova at 7:31 AM on July 11, 2006

It's also possible that the layered cake was a Dobos Torte. Although it's not a particularly Russian recipe, it's definitely what came to mind when I read the description.
posted by jedicus at 7:37 AM on July 11, 2006

I was hooked on those cranberry things, too - the boxes said "Klukva" on them. For some reason, I only ever found them on the trains.

I discovered that if you roll wet cranberries in powdered sugar and let them sit a couple days you get something similar. But I bet the egg-white recipe podsadnitsa posted will give them that nice candy-coat crunch.

p.s. that bar in the wall of the Novgorod kreml is SO cool!
posted by small_ruminant at 9:18 AM on July 11, 2006

Also, where are you? San Francisco has a couple of Russian bakeries that sell desserts.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:22 AM on July 11, 2006

Yes, cranberries with sugar is such a standard Russian thing that there's a movie with that title (oddly, not in IMDb).

I might also add, since the klyukva has come up, that it's the subject of a famous (in Russia) joke at the expense of foreigners:
Legend has it that the famed French writer Alexandre Dumas (pere) travelled briefly in mid-nineteenth century Russia and quickly published a book in which he mentioned sitting in the shade of a majestic klyukva. This would have been a sight to see since Dumas was a very large man and a klyukva is a cranberry bush under 10 inches in height that grows in bogs. Dumas' 'majestic klyukva' became a Russian byword (razvestistaya klyukva—literally "a wide-branched [drooping] cranberry bush" to describe foreigners who became instant authorities on Russia, i.e., those who create fabulous fictions for those who know even less.
posted by languagehat at 2:18 PM on July 11, 2006

Oops, just noticed there's a typo in that quote: should be razvesistaya (stress on -ves-), not "razvestistaya."
posted by languagehat at 2:20 PM on July 11, 2006

languagehat writes "Yes, cranberries with sugar is such a standard Russian thing that there's a movie with that title (oddly, not in IMDb)"

Weird. Not even the director (Alexandr Krymov) is listed in the IMDB, though the principal actors seem to be.
posted by Songdog at 3:00 PM on July 11, 2006

Another (and I believe more common) word for the honey-cake in Russian is medovik (медовик).

Well, that would certainly explain why I wasn't getting any results when I tried to search the damn thing. And now I really, really want one, so I have been continuing my search, and while I found pictures of layered versions, I cannot seem to find a recipe anywhere. There seem to be a heck of a lot of medovik recipes out there, though. Time to start experimenting...
posted by posadnitsa at 4:54 PM on July 11, 2006

Here's a similar recipe for the Finnish version of Yule crans,* for American kitchens. (And what the Finns have forgotten about berries isn't worth knowing!)
*And if you're wondering about the safety of uncooked egg whites, this notice from the Amer. Egg Board should allay your concerns.
posted by rob511 at 7:32 PM on July 11, 2006

Also, I'm not sure medov(n)ik fits waxwing's description, which sounds more like a dessert variant of Hungarian layered crepes, rakott palacsinta. Sample recipe here.
posted by rob511 at 7:53 PM on July 11, 2006

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