Soviet Swits: Typically Soviet Union sweet treats

If you are Russian, the following desserts will be as familiar to you as Stolichny salad.

Kartoshka

If you are a guest of the capital, make it your job to seek out these typically Soviet sweet treats to get a better idea about how your friends, coworkers and other comrades grew up.

Kartoshka

Kartoshka or potato got its name as the shape and color of the dessert resemble those of an actual potato. The origins of this wildly popular in Soviet sweet are unclear. Some resources say a Finnish woman first made it from scratch using biscuit leftovers. Even if this is true, there is no record of the kartoshka crossing the Russian-Finish border. Despite a lack of information, this sweet and easy to make creation seemed to find a place on the shelves of every Soviet kulinariya as well as in the recipe books of every Soviet family.

Made with cookie crumbles mixed with cocoa, butter and other ingredients like some fragrant liqueur to suit your taste and budget, and shaped like a little potato, the dessert is fantastic value for money, or at least it used to be. These days a decent kartoshka, like the one you find at the Buloshnaya pastry shop on the corner of Lyalin Per., will cost you 120 rubles.

Medovik

Legend has it that some French cook made this dessert, which translates as honey cake, for Tsar Alexander 1’s wife. The woman, who was known for her dislike of honey, was very impressed with the treat, and surprised that it was actually made with the natural sweetener. The recipe survived through the Soviet times, but, no doubt, went through a number of transformations, just as the Olivier salad did.

The way that we know it now – dozens of layers of thin dough made with honey filled with light custard or sour cream is a relatively recent interpretation of the original. Try the medovik at Lucien (290 rubles), an establishment that tries to deliver the best examples of Russian cuisine distilled from the Soviet influence, for an authentic taste.

Muraveinik

Gan “simple to make” and “time consuming recipe” be used in the description of the same dessert? Apparently yes. The name muraveinik or an ant hill comes from the fact that this dessert literally looks like the home of those little black insects. It is made with very dry pastry dough processed through a mincing machine, baked, crumbled and mixed with boiled condensed milk.

The result is amazing and had many foreign baking experts wonder about the ingredients used to make muraveinik. While this dessert was very popular at home during the Soviet times, it was hardly if ever to be found on the shelves at cafes. Now it is even a harder to find. Element spotted a muraveinik on the seasonal menu of Sweet Home Cafe for 369 rubles.

Napoleon

No other dessert has more legends and stories surrounding its creation than the Napoleon. One of the most popular versions refers to a massive celebration of the 100-year anniversary of Russia’s victory against Napoleon in 1912. The dessert is made of layers of crispy dough and tender vanilla cream, which might make you wonder if the Soviet version is adapted from the French mille foglie.

Traditionally,the Russian Napoleon was served in a triangle as homage to the emperor’s hat. These days, we are more used to a square-shaped serving. Another change that Napoleon has experienced over the past couple of decades is a modification of the cream filling, which has been getting lighter and lighter. For a true (and buttery) experience, try Napoleon at Buffet where this sinfully sweet treat is 390 rubles.

Nevsky Tort

Yet another dessert based on (or stolen from?) French culinary traditions. It is hard to explain why Nevsky is called a cake, since it is actually a brioche, in some cases a very big one, stuffed with incredibly rich butter cream. Never the less, the combination of slightly sweet, thick dough with a golden crust that gets soaked in sweet, buttery cream, is irresistible.

Despite the unique taste, Nevsky hardly made it through Perestroika, possibly due to the lack of high quality ingredients essential to make this cake work, or its high cost, and finding this dessert is a challenge to this day. The chain of affordable Brioche bakeries happens to have a very decent example for about 200 rubles for a whole cake. On the more upscale side, we found this dessert at Pavilion for 250 rubles a solid but not perfect attempt.

Oreshek

Every Soviet child of school age had a sweet encounter with this one. Oreshek, or nut, is an oversized profiterole. While the dough is the same as is used in the original, the filling is a nut-flavored custard based on egg yolks. Traditionally, the pastry is decorated with icing and crushed nuts. While its 15-kopek price tag is long gone, oreshek remains one of the most popular sweet snacks.

Pastry Chef Viktor Averkov of Pavilion did his homework well, and delivers these treats according to the finest traditions of its Soviet ancestors. This excellent, modern version can be yours for 220 rubles. Also, if you are eager to explore the exciting world of Soviet desserts in more details, Pavilion’s menu is a good place to start as it boasts most of the items mentioned in this story.

Plombir

It is no secret that French culinary traditions had a lot of influence on Russian and later Soviet cuisine, and plombir is just one of the examples. Described as the finest and richest of ice creams, plombir, according to the tradition of its mother-land, is made using whole milk or cream, many eggs and vanilla. While the Soviet take on this cool dessert keeps it packed with calories according to the original recipe, the taste is very different from any of its foreign analogs.

It is hard to explain, you just have to try it. One of the few places in Moscow where team element managed to spot the exact same taste as experienced during the author of this story’s childhood, is Moskvich not far from the Frunzenskaya metro. One scoop is 100 rubles. Nothing for a ride in a time machine, right?

Ptichye Moloko

The story of this legendary dessert starts at the Praga restaurant where it was invented by a pastry team in the middle of past century. Ptichye Moloko or bird’s milk is a thin layer of half-flakey, half-cake dough, followed by a generous layer of agar-based marshmallow soufflГ© and topped with dark chocolate.

Back then, the cake was sharing top spots on the deficit list with black caviar and sturgeon, and even the first dessert in the USSR to receive an official patent in 1980. Now, Ptichye Moloko, or its imitation, can be found anywhere, though if you are looking for the most original taste check out Uzbekistan’s kulinariya, where a slice of this divinely light dessert can be found for as little as 50 rubles.