Bird’s Milk is a confectionary and a cake known and loved all over Eastern Europe. There are different versions and different recipes in every country. As a cake, it’s mostly a white, rich souffle between a thin layer of delicate sponge on the bottom (or two thin layers of sponge) and a chocolate glaze on top. One generation passes recipes to the next for decades now. As the name suggests, it’s a delicacy compared to something from a fairy tale.
There are no secret ingredients that make this sponge different. They are the same as for many other cake sponges — flour, sugar, milk, butter, sugar. It’s the method — how and in what order you combine these simple ingredients together. That’s why it is essential to follow the steps and recommendations. It is also important to bake the sponge gently at a lower temperature. For the best results, Japanese sponge should be baked it a hot bath, but in some cases, it’s impossible (e.g., when the largest available baking dish for the bath doesn’t fit the cake mold you need to use). The next best temperature for a sponge 1″ thick is 325F for 25 minutes, with the bottom of the cake mold wrapped with a wet kitchen towel. Enjoy the recipe!
A frangipane tart with pears might be a classic recipe, but nothing makes it as exciting as stone fruit — peach, nectarine, apricot, plum, etc. Since they belong to the same prunus family, they pair with almond cream better. They belong to each other.
Texas peaches season starts in May and continues till September. For five months, we can enjoy different varieties of local peaches. Early ones are clingstones and have a refreshing tartness which disappears in late summer freestones. An acidic tang in the fruit empowers and balances the sweet creaminess of frangipane at the same time. That’s why now the best time for the frangipane tart with Texas peaches. They are perfect together.
It is the season for zucchini, summer squash, and cucumber flowers. If you see them on Farmers Market and want to, but don’t know how to turn them into a beautiful and healthy dish, this recipe is for you! Note, that stuffing part can be used as a recipe for humble zucchini pancakes when the flowers are not available anymore.
I remember how difficult it was for me to recreate Grüne Sosse in Texas 6 years ago. Two herbs with fresh cucumbery aroma — borage and burnet — were impossible to find. Since they were not available at any local stores or farmers markets, and I tried to grow them, unsuccessfully. Finally, I gave up and replaced them with finely diced cucumber. Who knew a few years later I would find both of them grown by Livin’ Organics farm right here in Spicewood, available almost regularly! This season, Frankfurt-style green sauce is a delicacy I can enjoy more than once during the season.
With slight variations, this versatile dough recipe is used for many baked goods all over Ukraine. The same dough is made for savory garlicky pampushky served with borsch and for sweet, plain or filled with fresh berries, jam (povydlo), poppy seed filling, and dusted with sugar powder. Pies, braided and intricately decorated loaves of sweet bread, rolls — it is good for all of them. Try it this holiday season! This snowflake-shaped sweet bread makes a light, fluffy, nutty, and delicately sweet gift to remember.
“My mom just made her signature Gata. It smells like summer, sun, and a mountain breeze.
— This recipe is traditional, — she anticipates my question.
— Why is your Gata ten times better than mine?!
— It’s the quality of ingredients. The sour cream and matsun are the freshest and made of real milk. The butter is a Flower butter I melted myself.
Flower butter! It is made in June-July when high in the mountains wild strawberries are ripe, and flowers are in bloom. Cows then are milked with cream, and the butter churned of this cream makes any other butter seem like a mockery. If happiness has a taste, it should be the taste of Flower butter.” — read more: (in Russian) Narine Abgaryan Facebook post
After this story, I’ve been dreaming of the Flower butter, trying to imagine how it smells and tastes. Since Gata is made of 4 ingredients — flour, fermented milk, butter, and sugar — the quality of each component is what makes this pastry special. I can use the best there is in the states. And then a crazy idea came to my mind. What if I also add the flavor of edible flowers? How about Roman Chamomile? For the first experiment, I powdered 2 teaspoons of dry flowers and added them to the dough and the stuffing. For the second, I’ve infused heavy cream with Chamomile flavor and then fermented it. That was a hit!
If you ever made a good Southern-style cornbread, you most likely came across Mark Bittman’s recipe, which was featured and adopted by many online sources. James Brown shared his adaptation during the workshop at his mill. Obviously, James’ cornbread was made with his heirloom corn, yellow and red, and was wonderful. I skipped yellow corn and added some diced roasted peppers and Spanish sweet smoked paprika.
“The Corn Mother from whom we receive our nourishment is thus an entity like Mother Earth, and so closely are they united that they are virtually synonymous. Because we build its flesh into our own, corn is also our body. But corn is also spirit, for it was divinely created, so we are also offering spiritual thanks to the Creator.” — Book of the Hopi
I started with Nopi’s soufflé corn cakes recipe and … changed it to make them greener and gluten-free. I also walked away from the Mediterranian flavors. Oaxacan Green corn flour, miso-glazed shishito peppers, and Roth’s Moody Blue (American smoked blue cheese) made a wonderful contribution to a complex flavor and color of the cakes.
It’s already scorching hot in Central Texas. But early in the morning, the light is golden and gentle, and the air is still fresh. Socheni and some tea in a shadow of live oaks filled my morning with dear flavors, nostalgic images from the past, and piece. And it was good.
If you recognize the pastry in the picture, you and I probably belong to the same culture and generation. Most likely you are smiling and wishing you could get one of those right now. I bet you are thinking about your school years and other favorite cookies and pastries from a long time ago, aren’t you? Socheni, aka Sochniki, don’t need any introduction to those who know what they are. The rest of people would probably pass them by as they look pretty rustic and not as attractive as modern pastries. This phenomenon is an illustration how much we treasure our childhood food memories. They stay with us forever.