Food and Fandom: Snow Vatrushka

Ah boy, I haven’t been in a food and fandom kick since my birthday, and we really need to fix that! Thankfully, I found the right kind of inspiration.

Without fail, I’ve managed to do at least one dish from each of Katherine Arden’s Winternight Trilogy, and for good reason! (See my food and fandom posts on pirozhki and medovik.)

The Winter of the Witch is the third book of Katherine Arden’s trilogy and follows Vasya’s adventures in old Rus. In the third book, things go to a head, as both the supernatural and the human worlds gear up for a war. It’s also where the gods of winter and summer come to a head, and boy oh boy, do I love it when we get a literal–and figurative–kiss of frost.

Hem hem. Enough about Vasya and Morozko. Let’s talk about Russian food.

The smell of the feast hit her first: of sweat and honey-wine and fat meat roasted in a great pit of coals at the center of a long hall. The room was packed with people, richly dressed; their ornaments gleamed copper and gold in the smoke-haze. The heat went up, making the air dance, to a hole in the center of the roof. A single star gleamed in the blackness, swallowed by the rising smoke. Servants bore in baskets of fresh bread, dusted with snow.

When I read that (and salivated a bit), I thought: “Confectioner’s sugar is kind of like dusting something with snow, so a bread dusted with confectioner’s sugar?” But I didn’t want to just make bread, and then randomly sprinkle sugar-dust on it. That’s kind of the simple interpretation of “bread dusted with snow.”

Once again, I scoured the interwebs for the perfect Russian recipe. Now, the last two recipes I’d done that were inspired by Russian folklore and Arden’s books were from Natasha’s Kitchen, so shoutout to her because she actually does have an iteration of the bread I wanted to try to make. That being said, I am not a cherry fan and I wanted to work with the ingredients I had on-hand, plus a sweet cheese for the filling.

Which is why I turned to Bake-Street for their take on vatrushka.

I love cheese bread. I’ve done a Romanian pasca before, and honestly I’ve been wanting to up my bread baking skills a bit more. This one definitely needed a bit more work, in my opinion, but I did decide that mascarpone is my new favorite cheese to bake with.

I’ve altered the ingredients below.

Vatrushka – Russian sweet bread

Dough Ingredients

  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp and a pinch dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Cheese Filling Ingredients

  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese (room temp.)
  • 1 large egg (leave some egg white for brushing)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp bread flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

I deviated a little bit in making the bread itself, but I found that I made silly mistakes when I did so (like forgetting to let the yeast activate in the warm milk PRIOR to putting everything into the bread flour mixture), so again, I point you toward the actual recipe so you can read up on how the bread and cheese fillings were made.

Verdict: The parents actually compared this to the pan de bonos (Colombian cheese bread) they loved, though I explained to them that this one was Russian-inspired and definitely didn’t use the same type of cheese (I used feta the last time I made pan de bono, though I might alter that recipe and actually use mascarpone…). I still need to work on the bread part of the baking, and I decided against sprinkling “snow” on the top because the cheese itself talked of snowy sweetness, but otherwise, the whole thing was really good with tea!

I’d recommend it, if you have the time to make bread, that is.

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Food and Fandom: Zelie’s Jollof Rice

Well, maybe not Zelie’s and more like Zelie’s mom.

I haven’t finished Children of Blood and Bone just yet, but there were two dishes I really wanted to try out when I started reading it. The first was this coconut pie that Amari really wanted to eat but was kind of unable to because circumstances and plot. On the other hand, the other dish was the first thing I was hit with in the book.

I try not to think of her.

But when I do, I think of rice.

When Mama was around, the hut always smelled of jollof rice.

Now, as a Filipino, I grew up on appreciating the beauty that is rice. I grew up appreciating the fact that there isn’t just the ONE rice brand to end all rice brands (though as far as I’m concerned, jasmine rice beats out all the rest). So when I saw this mention of jollof rice, I needed to do a bit of research to see what makes this different, from, say, fried rice or something (though even fried rice has a different set of ingredients to it depending on the culture you’re looking at).

And ya know, I kind of dig it.

I found the jollof rice recipe at Naija Chef, and just browsing through his recipe list has definitely gotten me curious over what other types of food I could try from the site’s collection. There are DESSERTS THERE, DAMMIT. I might also even try something with fish, because fish was such a big deal in the first few chapters of CoBaB.

When I had my family taste test the rice, they seemed to like it enough. It had this nice sweet kick to it, though in hindsight, I probably didn’t need to use parboiled rice for it. To me, it was good, but the rice got overcooked and was way too soft-textured, which I didn’t like as much as I thought I would. If I make this again, I’ll probably add an extra cup of rice (maybe long-grain? I might have to experiment there) or lessen the tomato sauce.

Verdict: All in all, though, the flavors were all there, and it really made for a lovely combination with some fried pork chops!

Food and Fandom: Hauptman Brownie

Wow. Okay, the title sounds kinda euphemistic, but ya know what, I’m keeping it because nobody does werewolves quite like Patricia Briggs. But I’m biased.

This kind of doubles as a little throwback to one of the only series I’m still up-to-date with, and that’s saying a lot, considering I’m really bad at series, and the Mercy Thompson series is at 10 books, with an 11th coming out in March of next year. Its spinoff series, Alpha and Omega, is at 6 books and counting (4 of which I’ve definitely read…I can’t remember if I picked up Dead Heat yet…maybe I have).

And honestly, it all started out because I got lucky with an ARC of Briggs’ short stories anthology and quite honestly fell in love with most of the stories there, even without having read anything but Moon Called at the time. And, well, I don’t think I actually reviewed Moon Called, which is a shame, because I could probably say so much about the first five books, since I’ve been re-reading them one after the other every few months to a year since 2014. I don’t know, the series itself really is my go-to comfort place for when I just want to cozy up with my favorite Tri-Cities werewolves and a kick-ass tattooed, coyote-shifting protagonist.

But enough about that. Let’s talk about chocolate.

Under the mellowing influence of good food and good music, Adam relaxed, and I discovered that underneath that overbearing, hot-tempered Alpha disguise he usually wore was a charming, overbearing, hot-tempered man. He seemed to enjoy finding out that I was as stubborn and disrespectful of authority as he’d always suspected.

He ordered dessert without consulting me. I’d have been angrier, but it was something I could never have ordered for myself: chocolate, caramel, nuts, ice cream, real whipped cream, and cake so rich it might as well have been a brownie.

“So,” he said, as I finished the last bit, “I’m forgiven?”

“You are arrogant and overstep your bounds,” I told him, pointing my cleaned fork at him.

“I try,” he said with false modesty.

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs

That right there, as well as the squee-ish passage that happens after, is the minute I started shipping A+M from the getgo. I would have loved to say it’s smooth-sailing from there, but nope. The ship needed more than chocolate to sustain it.

(This is actually not one of my favorite of the MT covers, but ya know what, I can’t complain, because the covers have been getting better and better since after Bone Crossed).

But chocolate really helps, considering how many times Mercy and/or Adam eat it every so often in the books.

So about this concoction…

Honestly, this was semi-homemade. As in, I actually got myself a brownie mix (GASP I DIDN’T MAKE IT FROM SCRATCH? THE SHAME…not), baked the brownie batch, toasted some almonds, and purchased a sundae-type ice cream, because yuuum. I also couldn’t be bothered with making my usual salted caramel sauce (which, in hindsight, would up the game of this brownie-ice cream dessert SO MUCH MORE), but the maple syrup I got from one of my school parents was dying to be used, so I ended up with that. Also, it made me feel better for eating such a decadent dessert!

Anyway, if you’re looking for something you could definitely put together with minimal effort, it’d be this one.

And if you’re looking for an urban fantasy to get lost in, I’d definitely point you toward the Mercy Thompson series.

Food and Fandom: Genya’s Almond Kulich

So I pretty much finished the Grisha trilogy recently, and if it were up to me, I’d make all the pastries that were mentioned in every page. Heck, I probably still might go back to a few of the foods that were showcased in the books, but a lot of them did come from Ruin and Rising.

One of which was the almond kulich.

“It’s just a ring.”

Zoya sighed and held the emerald up so it flashed. “I am horrible,” she said abruptly. “All these people dead, and I miss pretty things.”

Genya bit her lip, then blurted. “I miss almond kulich.”

It wasn’t a big mention, but I do adore Genya, and of course she’d mention missing the food at Os Alta of all the things to miss. Naturally, I went to look up a recipe and found one for almond ginger kulich. Bread takes such a long time to make, and I still haven’t got the hang of it much yet. I find I’m usually overbaking or overproofing something, but at least my arms are getting a workout with the kneading!

Kulich is apparently Russian bread that’s served during Easter. It kind of reminded me of the Romanian pasca, which I’d done a while back, which was this sweet cheese bread that was AMAZING. So honestly, I was way excited to try this one out.

Almond Kulich

Original recipe found at Vintage Kitchen.

I also…didn’t quite follow the recipe again, because I’m not a scotch and brandy kind of person, and I didn’t have crystallized ginger handy. SO. I used rum to infuse the raisins, cranberries, and orange zest. Instead of the ginger, I substituted with dried cranberries. I also ended up breaking off a third of the bread dough to make a nut-less version for allergy purposes. Honestly, I think that’s the one that came out the best.

Behold! A nut-less brioche-looking kulich!

And the best part? It’s great with tea!

Verdict: The fruits and almonds definitely weighed the bread down a bit, so it’s not as light and fluffy as I’d hoped. That being said, perhaps next time I’ll use cake flour instead of all-purpose and mix that with the bread flour. All that said, the almond version brought such a good combo of sweet and salty to the tongue, and with some bergamot and orange leaf tea? Holy crap, I definitely have my tea-time snacks for the next few days!

Beautiful, Dirty, Rich || Crazy Rich Asians Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Alright, guys. GUYS. I was going to rate this a full mega five star but then I watched the movie and I absolutely loved the direction they went with it, along with the curtailing of subplots. But still. STILL. This book was fab. And I mean, timing, am I right?

Because beautiful, dirty, dirty, rich, rich, dirty, dirty, beautiful, dirty, rich.


CRAZY RICH ASIANS

by Kevin Kwan
Anchor Books, May 2014
Romance, adult contemporary fiction, humor
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies

When New Yorker Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and quality time with the man she hopes to marry. But Nick has failed to give his girlfriend a few key details. One, that his childhood home looks like a palace; two, that he grew up riding in more private planes than cars; and three, that he just happens to be the country’s most eligible bachelor.

On Nick’s arm, Rachel may as well have a target on her back the second she steps off the plane, and soon, her relaxed vacation turns into an obstacle course of old money, new money, nosy relatives, and scheming social climbers.

If I could quote the entire beginning of the book, I so would, because if the prologue was any indication of how the book would go, it certainly opened up with a bang. As is, I really enjoyed the story, as dramatic and rife with frustrating characters as it was, it was a helluva summer read, and I honestly want to visit Singapore now (not that I didn’t before…now it’s just a more immediate desire).

“They may not know the first thing about him, but they are all vying to become Mrs. Nicholas Young.”

Rachel took it all in quietly. It felt like Sophie was talking about some character of fiction, someone who bore no resemblance to the man she knew and had fallen in love with. It was as if she were Sleeping Beauty–only, she never asked to be awakened by a prince.

But honestly, I couldn’t have found a better timing to read this book. Eleanor Young was a firm believer that timing was everything for many reasons, and I think I agree. If I wasn’t in such a mood to read a rom-com book like Crazy Rich Asians I probably would not have had as much fun with it as I did. As is, when I finally did get cracking at the book, I realized this book was just for me, solely for the fact that every few pages there was food involved.

I got so food-hungry reading Dirty Rich Asians that I ended up making scones, clotted cream, and scoured the grocery stores for some lychee to make myself a lychee cocktail. Word. Food and fandom up this biznatch!

Nick stood at one end of the desserts, wondering what to have first: the goreng pisang with ice cream, the blancmange with mango sauce, or the chocolate chiffon cake.

Seriously, I was in Singapore food heaven. And it didn’t help that I was recognizing a lot of the goodies as SEA staples. (I mean, they talked about frying bananas in batter and I immediately went and fried myself a pack of turon to have for snacks…)

The street food alone… *drools*

Not only that, but the culture itself was a lot more relatable as far as the family values went. As someone whose family network is predominantly in Southeast Asia, a lot of the gossip and judgmental drama that occurred in the book mimicked what it is like growing up in a heavily SEA-oriented lifestyle. Of course, I could only imagine the stakes in the drama of the dirty rich, but again, similar focus.

The book is also heavy with commentary of lifestyle in the SEA community. There are problems with how the rich view the world, and yes, there’s a shitton of racism and social injustice even in the East. And if you take a deeper dive into the book to see how the society in Singapore work, you’d find that a lot of the SEA folk actually represented turn out to be live-in servants, nannies, and generally that of the working class.

“Did you hear me? Mainland China!

Philip was baffled. “Doesn’t everybody’s family ultimately originate from Mainland China? Where would you rather she be from? Iceland?”

“Don’t be funny with me! Her family comes from some ulu ulu village in China that nobody has ever heard of. The investigator thinks that they were most likely working class. In other words, they are PEASANTS!”

That being said, the book is first and foremost a romantic comedy. It is an Asian Pride and Prejudice. And let me tell you, I’ve been having my fair share of P&P binges this week. Too much Mr. Darcy is never too much, and I can now also say this about Nicholas Young. Yummy.

Hubba hubba indeed. Hello, TDH of the month.

(On a related note, I’ve also gone to see the movie this weekend, and I will have to agree with many others who’ve clamored and sang the movie’s praises: it was tremendously done, hilarious to a fault, and I cannot tell you how ecstatic I am to see a great rom-com back on the silver screens. Also, the curtailed plotlines with Astrid and Peik Lin were SO MUCH BETTER DONE in the film, not gonna lie. So. Yeah. WATCH IT!)

4.5 out of 5 cookies! Honestly, it should just be a 5 out of 5 if you combine the ending of the movie to the book itself. All the same, I’d totally still read the sequels.


Have you read this book or watched the movie? What did you think?