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.

One thought on “Food and Fandom: Snow Vatrushka

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