Friday, September 6, 2013

Baking the Books: Shadow and Bone Appetit!

 Welcome to Baking the Books, where I bake things inspired by my favorite novels! Since I do a lot of reading and a lot of baking, it was only a matter of time before the two things overlapped. It's just part of my evil plot to get books involved in every single aspect of my life.

Previously on Baking the Books: Crown of Midnight cupcakes

Confession: I had a huge Russia obsession as a kid. It was mostly focused on Anastasia and the last Romanovs (started, I must admit, once First Grade Gillian saw how handsome Anastasia's fictional animated boyfriend Dmitri was). But after that, I read every book I could get my hands on about the Romanovs, and then soon I started to read every book available about all of Russia, its history, folklore, and... CUISINE!

(Other small confession: I collect eggs. You know, like Faberge eggs, like these:

Or not at all like these, sadly. But you get the gist. RUSSOPHILE 4 LYFE)

Why am I telling you all this? So I can explain just how much I also love the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo, which is set in a fantastical eighteenth-century imaginary version of Russia. Bardugo's Ravka incorporates all the cultural aspects of that old-world Empire that fascinated me as a preteen, while adding in hot guys um, cool new magic stuffs and cool new hot guys to fascinate me as a twenty-something.

My review of Shadow and Bone
My review of Siege and Storm

In Shadow and Bone, Alina, the main character, mentions something called "butter week": 

In the week before the spring fast, every nobleman was expected to ride out among his people in a dom cart, a cart laden with sweets and cheeses and baked breads. The parade would pass from the village church all the way back to the noble's estaste, where the public rooms would be thrown open to peasants and serfs, who were fed on tea and blini. 


This seems to be a twist on a real Russian thing called Maslenitsa. It's the week before Lent when everybody gorges themselves on the things they won't be able to eat for weeks, namely bread and dairy and eggs. I considered making blinis, the traditional butter week food, but they're too similar to the crepes I did for Anna and the French Kiss. So instead I made something called vatrushka! They are delicious little bready things with sweet cheese filling and they will make your soul fat and happy.

I need some sexy Ravkan boys to help me all this difficult pronunciating and bakering. Oh, boys! Mal, Sturmhond, Darkling! Have you got your aprons on? Just your aprons, mind you. No, Sturmhond, there will be no carousing or drinking in my kitchen. Perhaps a little carousing. Perhaps a lot.

*ahem* We should bake now.


For the dough:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup warm milk
4 cups unbleached all-purpose floud
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg yolk for egg wash on the outside of the vatrushkas

For the cheese filling:

1/2 pound (200g) farmer's cheese**
2 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg

**Apparently, farmer's cheese is the hardest thing in all the land to find (I checked my local supermarket and Whole Foods. If they don't have it, NO ONE DOES (untrue)). However, it's both easy to make and easy to substitute for. I used a pureed blend of ricotta and basket cheese, which is solid, to replicate the firm goat cheese-y texture farmer's cheese has. Ricotta cheese on its own is probably too wet, so if you want pure ricotta, be sure to drain it with a cheese cloth. Ditto cottage cheese.


First, we must deck ourselves out in Summoner blue, despite the fact that we are Frabrikating some scrumptiousness. Oo, Darkling, that color goes GREAT with your evilness.


First, the dough. In a small bowl, stir together the 2 teaspoons yeast, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 1/2 cups warm milk.

Set it aside for 10 minutes until the mixture starts to puff up and look all spongey. It's supposed to look funky, don't worry. 


In a large bowl, combine the 4 cups flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 7 tablespoons melted butter and yeast mixture. Mix with a spatula at first, and then use your hands. Knead until dough is well mixed. 


Cover with an overturned bowl or loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour.


Now the cheese filling. Mix all ingredients for cheese filling (1/2 pound (200g) cheese, 2 tablespoons sour cream,1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 egg) together in an electric mixer (I prefer to use a food processor, but if you've only got a blender, that works fine too) until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.


Check out your dough. It should be bigger and puffier and sort of pizza-doughy. If yes, huzzah! If no, you have failed the Darkling, and therefore must die. 

Place the dough to a lightly floured work surface, cut your spongey lump of dough (more appetizing than it sounds) into six to eight equal pieces, and then shape them into flattened balls.


Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Cover dough balls with towel. Wait thirty minutes for yeast to continue rising. (BUT NOT RUIN AND RISING GET ITTTT). Cover dog with towel while bored waiting. Call her a babushka just to make Sturmhond laugh.

All hail Sankta Ginger.

Darkling will attempt to remain mirthless, but not even he is immune to the babushka dog. Consider it a mighty victory.

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). After thirty minutes, remove the towel, and press the bottom of a glass or cup into each ball to form a hollow.

Fill the center of vatrushkas with the cheese filling, leaving the borders empty. Don't over fill, like I did, or else you'll have a gorgeous cheesy mess to deal with.


 See all that glistening yellow on the dough? That's an egg yolk wash. It'll make the dough all shiny and purty once it's baked. Just brush a beaten egg yolk right onto the edges of the dough. Bake until the vatrushkas are a lovely appetizing golden brown, about 30 minutes in my oven. Keep an eye on them, though, as every oven varies.

Take them out and eat them as soon as you are physically capable. They're scrumptious both warm and room temperature.


By the way, those tiny little cookies I have scattered around the vatrushkas? Well, I had extra cheese lying around, and apparently I was possessed with the spirit of Martha Stewart, so I decided to whip those up with the excess cheese. They're another Russian dessert called Geese Feet cookies, and they are so good they actually ought to be BANNED. In the time it took you to read this paragraph, I've already eaten twelve. The full recipe is here.

 They are awesome drizzled with a little bit of honey and eaten with coffee. Perfect breakfast bread!

I am a FRABRIKATOR OF PASTRIES! Leigh herself gave me this bracelet when I went to a panel she was on *preens*

*Note: for health reasons, this food should always be consumed directly from the hand of an underdressed Sturmhond.


  1. You're just so fancy. But really, they look amazing,

  2. Really, all food should be consumed directly from the hand of an underdressed Sturmhond.

  3. Dear Madame RussiaLover, if you tell me something you'd like made, I will trade you some of my cookery skills for some of your bakery ones. These look so gooood.

  4. I love these posts so much:) These pastries look delicious, I will try to make them and follow up the health instructions ;)

    Eveline's Books

  5. OMG these look so good. Kinda like cheese danishes which I freaking love! This looked like a lot of work.

  6. You are amazing and so creative!

  7. I love these posts! I'm keeping careful track so that I can make all the goodness. Luckily, I have me some Summoner Blue, so I will be able to make these. Also, I firmly believe that even the Darkling can be won over with food. Thanks for the ammo! :D

  8. Ummmm, those look amazing and more amazing! Also, I totally had a Russia phase, also brought on by the animated Anastasia! I was a bit old, but still in love with the flick, even now. I got all into the fact that she died so young and all of the read history!

  9. Well, I just drooled ALL over the keyboard. Thanks! :P

  10. I'm now drooling and my tummy is protesting loudly that I'm not eating all the amazing bakes that my eyes are seeing!! Delish!!

    Thank you so much for sharing the recipe, I must make these soon!!

  11. These look so freaking delicious. I may have to try and make them. AND YAY PRETTY SIEGE AND STORM NAILS.

  12. I haven't read the Grisha series, but these look absolutely delicious. Heart-attack inducing, but delicious.

    Delicious & Fictitious

  13. Pretty sure I've already told you you're hilarious. And these look so delicious. I want to make them RIGHT NOW.

  14. I definitely need to get me some of these delicious baked goods as well as a half-naked Sturmhond... and not necessarily in that order.

  15. I just made them! They are deliciousss~ Thanks for the (fun) recipe! :) Now I just have to read Shadow and Bone...

  16. lkjfglklksjdgkldfjg ALL HAIL GINGER!!!!

  17. This looks DELICIOUS and also, the post was hilarious. =) I also read that last sentence as "from the hand of an undressed Sturmhond" instead of "underdressed". but hey. Undressed works for me! I've gotta try making these sometime! they look delicious!!! and hahah about "ruin and rising". gosh can't wait until that comes out!!

  18. Hello from Ukraine)
    I must say your vatrushki look mouth watering=)


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