If there is one thing my Mother truly excels at in the kitchen, it is baked goods. Fluffy, hot, gooey, crispy, filled with fruit, cream, nuts, you name it – Mom can make it happen and it’s going to be the biggest hit of the dinner party. Mom’s Napoleon torte is the stuff of legends among our family and friends (recipe to come later… much later).
Over the weekend Mom baked some cottage cheese Danishes, also known as vatrushki and a nut-filled roulette. Normally, I do not have a “baking thumb” and stay away when Mom bakes until the finished product is ready to get into my hands. But this time Mom made a rising dough and asked me to watch it while she went shopping for a few things. If you are not familiar with baking terminology, a rising dough is a dough made with yeast. “Rising” is a simplistic term for a somewhat complex chemical reaction caused by the yeast’s fermentation process, which makes the dough puff up, and also adds that special delicious baked taste that you don’t generally get from dough made without yeast. The rising process takes typically a few hours to get the best results. During this time, sometimes the dough puffs up so much that it starts to escape the container that it is in. The word Mom uses for this daring escape is “running.” “Don’t let the dough run away!” she said before she left.
When I saw the dough I was “babysitting” puff up and out of the tall pot it was in, like a fluffy cloud, I thought – Okay, I have to find out how to make this stuff. I don’t know how to explain the consistency of it, so here is another image that may help demonstrate.
Out of this dough, Mom made two different creations, the roulette with a filling of ground nuts, sugar and a pinch of cardamom:
and the “vatrushki” filled with cottage-cheese (also homemade by Mom), and drizzled with honey:
The recipe for the dough isn’t complicated, but this is not something you want to take up on a weeknight, as some hours have to pass while the dough rises once or twice.
Rising dough recipe:
– 4 eggs, beaten and one egg yolk, reserved for a wash.
– 1 stick of butter
-1/2 container of sour cream
– 4 tablespoons of dry yeast (the key)
– 1.5 sugar
– 1/2 cup heavy cream
– 3 cups milk
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 6 cups of flour
– a touch of turmeric, to give the dough that appetizing yellow color
– a cup of raisins, soaked in water for a little while, to soften
– 1/3 cup canola or other unflavored oil.
It’s important that the dough be somewhat warm or the yeast will not activate properly. So, start by warming the milk in a steel pan until you can melt the stick of butter and the sugar in it. Do NOT let it come to boil or start to froth. Mix all the other ingredients together except for the oil – that will come in handy later.
Mix the dough in a tall pot, then cover and let stand until it rises all the way to the top. Then add some oil and a handful of more flour and knead some more until it doesn’t stick to your fingers. Let rise again.
Form the dough into whatever you want it to be on oiled baking sheets. Here are the vatrushki-to-be, with cottage cheese in the center:
And here is the roulette:
Brush your creations with egg yolk beaten with a just bit of water. Let rise one last time until they seem puffy again. Bake at 375F for about 20 minutes.
The vatrushki can be filled with any number of yummy things – cottage cheese is just one of the choices. Fruit jams are also popular but go light with anything with a high moisture content or the bottoms of the vatrushki will be soggy.