Russia

Russia is a transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It extends from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black, Azov, and Caspian seas in the south. Russia covers over 6 million square miles, stretching more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, with eleven time zones, and bordering 16 countries. Moscow is the country's capital and the largest city.

There are over around 200 different ethnic and indigenous groups in Russia. The country's vast cultural diversity spans ethnic Russians with their Slavic Orthodox traditions, the Tatars and Bashkirs with their Turkic Muslim culture, Buddhist nomadic Buryats and Kalmyks, the only Buddhist people in Europe, Shamanistic peoples of the Extreme North and Siberia, highlanders of the Northern Caucasus, and Ugric peoples of the Russian North West.

Russia is famous for its culture. Russian architecture includes Byzantine-style city fortifications (kremlins), stone buildings of Orthodox churches, with their many domes, and tent-like churches. 

Russian literature is considered to be among the most influential and developed in the world. In the 19th century the development of Russian literature was boosted by the works of Alexander Pushkin and Lev Tolstoy. 

Russian traditional music consists of the mix of ethnic melodies. It includes various forms of folk music and songs of many ethnic groups living in Russia. 

Russian cuisine widely uses fish, caviar, poultry, mushrooms, berries, and honey. 

RUSSIAN PIROZHKI

Piroshki is a baked (at times fried) bun that is native to Russia usually stuffed with different kinds of fillings. These baked pie-like buns are both savory as well as sweet, with fillings ranging from cottage cheese, mixed vegetables such as mashed potatoes, mushrooms, onions, cabbage and eggs if the Pirozhki recipe calls for a savory filling and if they are sweet buns, fillings such as jam, stewed or fresh fruits such as apples, cherries, apricots, lemon, etc., are used. A lot of people even enjoy non-vegetarian fillings such as meat, fish or oatmeal mixed with meat or giblets in their Pirozhki.

Ingredients 

For the dough

  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon cold water if necessary

For the braised cabbage filling:

  • 2-3 tablespoons oil

  • 1 pound or 1/2 large head of cabbage, shredded (about 6 cups)

  • 2 medium carrots, shredded (about 2 cups)

  • 1/2 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

  • 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika, or to taste

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Make the dough:

In a food processor blend together the flour, the baking powder, the salt, and the butter until the mixture resembles meal. In a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks and the sour cream, add the sour cream mixture to the flour mixture, and blend the mixture until it just forms a dough, adding the water if the dough seems dry. Divide the dough into fourths, form each fourth into a flattened round, and chill the dough, each round wrapped well in wax paper, for 1 hour or overnight.

 

To make the cabbage filling (most popular among all veg fillings): 

Using a food processor, grater, or sharp knife, thinly shred the cabbage and carrot. Thinly slice the onion into half moons. Add oil to a large skillet. Over medium heat add the onion to the pan. Saute the onion for 5-6 minutes, or until softened. Add the shredded carrot and cabbage to the pan and season generously with salt and pepper. Saute for an additional 6-8 minutes, or until cooked and softened and tender. Allow the filling to cool slightly before assembling the piroshki; filling can also be made a day in advance and refrigerated.

 

Once the dough has risen, punch it down a few times and divide it into 16 equal-sized balls. On a generously floured surface, form the piroshki by rolling each ball into a thin circle, about 5 inches in diameter. Add 2 tablespoons of the filling into the center of the circle of dough. Fold the dough upwards towards the center, equally on each side, and pinch the piroshki closed along the top. The piroshki will be oval shaped.

Place the formed piroshki onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, 8 per sheet with 2 to 3 inches between each pastry. Cover the piroshki with loose plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise again for 30 minutes.

Once the piroshki have risen a second time, beat an egg with a splash of water. Brush the piroshki with the egg wash, and then bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, rotate the baking sheets and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the piroshki are evenly golden brown.

Transfer to a rack to cool slightly, and serve warm or at room temperature. Piroshki can also be reheated easily. They freeze well, too.

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