Пастила – (Pastilla)
Whipping apples into a fluffy, cloud-like confection is not something that I would have come up with on my own, but hundreds of years ago, someone in Russia did. Beloved by many, pastila was a beloved desert of many Russian nobles, including Leo Tolstoy. This isn’t a recipe that would have been easy to make in a 15th-century kitchen, but if you have a mixer and a modern oven, pastila becomes a fairly straightforward, if lengthy, process. While the pastila will monopolize your oven for hours, it won’t need any attention from you during that time.
Traditional Russian recipes were occasionally made from lingonberries, rowan berries, or currants, but most commonly from Antonovka apples. Here, any sour green apples (like Granny Smith) will work well.
- 6 large Granny Smith apples (or other sour, green variety)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 egg whites
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place whole apples in a 9”x12” baking pan and add 1½ cups of water. Bake for 90 minutes, or until the apples are sagging in their skins and soft when pierced with a knife. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Run the apples through a food mill or press them through a strainer to remove the skin and seeds.
- Put egg whites and the apple purée into the bowl of a stand mixer. (You can also use a handheld mixer if you don’t have a stand mixer.) Whisk at medium-high and slowly add the granulated sugar. Continue whipping at medium-high for 10 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 180°F. Line a half-size (13”x18”) sheet pan with parchment, including the sides.
- Reserve 2 cups of batter and place, covered, in the refrigerator. Spread the remaining batter into the lined sheet pan and smooth into an even layer with a spatula. Bake for 5-9 hours, or until the pastila is dry to the touch. (With juicy apples or humid weather, this drying process will likely be 9 hours or even longer.)
- Remove the pastila from the oven and allow to cool. Keep oven at 180°F.
- Place a large cutting board or another flat surface (such as a second sheet pan) over the pastila, carefully turn over, and remove the first sheet pan, so that the pastila is now upside-down. Carefully peel the parchment away, taking care not to tear the pastila. (If it does tear a little, don’t worry, as we’ll cover this up.)
- Cut the pastila down the center lengthwise, and again crosswise, to divide into equal quarters.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place one quarter of the pastila on the parchment. Using an offset spatula, evenly spread about 1/3 cup of the reserved batter onto this first layer of pastila. Add a second layer of pastila, and repeat for the remaining layers. Coat the sides of the pastila with any remaining batter.
- Bake the pastila again until completely dry, at least 2 hours, but as much as 4 hours or more. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
- Wet a towel. Wipe a serrated knife with the towel to dampen it, and with a careful sawing motion, cut the pastila into 1”-wide slices. Take care not to crush the delicate layers. Use the towel to re-dampen the knife as needed.
- Stir the cinnamon into the powdered sugar. Dust each slice of pastila with the powdered sugar on all sides.
- In a dry climate, pastila can last for some time in an airtight container and can make a great holiday gift. In Oregon, however, pastila tends to absorb moisture from the air, but will keep for a day or two in a tightly sealed container. Serve with coffee or a cup of black tea.