From Russia With Love

Chanukah finished last week, but the holiday season is still around us. For me, there is still New Year’s, which is a big deal to Russians. In Russia, we had a New Year’s tree (it’s like a Christmas tree only in Russia it’s for New Year’s). Once we came to America, the tree was replaced by a menorah (we knew families who had both tree and menorah, but we weren’t them), but my parents still kept the tradition of Grandfather Winter and presents going. Then, when we got too old to believe in Gramps, it was just presents, which was fine by me. My parents still give us presents for New Year’s. 🙂

The holidays were also time to spend with my grandparents, and while my grandpa told stories, my grandma, sister, and I would bake cookies and other Russian treats. Often, my sister and I would just watch my grandma make all kinds of delicacies. When I got older and wanted to write down her recipes, it was hard because the convo would go something like this:

Me: So, how much flour do I need to add?

Grandma: What do you mean? Just add until no more fits.

Me: Um, and that would be how much?

Grandma: Enough so the milk is absorbed.

Me: Alright. How much milk?

Grandma: Enough to get a liquidy consistency. Whatever fits…

And so it would go. When I wrote INCONVENIENT, Russian food played a big role. My characters ate it at Russian parties and as part of their daily routines. And as I wrote, I wanted to make the recipes more and more, to bring to life the foods I wrote about, the foods I made with my grandma. So, since the recipe cards I have go with the “whatever fits” rule of cooking, I looked up some of my favorite ones (and those that appear in INCONVENIENT) online. Below is a good one for these cold days, with credit to ( Enjoy and let me know how it turns out!

Traditional Russian Pirozhki


2 cups milk, warmed

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg

1 teaspoon salt

6 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 medium head cabbage, finely chopped

6 hard-cooked eggs, chopped

salt and pepper to taste




  1. Place 1/2 cup milk in a cup or small bowl. Stir in sugar and sprinkle yeast over the top. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. Pour the remaining milk into a large bowl.
  2. Add the melted butter, egg, salt and 1 cup of flour to the large bowl with the milk. Stir in the yeast mixture. Mix in flour 1 cup at a time until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and doesn’t stick to your hands. Cover the bowl loosely and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour. Dough should almost triple in size.
  3. While you wait for the dough to rise, melt the remaining butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, until cabbage has wilted. Mix in the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until cabbage is tender. Set this aside for the filling.
  4. Place the risen dough onto a floured surface and gently form into a long snake about 2 inches wide. Cut into 1 inch pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Flatten the balls by hand until they are 4 to 5 inches across. Place a spoonful of the cabbage filling in the center and fold in half to enclose. Pinch the edges together to seal in the filling.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Line one or two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Place the pirozhki onto the baking sheet, leaving room between them for them to grow.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

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