Vatrushka (Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian: ватрушка, plural: vatrushki or ватрушки), is a kind of brioche bun filled with tvaroh (Russian: творог), a form of farmer’s cheese, famous in Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Serbia and Croatia.
What is the origin of vatrushka?
Vatrushka has been around for many centuries, but the word Vatrushka appeared in Russia in the 18th century.
The origin of the Vatrushki is linked to the time of the ancient Slavs in the 6th century. In those ancient times, Russian land was inhabited not only by Russians, but also by Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians and other tribes, influencing the culinary traditions of all Slavs.
Thus, the word vatrushka is related to the word watra. It is interesting to note that in most of the Slavic dialects in addition to Croatian, Czech and Serbian, it means “fire” or “hearth”. Apparently, vatrushka is reminiscent of the shape of the sun.
It looks like the sun, round and warm, and in Russia it is unquestionably associated with childhood. Appearing several centuries ago, vatrushka, like the traditions of Shrovetide, was born from the distant ancestors of the pagan era who worshiped the solar deity Yarila, and who made these stuffed buns that looked like the sun, on the days of the summer solstice.
Of course, tvaroh did not exist at the time. The product used for filling was simply called cheese until the 19th century.
Another version claims that vatrushka would be the food par excellence and the creation of the Mari people. It would be one of the essential components of its material culture, building on the centuries-old traditions of the people, and clearly preserving its national characteristics, tastes and habits.
The Maris, also known as Cheremisa, are a people of Finno-Ugric language and tradition who are divided into two distinct groups:
– to the west, along the upper Volga valley, a minority, the Mountain (or hill) Maris, who have long since converted to Christianity.
– and a majority in the east, the Maris of the plains or the prairies, who continue to practice their original religion, the Marla (formerly called paganism).
Today, almost half of the Maris live in the republic of Mari El, with large populations in the republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Latvia, and Estonia.
At any festive table of the Maris peoples, delicious vatrushki are always served for tea.
How to make vatrushki
There are several kinds of stuffing for vatrushki but the most traditional filling is the sweet one, with tvaroh,
Tvaroh or tvarog (Творо́г) is a fresh cheese-type dairy product that is very popular in Russia and Ukraine.
Tvaroh is a farm cheese similar to ricotta or cottage cheese. It is easily found in most supermarkets and almost in all Slavic and Russian grocery stores.
From an etymological point of view, tvarog is also found under the name зернёный творог (zernyony tvorog) which literally means “grainy white cheese”. Dictionaries sometimes translate the term tvarog (tvaroh) as curd cheese, cottage cheese or farm cheese.
Tvaroh is a thick, slightly more acidic version of quark, more commonly known as cottage cheese.
It is white in color, elastic and lumpy in texture, and has a slightly tart flavor. Twaróg can be more or less strong depending on how it is prepared.
Vatrushka dough consists of a very airy brioche bread dough.
The first vatrushki were most certainly large and generally divided into several parts before being tasted. Today, the most traditional form is the individual form.
There are many variations of vatrushki ranging from sweet to savory. The sweet versions usually use a blend of the highest quality wheat and rye flour.
The most classic savory version is the tvaroh version with fried onions. It is not uncommon to fill vatrushki with cabbage, millet boiled in milk or even buckwheat or durum wheat semolina, obviously with tvaroh.
Sweet versions of tvaroh with compote or jam are also common, with apples, for example, and generously sprinkled with sugar on top.
The blueberry jam version is served hot with smetana.
Vatrushka (plural vatrushki) is a brioche bun stuffed with tvaroh or cottage cheese flavored with vanilla or lemon.
- ¼ cup water (at 97 F / 36°C)
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 cups all-purpose flour , sifted
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup milk (at 97 F / 36°C)
- ⅓ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons soft butter , melted (at room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter , melted
- 1 lb tvaroh (or cottage cheese or ricotta)
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar (or 1 tablespoon sugar with ½ teaspoon vanilla extract)
- In a bowl, pour the milk and add 1 tablespoon caster sugar, yeast and 2 tablespoons sifted flour. Mix well.
- Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place, away from drafts, for 1 hour.
- The mixture should foam and rise.
- Separate the egg.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg white and remaining sugar (reserve the egg yolk).
- Using the dough hook, start kneading, gradually adding the sifted flour.
- Knead for 1 minute then add the salt.
- Knead for 5 to 8 minutes until obtaining a soft and homogeneous dough that comes off the sides of the bowl.
- Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place, away from drafts, for 1 hour or until it at least doubles in volume.
- Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it.
- Cover it again with a cloth and let it rise again for 45 minutes in a warm place away from drafts.
- Mix all the ingredients needed for the filling.
- If using fresh cheese that contains a lot of water, such as cottage cheese, first drain using a very fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth.
- On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a sheet about ⅓ inch (8 mm) thick. Cut circles about 5 inches (12 cm) in diameter. Knead again to the remaining dough, and reuse it for other circles.
- Place the circles of dough, well spaced, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover them with a cloth and let them rise for 20 minutes.
- When the dough discs have risen well, preheat the oven to 350 F (180°C).
- Use the bottom of a glass to form a hollow in the center of each disc, leaving at least ½ inch (1 to 1,5 cm) of border.
- Fill each trough with about a tablespoon of sweet cheese.
- Mix 2 tablespoons (25 g) of melted butter and the egg yolk. Beat the mixture.
- Using a pastry brush, carefully brush a thin layer of the egg yolk and butter mixture, first on the dough and then on the filling.
- Let the vatrushki sit for another 10 minutes and carefully pierce the top in 3 places with a fork without piercing to the bottom.
- Bake in the oven. Baking time varies, but it usually takes 15 to 25 minutes to get a smooth, golden crust.
- When baking is finished, immediately place the vatrushki on a cooling rack.
- Using a second, clean pastry brush, brush the vatrushki with the remaining melted butter.
- Let the vatrushki cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.