January 01, 2017

An Airy Dessert

An Airy Dessert
Who doesn't like zefir? Ira Taskova  | Dreamstime.com

The zefir is a bit of a trickster. Outwardly, it may look like a crispy meringue, but it is actually a softy, with the consistency of a marshmallow. And its roots are neither in France (birthplace of the meringue), nor Greece (from whence the name Zephyr, the Greek god of the western wind), but in the Russian town of Kolomna.

Indeed, the zefir is a Russian treat through and through. Some might even call it the Russian National Dessert, for it is based on the 600-year-old pastille (пастила), which Russian Life readers will recall was invented in Kolomna (see July/August 2011 issue). Traditional pastilles are made from a creamed puree of apples (usually sour varieties), combined with whipped egg whites and added berries and nuts to create different flavors.

The first pastille factory was built in Kolomna in the eighteenth century. Yet the treats date back much further. They were mentioned in the sixteenth-century Domostroy (as постела), and in an epistle from Ivan the Terrible to Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, in which they were called “a delicacy made from apple juice.”

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