Dostoevsky loved it. Catherine the Great enjoyed it. Sofia Tolstaya, Tolstoy’s long-suffering wife and assistant, made it. It was once the quintessential Russian dessert: pastila.

Sweet, fluffy pastila was a classic afternoon tea snack at aristocratic Russian soirees of the 19th century. To make it, apple puree—essentially, applesauce—egg whites, and sugar are leavened with lots and lots of air that’s forced into the mixture with hard whisking. What happens next is improbable but stunning. The earthy apple gloop transforms into a gleaming white cloud, as light and soft as a goose-down comforter.

Next, this soft cream is gently spread into pans and baked at a low temperature for hours. What results is, for lack of a better description, a pale, caramel-colored marshmallow or meringue that’s exquisitely apple-flavored.

To Darra Goldstein, though, pastila stands apart from both meringue and marshmallow. “Some people have compared it to a marshmallow, but it’s not as chewy and it is not crisp like a meringue,” she explains. “But it has that quality of softness that you get inside some soft meringues.”

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Created on Jun 17, 2020
By @gurlic