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Borodinsky Bread: Background information when reading Savage Feast

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Savage Feast

Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes)

by Boris Fishman

Savage Feast by Boris Fishman X
Savage Feast by Boris Fishman
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

Borodinsky Bread

This article relates to Savage Feast

Print Review

Borodinsky breadEarly on in Savage Feast, Boris Fishman, beginning to recount his family's exodus from the Soviet Union, states that there were 800 kinds of bread in the U.S.S.R. It's true. According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor in 1985, there is domashanya, a basic household roll; stolichniye, the bread of Moscow, and orlovsky, which combines rye and wheat flour. The list goes on from there.

But the one that loomed over all of Mother Russia, including Fishman's Belarus, was Borodinsky, which he describes as having a "dark, slightly charred top," with coriander seeds meant to resemble "grapeshot," which are small iron balls fired from a cannon. According to him, the story goes that a Russian general died at the Battle of Borodino in 1912, and his widow, in response, opened a convent where the nuns "invented Borodinsky as a mourning bread." Interestingly, as Fishman reveals, Soviet wheat was only good for cattle, not for bread, and so Borodinsky was made from American wheat, though the Soviet population made it very much their own.

Looking at pictures of Borodinsky bread online from a non-Russian, American perspective, it looks like banana bread gone wrong. But there's something intriguing about it, a solidness that brooks no foolishness - courage in a loaf. This is not a bread to trifle with. This is a bread of tradition and of deep memory, as Fishman can attest.

Recipes vary online. The recipe listed on the Russia Beyond website featured below makes it as a round loaf. It's worth a try no matter what shape you choose. And it could be the ideal accompaniment to reading Savage Feast, an extra dimension to an extraordinary family journey.

Ingredients

150g wheat flour
100g rye flour
about 220ml water
7g yeast powder
20g rye malt powder (about rye malt powder)
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coriander powder
coriander seeds

Instructions:

  1. To start making Borodinsky bread, first mix all the dry ingredients. In a large bowl mix wheat and rye flour, yeast powder, salt and coriander powder.
  2. Then, add the star of the show – Russian rye malt powder that gives the bread that special flavor, and stir the mixture one more time.
  3. Next, mix lukewarm water with honey, and pour into the dry mixture; also add a tablespoon of sunflower oil. Knead the dough; it should be quite sticky, thick but still elastic. Be sure not to overdo the water; you may need more or less depending on the flour you use.
  4. Grease your hands with some oil if the dough feels too sticky; this makes it easier to work. Put the dough in a large clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm corner for one hour.
  5. When the dough doubles in size, punch it down and put in a loaf form greased with oil. Leave for another 30 minutes to let the dough rise.
  6. Then, mix some flour with water and cover the surface of the dough with this whitish liquid; generously sprinkle with coriander seeds.
  7. Bake bread at 210°C (410°F) for 30 minutes; lower the temperature to 180°C (360°F) and bake for another 30 minutes. Let the bread cool down completely, and enjoy. Priyatnogo appetita!


Borodinsky bread, picture by Saboteur - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

Article by Rory L. Aronsky

This "beyond the book article" relates to Savage Feast. It originally ran in February 2019 and has been updated for the February 2020 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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