This Russian treat sounds positively delicious, readers. Click the link to learn more about pastila, a fluffy dessert like meringue and – as the title suggests – marshmallows!
The Historic Russian Recipe That Turns Apples Into Marshmallows
Disarmingly simple, pastila is lighter than air.
by Anne Ewbank May 28, 2021
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.”
Goldstein, one of the foremost experts on Russian cuisine and the founder of Gastronomica magazine, knows what she’s talking about. And she’s been obsessed with pastila for decades. Her many cookbooks include pastila recipes. According to her, pastila is hundreds of years old, though she hesitates to name an exact era of origin. What she does know is that it started out as fruit leather, sweetened with honey and dried in an oven. The name, she says, comes from the Slavic postel, or bed, likely due to the mixture’s fluffy appearance in the wooden trays used to dry it.