Russian Food - Birch Pie

Siberian Birch Syrup Pie and Kefir Ice Cream

If you find yourself in Canada, you might try the impossibly sweet yet addictive maple syrup pies. In New York City, Momofuku Milk Bar has the infamous crack pie, which isn’t all that different, except it’s made with cane sugar and a funkier crust. As a birch syrup lover, I wanted to come up with a similar dish for the other side of the Iron Curtain. Siberia being a little to Western Russian what Canada is to the United States, I decided to create a Siberian birch syrup pie.

One may ask: do people really eat custard pies in Siberia? Aren’t Siberians just a bunch of alcoholics who push frozen planes along their airport tarmacs while dodging meteorites? (Tupolev-134, no less.) It’s time to shake off clichés! Let it be known that modern Siberians do eat all kinds of pies. And starting from now, add birch syrup pie with kefir ice cream to the list!

Russian Food - Birch Pie

The Siberian pedigree is reinforced by the presence of pine nuts, which are found all over Siberia — more on this at siberianpinenuts.com. Once toasted, they add a nice bitterness to the dish. Compared to some Canadian recipes, I’m keeping the sugar level in check, and to balance the flavors from the birch syrup, I’m making a tangy kefir ice cream, topped with a piece of crispy bacon to add a salty note.

Kefir ice cream
Yields about 8 scoops (8 servings)

50 g (about 1) egg
75 g sugar
100 g heavy cream
20 g non-fat milk powder
250 g plain low-fat kefir
5 g lemon juice

  • In a bowl, whisk the egg and sugar to a pale ribbon.
  • In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil, and whisk in the milk powder. Pour slowly over egg mixture, beating constantly.
  • Return to the saucepan, and cook over very low heat to 85 C / 185 F, stirring constantly. Remove the custard from the heat, and pass through a chinois into a container over a bowl of ice water. Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  • Mix in the kefir and lemon juice, then chill the mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes.
  • Churn in an ice cream maker, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to the freezer for at least 12 hours before serving.
  • Below is the detailed composition of the ice cream, with all the amounts measured in grams.
Ingredient Weight Fat MSNF Sugar Other solids
eggs 50.0 5.4 0.0 0.0 7.4
sugar 75.0 0.0 0.0 75.0 0.0
heavy cream 100.0 36.0 5.4 0.0 0.0
non-fat milk powder 20.0 0.0 16.8 0.0 0.0
low-fat kefir 250.0 2.1 11.5 8.3 0.0
lemon juice 5.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Total 500.0 43.5 33.7 83.3 7.4
Percentage 8.7% 6.7% 16.7% 1.5%

Russian Food - Kefir Ice Cream and BaconPâte brisée
Yields about 1 pie (8 servings)

250 g flour, sifted
4 g salt
1 egg yolk
115 g butter, softened
60 g water

  • Sift the flour into a bowl, and make a well in the center. Put the salt, egg yolk, and butter in the well, and combine using your fingertips, starting from the center outward.
  • Add the water, and mix until smooth.
  • Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

Russian Food - Birch PieBirch syrup pie
Yields 1 pie (8 servings)

pâte brisée
3 eggs
100 g sugar
30 g flour
250 g birch syrup
60 g butter, melted
300 g heavy cream

  • On a floured surface, roll the pâte brisée to a 35 cm disc. Transfer to a 20 cm diameter, 5 cm deep pie dish, covering the rim with dough and trimming anything that’s protruding.
  • Bake the crust in a 190 C / 375 F oven for 15 minutes. Reserve.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed.
  • Mix in the flour on low speed, then add successively the birch syrup, melted butter, and heavy cream.
  • Pour the custard into the pie crust, then bake in a 175 C / 350 F for about 50 minutes, until the center is just a bit liquid and still jiggles when you shake the pie. Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until completely cold.

Russian Food - Birch PieToasted pine nuts
Yields about 8 servings

50 g pine nuts, 6 g per slice
salt

  • Spread the pine nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  • Toast in a 200 C / 400 F oven for 5-6 minutes, until light brown.
  • Transfer to a plastic container, and reserve.

Crispy bacon
Yields about 8 serving

about 3 thin bacon slices

  • Place the slices of bacon between two Silpats on a baking sheet.
  • Cook in a 175 C / 350 F oven for about 12 minutes, until crispy.
  • Drain on paper towels, cut into 8 pieces (maybe 9 pieces, so you can eat one 😀 ), and reserve.

Assembly
Yields 8 servings

birch syrup pie
about 20 g birch syrup
toasted pine nuts
kefir ice cream
crispy bacon

  • Chill 8 long, rectangular plates in the freezer for at least 15 minutes.
  • Cut the pie into 8 slices.
  • On each plate, arrange a slice of pie on one side, brush a line of birch syrup, and sprinkle with pine nuts. On the other side, place one scoop of ice cream, and top with a piece of bacon. Serve immediately.

Russian Food - Birch Pie and Kefir Ice Cream