Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev. Love ’em or hate ’em?
I heard a lot about Shadow and Bone before I ever picked it up. The only reason I read it was because my sister was about to donate it (ha) and I thought I’d give it a go first. Some say it was boring and slow. I’ve heard that Leigh’s other books (Six of Crows anyone?) are better–my sister’s in that camp. Others rave about it. Either way, some agreement seems to have been reached that the Darkling is hot and Mal is not. Which disappoints me somewhat, because not having read the next books in the series…the Darkling is completely cookie cutter bad-boy-love-interest while Mal is intense and passionate and lovely.
I got the feeling after reading that a lot of the complaints come from the fact that Shadow and Bone is billed as a sort of fantasy adventure when it is, in fact, a love story. Not knowing what to expect going in, I formed my own expectations as I went along and found I wasn’t disappointed because what I read told me we were in for a romance. My fave 😉
Anyway, time for the very first recipe I’m ever going to share on Bake by the Book!! On page 279 of my copy, Alina and Mal have just escaped big trouble caused by Alina’s sudden need for a sweet roll. “It was dusted with sugar and tasted just like the sweet rolls we’d eaten as children.” And it was a damn good roll, apparently.
Knowing that the land and culture of Shadow and Bone is loosely based on Russia, I began my research by googling “Russian sweet rolls” and lo and behold! There they were. Plushki. Singular: Plushka. Little adorable heart-shaped cinnamon rolls.
I created this recipe from a combination of my two favorite cinnamon roll recipes, a couple of plushki recipes I found, and my own haphazard plushki-shaping technique. I found that the recipes for cinnamon rolls and plushkis were very similar, with plushkis seeming to consistently include vegetable oil as well as butter, and a different filling too: I had to give up my brown sugar/cinnamon combo and go for the regular old white sugar/cinnamon of the plushki.
I’m not going to claim these are authentic at all, because I’m about as far from Russian as I am from Russia. But I did my best! These plushki are sweet and cinnamony and perf with some coffee. I wanted to make them not a total pain to make, so I smooshed some steps together and I came up with that weird shaping method I mentioned. I also like lots and lots of cinnamon sugar in my cinnamon rolls, so I rolled out the dough nice and long and swirled it up real tight. If you want a more authentic plushka, you can roll out little individual dough pieces like Diana of Little Sunny Kitchen does here; you’ll get a more defined, and dare I say prettier, heart shape. (But you guys. Less cinnamon sugar per bite!!!) That said, I also didn’t knead my dough enough because I got lazy, so mine turned out a little dense and a little flat (but still yummy). In these instructions, I have you knead it out until you can do that nice windowpane test they do on the Great British Baking Show.
So here you go–Alina and Mal’s hard-won sweet rolls!
Plushki (Russian Cinnamon Rolls)
Makes ~12 plushki
- 1 cup 1% milk (you can use whatever milk, but make it one with fat in it)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 package yeast
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 3 tbs unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tbs canola or vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3-4 cups flour
- 6 tbs sugar
- 2 tbs cinnamon
- 2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
- Heat up your milk in the microwave or on the stovetop. I prefer the microwave in a glass bowl in intervals of 30 seconds. After a couple of intervals, start swirling it around after each 30 seconds and sticking your finger in there to test it. You should eventually burn your finger enough to want to stick it in your mouth but not enough to make you want to scream in pain! 😀 If you prefer to use a thermometer, aim for between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once your milk is ready, immediately whisk in your 1/2 cup of sugar and yeast. Cover it with a clean towel and let it sit for ten minutes or so, until you see the yeast getting puffy (if it’s not puffy, ya gotta start over).
- Whisk in your melted butter, oil, and salt. Add the eggs, whisking continuously (because we don’t want them to cook, and let’s be real, I always forget to bring them to room temperature).
- With a wooden spoon, stir in 3-4 cups of flour. Whatever makes your dough workable for you (I don’t really like to get globs of dough on my hands so I tend to overflour a little).
- Knead that baby until you can do the windowpane thingy and/or until it springs back when you give it a good poke.
- Put your lovely blob of dough into a greased bowl, turning once to coat both sides, and stick it in a warmish place for one or two hours (until doubled in size).
- Time for shaping! Punch down your dough and roll it out to somewhere around 12×20 inches (like I said, I wanted lots of swirlies). Use a pastry brush to brush on the 2 tbs melted butter. Mix together your 6 tbs of sugar and 2 tbs cinnamon, and pour it over the rolled-out dough, using your fingers to spread it out evenly.
- Roll up your dough from the short side. This is different from what you’d normally do with cinnamon rolls. Again, swirlies.
- Once it’s all rolled up into a 12-inch cylinder, you’re ready to shape those plushki. Grab a sharp knife. Gently cut off the ragged ends of your dough.
- Make a cut about a half inch from the edge of the cylinder, taking care to cut through all but the last few layers of dough at the bottom. A half inch in from that cut, slice all the way through the cylinder, so that you have a little roll of dough that’s connected in the middle.
- Butterfly your plushki! Pull it apart so that it looks like little ears. Pinch the bottom to create the heart shape.
- Repeat steps 10-11 to make about 12 plushki.
- Place your plushki on two baking sheets covered in foil. Cover them with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge overnight for their second rise. Alternatively, you could cover with clean towels and let them rise at room temperature for around an hour.
- Next morning (or whenever), preheat the oven to 350. REMOVE THE PLASTIC WRAP FROM THE PLUSHKI. (Yes, I have made this mistake…) Put both sheets in for 20-22 minutes, switching them between racks (and rotating each pan) about halfway through.
- Once they’re out, let them cool off a little, and then sift on some powdered sugar to make them like the sweet roll Alina and Mal eat.