Russian Bagels (Bubliki)

Making bubliki is my March bread challenge. I use the word ‘bread’ here loosely as bubliki aren’t really considered bread. They’re more of a half bread, half pastry that you eat with tea or coffee. They have a really scone like texture – dense but quite soft. The difference between them and scones is that Bubliki are sweeter due to the sugar, butter and eggs added.

A wee bit of history

The bublik has its origins in the Pale of Settlement. This was the:

territory within the borders of czarist Russia wherein the residence of Jews was legally authorized. Limits for the area in which Jewish settlement was permissible in Russia came into being when Russia was confronted with the necessity of adjusting to a Jewish element within its borders, from which Jews had been excluded since the end of the 15th century.

Bubliki popularity emerged in the 1920s, under Soviet Russia’s New Economic Policy (NEP), which permitted a certain degree of private enterprise. According to Darra Goldstein:

A new breed of Soviet citizen, the wily entrepreneur, emerged, wheedling the public to buy wares of often dubious quality. Many less sophisticated sellers also took to the streets in an attempt to peddle their goods, and for a while the cities were once again full of all manner of colour hawkers.

One of the most popular products of this era was the bublik, sold hot from portable ovens and immortalized in a contemporary song, “Bublichiki,” in which a young girl bewails her father’s drunkenness and the fact that she must eke out her livelihood selling buns on the street

References to bubliki can also be found in Russian and Ukrainian cultural history. According the page on wikipedia:

A common Russian and Ukrainian phrase is “a hole from a bublik” (Russian: Дырка от бу́блика, Ukrainian: Ді́рка з (від) бу́блика) – which means “absolutely nothing” or “worthless”. Examples:

I worked so hard, and what did I get for it? A hole from a bublik,

He is not worth a hole from a bublik.

Our attempt 

For starters, our bubliki were not worthless! To mix things up a bit I made these with my friend Analiese (who also happens to have a very witty and hilarious fashion and makeup blog) at her house and we ate these for brunch.

They were pretty easy to make, but they didn’t make as many as we thought. Instead of yielding 12, we only made six in the end.

The most entertaining part was when we had to boil the dough in the vanilla milk. It reminded me of watching hot doughnuts being made at food trucks. There is something quite entrancing about dropping dough into hot liquid and then eagerly waiting for it to rise to the surface.

I would recommend eating these with cream cheese and salmon as we did. The slightly sourness of the cream cheese along with the oiliness of the salmon went quite well with the sweet bagels. A few salty capers would have also been delicious.  We also tried it with feijoa and vanilla jam. This was nice, but it was almost too sweet.

Bubliki (Russian bagels or sweet boiled buns) 

I found the recipe for bubliki in Darra Goldstein’s A Taste of Russia: A Cookbook of Russian Hospitality. She notes that her recipe is a less common version.

We did make a few small changes to the recipe. We reduced the number of eggs because Analiese has an egg allergy. We also added a bit of water to the dough. When we initially made it, the dough was very dry and needed a bit of liquid to get it to a point that we were then able to shape it.

Ingredients

¼ cup butter, softened
½ cup caster sugar
2 egg yolks
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 ½ cup flour
¼ cup water
4 cups milk
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Method

Cream the butter and the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks. Stir in the baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and enough flour to make a firm dough. If dough is too crumbly, add a bit of water to get it into a wetter texture. Divide the dough into six pieces. Shape each piece into a ring around two inches in diameter.

In a deep pot bring the milk and vanilla to boil. Drop in the rings of dough, a few at a time, and cook them in the boiling milk until they rise to the surface. This should take around one minute.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the rings to a baking tray. At this point you could brush them with an egg yolk, or butter.

Cook in a preheated (160˚ C oven) and bake the bubliki until they are puffed and brown. Around 30 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool.

Yield: Six buns

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2 thoughts on “Russian Bagels (Bubliki)

  1. Hi Martin – the original recipe calls for 3 egg yolks instead of two. We also used ground nutmeg as a substitute for mace.

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