Hopefully in your Sicilian hazelnut ice cream, Austrian hazelnut liqueur and Kyiv cake
Only real in the box with chestnut leaves
If you think of Tokyo it is the cherry tree, if you think of Kyiv (Kiev) it was the chestnut tree, which immediately stood before the eyes of many who live, lived or visited this city on the Dnieper River.
The journey from Odessa across the Black Sea to Sevastopol and then upstream on the Dnieper via Kherson and Zaporozhye to Kyiv was an interesting shipping route for connoisseurs before the war.
When we see pictures from Kyiv today, the last thing we probably think of are the many chestnut trees. Chestnut leaves decorate the famous cake box in which the famous Kyiv cake is sold.
Just as the Sacher cake is a symbol of Vienna despite many great cake competitors, the Kyiv cake has also succeeded in creating an emotional connection to the city of Kyiv.
Once used for happy celebrations and as a reminder of the city
Before the war, when the end of a festive menu was approaching, the Kyiv cake was reliably on the festive table.
If you visited someone who had lived in Kyiv, you brought a Kyiv cake, which was immediately recognized by the chestnut leaves on the cake box.
Many Viennese now find Sacher cake too sweet and prefer a sorbet made from natural lemons for dessert.
However, some dishes have a high place in the soul; are associated with nostalgic memories. You enjoy the familiar pleasure and postpone the diet until the next day.
Cake and war
Hazelnuts are an important ingredient in Kyiv cake, which otherwise consists of crunchy meringue and soft chocolate cream.
The largest producer of the Kyiv cake is the Roshen company, owned by Petro Poroshenko, the predecessor of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.
Part of the wealth of Petro Poroshenko, who is internationally seen as pro-EU and critical of Moscow and is currently on trial in Kyiv for allegedly helping finance Russian separatists with a sale of coal, comes from the Roshen confectionery empire.
The Kyiv cake, which is exported to over 50 countries, was particularly popular in Russia and a box office hit for Roshen.
No cake today
With the beginning of the war in Crimea, in 2014, the sale of Kyiv cake in Russia was stopped and the production facilities in Russia were closed.
Consequently, on February 24, 2022, with the beginning of the war against Ukraine, the supply of Kyiv cake to Belarus was also stopped.
We share the opinion of the editors of The Economist, which is very well summarized in a recent video: the war against Ukraine is a European war that has fundamentally changed the world in several ways and will continue to do so.
For GloriousMe, the Kyiv cake is a symbol of hope that after great suffering and many losses, it will also be possible again to eat the capital’s cake in peace with ease and joy in a strengthened European country.
Similarly, Australians and New Zealanders enjoy their pavlova cake, which in this case combines meringue with lots of cream and fresh fruit. The argument about whether the pavlova was invented in Oz or Aotearoa is easy to live with.
The fine aroma of the hazelnut
Nut allergy sufferers inevitably see it differently – the rest of the world loves the taste of hazelnuts. Or what we think it is.
The problem with hazelnuts is their subtle, very delicate flavor, which is easily drowned in a flavor world where umami counts.
The owners of the Loaker family business, who produce wafers with hazelnut filling in South Tyrol, which we all know as Neapolitans, describe the production of competitors’ Neapolitan wafers relatively drastically: 55 percent sugar, hydrogenated fats and a few artificial flavors “And already you have extremely cheap cream, has a lot of weight and low prices per kilogram” (FAZ).
If, on the other hand, one works, as the company Loaker “Without flavorings, without colorants and without preservatives” the price is inevitably higher and the taste more subtle.
It takes some time to get used to the natural taste of hazelnut.
The hazelnut aroma, to which we are accustomed as hazelnut lovers, has its pitfalls. We’ve grown accustomed to what we think is the taste of hazelnut through many packages of Neapolitan wafers, countless nut sundaes, and creamy nut yogurts emblazoned with the image of a fresh hazelnut.
The hazelnut liqueur at the end of a wonderful meal in a Viennese inn, with its reinforcing artificial flavors, tastes the way we have come to imagine hazelnut flavor.
A distillate of hazelnut that does without it seems a little bland at first. The hazelnut ice cream that the ice cream maker in Sicily served us with hazelnuts from the famous Val de Noto was creamy white, not “hazelnut brown”.
Thus, the ice cream had exactly the light color of fresh hazelnut. The brownish ice cream that we usually see in the ice cream counters and to which we have become accustomed is actually only reminiscent of the hazelnut shell in color.
The much finer taste of the hazelnut must first be carefully approached.
It’s worth finding your way back to the original hazelnut flavor. Who of us doesn’t know it: you eat until the bag of pretend hazelnut waffles is empty and with each additional Neapolitan waffle you look for the pleasure that you don’t find until the end. Less is more here, too.
Back to hazelnut flavor
Fortunately, for some years there has been research at the University of Perugia and extensive experiments, with special hazelnut plantations, to find the relationship between soil conditions and other influences that are good for the taste of hazelnuts.
Tuscany seems to offer good foundations not only for excellent wine, but also for hazelnuts. Other extensive hazelnut plantations can be found in Piedmont, Umbria and Basilicata.
If, due to short transport routes, the fumigation of the hazelnuts can then also be dispensed with, the natural taste experience can be found and learned to love with conscious enjoyment.
However, this transforms the hazelnut from a commodity to a luxury good, but with excellent taste.
Roasting always helps
Fresh, high-quality, untreated hazelnuts are rare.
Therefore, we sometimes help ourselves with roasted flavors that give flavor to almost any dish. It is no different with the hazelnuts.
Roasted hazelnuts are an important ingredient in our favorite potato salad. In it are equally fresh ruccola leaves and radiccio di Treviso.
If there is no vegetarian guest, finely sliced ham steamed with spring onions is added, of course a good potato, some warm vegetable broth and a classic vinaigrette.
Like any potato salad, it likes to steep for a little while before being served with the toasted hazelnuts that give this potato salad a delicious crunch.
Photographs © Glorious Me | Cover photo Hazelnut bush Corylus avellana © Harry Adam / Alamy Stock photo Chestnut tree in Kiev © Dmytro Tolmachov / Alamy Stock photo