This Famous Russian Dessert Turns Apples Into Marshmallows

Despite their freshness and nutritional benefits, whole fruits can have a tough time competing with fruit-forward candy and other sweets. After all, who would choose to eat a whole apple or banana when they could instead enjoy the fruits chopped up into delicious and sugary desserts, like apple pie or banana pudding? Another example of a fruity dessert sounding much more tempting than the fruit itself: pastila, a traditional Russian snack that Atlas Obscura describes as apple-flavored marshmallow.

However, BBC Travel argues that this comparison sells the Russian delight short. It notes pastila as being curiously lighter than marshmallow — and more elegant. It also touts the simplicity of the dish, which is made using only apples, eggs, and sugar (and an inevitable round of finger-licking, of course). Low in calories but very high in effort, this dessert has come back to the forefront of Russian cuisine after being forgotten for decades. Here's how pastila became so popular and, most importantly, how it's made.

Pastila is a centuries-old delicacy that's baked for hours

BBC Travel reports that pastila was created in 16th-century Russia as a way to utilize booming apple harvests, providing people with a tasty treat to keep their spirits high during tough winter months. It was most famously made in Kolomna, where some remarked that its people had figured out how to transform "apples into clouds," until war wreaked havoc on the town in 1914. The dessert became a relic of the past until the 21st century, when some Russians began to uncover their country's historic cuisine.

Pastila's recipe is simple but time-consuming. First, the apples must be baked until soft. Next, they should be peeled, cored, and blended, explains Atlas Obscura. This apple puree is whisked thoroughly for several minutes with egg whites and granulated sugar until this turns into a foam, which is poured into a paper-lined tray and baked at a low temperature for four to six hours. Once this has solidified and cooled, it is sliced and stacked into layers with a little bit of reserved foam spread between each piece. After a final bake, it is decorated with powdered sugar, cut into rectangular pieces, and enjoyed in its soft, gummy, apple-scented glory.