Christmas is almost here, and there is another Christmas foodie adventure to embark on before the big day arrives!
Scrolling through YouTube randomly on a cozy day at home, I noticed a video of a Russian ballet company’s performance of The Nutcracker. The Nutcracker brings special memories of my family’s Christmas festivities – I remember watching a Nutcracker-themed pantomime and parade that featured the Queensland Ballet in Brisbane’s King George Square back in 2013 (and yes, the camels were present too!) Hence, I decided to relive the magic of watching The Nutcracker by enjoying a bit of the ballet performance (its full duration is roughly 1 ½ hours).
As I watched the ballet dancers bring the story to life, I realized this was clearly a sign that I had to grab a block of Russian chocolate that had been sitting in my snack stash.
The Russians celebrate Christmas on 7th January. Nevertheless, I thought it’ll be fun to add a bit of Russia to my festive snacking session. While it is absolutely snowy and chilly there, cities such as St Petersburg and Moscow have magical vibes and festive markets right now!
Admiring the illustrations on the wrapper, I began wondering: are cheesecakes popular in Russia? With a piqued curiosity, I stepped into my sleuthing elf boots for another sleuthing session just in time for Christmas.
Dairy products are integral in Russian cuisine – they love cheeses and milk. In my previous Russian chocolate post, I learnt a bit about cheese pancakes named syrniki. There are other cheese bakes that many might consider as cheesecakes, and one in particular appeared as soon as I began sleuthing.
A traditional cheesecake called zapekanka immediately popped up. Like syrniki, the zapekanka is adored as a breakfast food. Variations of recipes exist for this cheesecake, but some of the common ingredients include sour cream, semolina, and vanilla. The selected cheese for this cake varies between bakers, but tvorog – or ‘farmer’s cheese’ – seems to be a popular and traditional pick, followed by ricotta. Some bakers include dried fruits in their cake batters, while others add jam on top.
Privet (Hello), Chocolate!
Alpen Gold is a chocolate brand that is available in shops in Russia. Its chocolates (or at least the ones I found here at my local shops in the Lion City) are made in Russia too. One of Alpen Gold’s chocolate ranges feature pairings of flavored creams with Oreo cookies as fillings in their milk chocolates. I tasted their peanut butter and Oreo chocolate bar previously, and now I’m finally tasting the cheesecake version.
The chocolate has a cheesecake-ish aroma as soon as it was unveiled. The chocolate bar looks identical to the peanut butter Oreo version I tasted a while back. The chocolate pieces come in 4 different designs – Alpen Gold’s logo, a smiley face, a radiant sun, and something written in Russian.
While dissecting the chocolate, I noticed that its filling matches the cookies and cream aesthetic to a ‘T’. The cream’s color is close – if not identical – to regular cream. I reckon this is because the cheesecake they are inspired by shares a similar shade to the ‘cream’ part of cookies and cream. While admiring the cream filling, I had a feeling that they are attempting to replicate cream cheese-based cheesecakes. I couldn’t wait to have a taste to find out!
In my very first bite of the chocolate, I felt like I was munching a cheesecake twist to the classic cookies and cream chocolate bars. The coat of milk chocolate is absolutely delicious, and its taste leans to British and continental European chocolates. It is also delicate yet decadent at the same time.
Oreo cookie pieces fill the chocolate too. The cookie bits bring Oreo’s signature cookie flavor that everyone knows and loves, and they retain their crunchiness even though they are mixed with the cream.
I enjoyed the cheesecake cream too, which is smooth and is a nice textural contrast to the Oreo cookies. Cheesecake’s flavor shines in every bite – it’s just right and not overly cheesy for my palate. It kind of echoes the flavor of Oreo cheesecakes, but in the form of a chocolate block. As for mini mystery of their chosen cheese, my guess is correct! Cream cheese’s flavor is indeed present, as it has flavor tones of regular cream cheese-based cheesecakes. And, based on the ingredients list, it turns out that dried cream cheese is one of the ingredients!
To me, Oreos and milk chocolate are a beautiful match made in sweet tooth heaven, and adding the cheesecake cream to the equation makes the experience deliciously unique. It definitely fits my festive snack stash’s snug vibe with all of the familiar flavors.
Have a very merry and blessed Christmas, dear friends! Happy Holidays to one and all!