Get the Recipe
While on a recent press trip to Basque country, I stumbled out of a tour bus with a group of fellow writers. We quickly went shopping for polvorones, ogling the pastries and cookies at the counter of the store. A white block of something which looked like meringue caught our eye. The shop owner didn't offer much in the way of explaining what the history and construction of this "pastel ruso" (Russian cake) were, simply saying it was meringue with butter. This begged a, "¿Disculpe?" Butter? I needed to verify that my Nicaraguan Spanish wasn't breaking down and I was misunderstanding her Spanish Spanish accent. Could this be real? Meringue and butter? It sounded very odd, but we were game to try.
The shop woman took a block of pastel and wrapped it in orange-and-white parchment. We found an empty park bench and unwrapped it. It looked so simple, yet we were perplexed. And then a first crumbly, buttery, confecioners sugar-dusted bite explained everything: it was sublime.
This recipe is an adaptation of the pastel ruso. Instead of a dry meringue, I've opted for a chewy pavlova-like version. The butter between the layers is an approximation of the original: softened butter is whipped with an egg yolk and confectioners' sugar, then spread generously between the layers. The result: a light, crisp, chewy meringue with inexplicably creamy, lightly sweetened swirls of butter.