Food With Friends: Bonnie Morales of Kachka

Feb 04, 2020

The first-generation American daughter of Belarusian immigrants, chef Bonnie Morales (née Frumkin) grew up in Chicago in a large family that brought with them the distinctive culture of food and drink of the former Soviet Union. In 2014, Bonnie and her husband Israel Morales opened Kachka, their dream restaurant devoted to the food that Bonnie grew up with, inspired by Russia and former Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and Uzbekistan. Kachka has received accolades from publications such as Bon Appétit, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vogue, and Food & Wine. Morales’ first cookbook, Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking, co-authored by Deena Prichep, was released in 2017 to critical acclaim.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters: Hi Bonnie! Thanks for sharing your ponchiki recipe with us! How do you usually take your coffee?

Bonnie Morales: That really depends on my mood or the weather outside, though I am partial to Turkish-style coffee with a good amount of turbinado.

SCR: Tell us a little bit about how you developed this recipe.

BM: Ponchiki are traditional Russian donuts, usually made with farmers cheese in the dough. A few years ago we had a few more apples from a trip to Hood River than we knew what to do with, and thought it would be great to incorporate them into this classic fritter.

SCR: Any advice for lovers this Valentine's Day?

BM: Honestly, I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day, so my advice would be to pick some other random day this month and surprise your special someone then instead! I think random acts of kindness are so much sweeter.

yields about 4 dozen fritters

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup kefir
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup thick applesauce
1 cup tvorog (farmer’s cheese, available in Russian markets)
3 small apples, peeled and diced in ⅓-inch cubes
High-heat oil for frying, such as peanut or canola
Lingonberry jam (optional) for serving

In a large bowl, mix the thyme and sugar, pressing them together to bruise the thyme leaves and scent the sugar (you can use a muddler, a mortar and pestle, or a wooden spoon). Set the sugar aside.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder, and set aside.

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or large bowl with a wooden spoon, beat together the kefir, eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and apple puree until smooth and uniform. Add the flour mixture and the farmer’s cheese and mix for just a few seconds — you want the flour to be fully incorporated, but you should still see small lumps of farmer cheese. The batter will be fairly stiff. Fold in the diced apple.

Pour a few inches of oil into a large, heavy pot (like a Dutch oven), and heat the oil to 360° Fahrenheit (a pinch of flour should sizzle, but not darken immediately). While the oil is heating, line a cookie sheet with paper towels.

When the oil is hot, using a small scoop or two spoons, scoop out 2 tablespoon lumps of dough to form fritters, and slide into the hot oil. Repeat until the pot is mostly full, leaving some room for them to expand. Fry, turning as needed, until the fritters are a light golden brown, about 4-5 minutes total. When the ponchiki are cooked, skim them out of the hot oil with a spider or slotted spoon, let them drain on the paper towels for about 30 seconds, and then tip them into the bowl with the sugar (this is necessary to drain off excess oil, which will keep the sugar from clumping). Shake the ponchiki around to coat them evenly with the sugar. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve hot, with lingonberry jam if desired.

*Excerpted from the book KACHKA by Bonnie Frumkin Morales. Copyright © 2017 by Bonnie Frumkin Morales. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. *