|Place of origin||Poland|
|Main ingredients||chocolate, agar|
|Cookbook: Ptasie Mleczko Media: Ptasie Mleczko|
Ptasie Mleczko (Polish) is a soft chocolate-covered candy filled with soft meringue (or milk soufflé). In Russian it is called ptichye moloko (птичье молоко) and in Romanian lapte de pasăre. All these names literally mean "bird's milk" or crop milk, a substance somewhat resembling milk, produced by certain birds to feed their young. However, this is not origin of the name; rather, ptasie mleczko is also a Polish idiom meaning "an unobtainable delicacy" (compare English: "hen's teeth"; also, a similar idiom can be found in Bulgarian – тук/там и от пиле мляко има, meaning "even bird milk can be found here/there").
In Poland it is one of the most recognized chocolate confectionery having exclusive rights in Poland for the name — other confectionery producers also make similar candies but named differently (e.g. Alpejskie mleczko, "Alpine milk"). Nonetheless, Ptasie mleczko is often used to refer similar candies with vanilla, cream, lemon or chocolate taste. The phrase Ptasie mleczko is a registered trademark in the EU, number 00334752291.
In Russia ptichye moloko is both a popular candy and a famous soufflé cake. The brand was introduced in the Soviet times and is nowadays used by the companies operating the factories which produced these candies and cakes since that time. The candies are also produced in other post-Soviet states, in particular in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova.
History and variations
The origin of the name has been attributed by Berdy to old Slavic folk tales, where the beautiful princess tests the ardor and resourcefulness of her suitor by sending him out into the wilderness to find and bring back the one fantastical luxury she does not have: bird's milk. The concept of avian milk in fact stretches back to ancient Greece, when Aristophanes uses ὀρνίθων γάλα (Greek "ornithon gala", the milk of the birds) as a proverbial rarity (Ar. Vesp. 508). A similar expression lac gallinaceum (Latin for "chicken's milk") was also later used by Petronius (38.1) and Pliny the Elder (Plin. Nat. pr. 24) as a term for a great rarity.
In Poland, Jan Wedel, owner of the E. Wedel Company, developed the first Ptasie mleczko in 1936. Wedel's inspiration for the name of the confectionery came from his voyages to France, when he asked himself: "What could bring greater happiness to a man who already has everything?" Then he thought: "Maybe only bird milk."
In Russia, ptichye moloko was originally a type of candy introduced in 1967 in Vladivostok and in 1968 by the Rot Front factory in Moscow. It became a hit, and mass production was started in 1975 by the Krasny Oktyabr ("Red October") confectionery factory in Moscow. In 1978, the popular candy was transformed into a cake by Vladimir Guralnik in Moscow's Praga Restaurant. This was a light sponge cake filled with an airy soufflé and topped with chocolate glaze. A distinct feature of the Russian recipe is the usage of agar-agar instead of gelatin as a thickening agent which withstands the high temperature needed to reach the optimum soufflé consistency. The recipe was quickly copied by other restaurants in Moscow, such as Moskva, Budapesht, and Ukraina. In the 1980s, a special factory for ptichye moloko cakes was built in the Novye Cheryomushky district in the south of Moscow. Both the cake and the candy versions of ptichye moloko are widely available to this date in supermarkets and specialty stores in Moscow and other parts of Russia.
In Moldova, Lapte de pasăre (also "bird's milk" in Romanian) is the brand name of a similar candy made by the Bucuria Candy Factory. Despite the name, the candy is not to be confused with the Romanian traditional dessert lapte de pasăre.
- Candy That's Dandy. Rick Kogan. Chicago Tribune. MAGAZINE; ZONE: C; SIDEWALKS.; Pg. 6. February 11, 2001.
- Berdy, Michele A. (February 1, 2007). "Ptichye Moloko". The Moscow Times.
- Dear Valentine. The Warsaw Voice. January 31, 2007. A2007021256-13D17-GNW.
- Ptasie mleczko
- Mitlyng, Viktoria (May 22, 1997). "Cake Weighs Heavily in Russian Life". The Moscow Times.
- A Russian Fairy Tale Cake: Story and recipe on Russia Beyond the Headlines, 25 October 2007.
- Люди смотрят на меня, как на космонавта!, Вечерняя Москва, 29 сентября 2006 (An interview with Vladimir Guralnik. Vechernyaya Moskva, 29 September 2006, in Russian).