Yuri!!! On Ice is so, so good. It made me laugh, cry and shout for joy. I haven’t been this emotionally invested in a show (much less an animated series) in a very long time.
For those unfamiliar: Yuri!!! On Ice is the story of Katsuki Yuuri, a Japanese figure skater recovering from a major loss in a recent championship. Through a series of fortunate events, he ends up with a new coach: Victor Nikiforov, his ultimate skating idol. Together they attempt to inject new life into Yuuri’s career.
On paper, I shouldn’t like this show. I’m not into sports anime, or real-life figure skating for that matter. However, this show manages to make the sport interesting all while presenting a same-sex relationship without falling into a single one of the problematic tropes found in other anime.
If I had to pinpoint one thing that makes this show great, it’s this: there are no bad guys. Not a single character is painted as a villian, regardless of how competitive they may become. Everyone in this show is complex, passionate and working toward their individual dreams. The drama comes from each character working hard to live up to their potential, so it’s impossible not to root for them.
Before I gush any more, let’s talk about the dessert. Early in the show, we meet Yuri Plisetsky (yes, another Yuri!), a young skater from Russia that follows Victor to Japan. Yuri’s something of a skating prodigy, and he’s got the attitude to match. It becomes clear pretty quickly that he’s softie behind that grumpy exterior.
Yuri’s fans love wearing cat ears and depicting him as a cat. It does, in fact, seem like Yuri adores cats. He has a pet cat, he totally flips over a tiger sweater, and he’s often sporting kitty merchandise. His personality is also pretty cat-like, so he felt like a very appropriate character to be inspired by for Nyanuary.
Since Yuri’s from Russia, I wanted to draw in some Russian inspiration. I ended up modifying a recipe for Zefir (Зефи́р), a Russian dessert that’s similar to marshmallows. Since Zefir are often made with apple puree, it wasn’t too hard to change things up and make an orange variation. As an homage to both Yuri’s love for cats and his disposition, I decorated the Zefir to look like grumpy ‘lil’ tigers.
YURIO’S ORANGE ZEFIR
Yields: Approximately 12 large zefir.
Timing notes: Start these a day or even two ahead of time, as they have to dry for a while.
4 large egg whites
400g (2 cups) sugar
160ml (2/3 cup) water
2 packets (5 tsp or 14g) powdered gelatin
350ml (1 1/2 cups) orange juice
3 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 orange
Orange food coloring
Melted tempered dark chocolate OR melted dark chocolate candy melts (roughly 20 oz)
Melted white candy melts
Pink powdered or oil-based gel food coloring
Clear liquor (vodka, triple sec, whatever you have)
1. In a small bowl, stir the gelatin into 60ml (1/4 cup) of the water and set aside. Fill the orange juice into a saucepan and boil, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes or until the volume has reduced to 160ml (2/3 cup). Add the lemon juice and gelatin to the hot orange juice and stir to combine.
2. In a clean saucepan, combine the remaining water with the sugar and put over medium heat. Boil the sugar without stirring until the syrup reaches 240℉ on a candy thermomenter. While the sugar is cooking, begin beating your whites on low speed in a stand mixer. The goal is to have the egg whites reach medium peaks by the time the sugar reaches 240℉. (For a super easy tip on determining the right temperature without a thermometer, check out this short video I made!)
3. Remove the syrup from the heat. Turn the stand mixer to high speed and carefully pour the hot syrup into the egg whites as they mix, taking care to avoid the beaters. Beat for about 30 seconds before gradually pouring in the orange juice mix. This will make things look pretty liquid. Add in some orange food coloring, little by little, until you like the color. Turn the mixer to the highest speed you can manage without splashing the zephir everywhere and allow it to beat until the mix has cooled to room temperature and reached medium-stiff peaks.
4. While the mixture is beating, line a 12×15 sheet pan with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment. Once the mixture has reached medium-stiff peaks, dump it into the parchment-lined pan and spread it into as flat and even of a layer as you can. This will be the bottom of our zephir, so perfection isn’t necessary. Allow to set overnight.
5. The next day, prep a cookie sheet by dusting it with an even (and fairly thick) layer of powdered sugar. Invert the sheet of zefir onto the powdered sugar and peel back the parchment. Dust the top of the zefir sheet with powdered sugar as well.
6. Lightly grease a lion head cookie cutter and use it to punch out the tiger head shapes. Re-dust with powdered sugar if necessary, then allow the tiger heads to dry for another 2 hours.
7. Put the melted chocolate into a fairly deep bowl and begin dipping as follows: gently brush any excess powdered sugar off of your zefir, then place the zefir on the surface of the chocolate. Use your fingers to push it in so that the chocolate covers the side. Now, using a fork, lift the zefir out of the chocolate from the bottom. Lightly drag the fork over the sides of the bowl to get rid of any excess chocolate, then set the zefir onto a sheet of parchment paper to set. Repeat for all the tiger heads. Once they’ve set, use a knife to tidy the bottom edges if necessary.
8. Grab a piece of cardstock and use it to make templates for the snout and ears. (Here’s a reference template if you need some help!) Cut out the inner ear, snout, cheek and eye shapes. Now, on a piece of paper, use this template to draw a guide with dark pen: 2 brown eyes, 2 pink cheeks, 2 pink inner ears and 1 white snout for every lion zefir you’ve cut out. Place a sheet of parchment over this guide. Dye a portion of your white candy melts pink (I actually did two pinks, but you don’t have to do this), then fill them into a small piping bag with a snipped tip and pipe the chocolate onto the parchment, using the inner ear and cheek outlines you drew as a guide. If necessary, use a toothpick to neaten things. Now fill white chocolate into a small piping bag and pipe in the same way over the snout guide. Finally, use the dark chocolate to pipe the eye shapes.
9. Peel the face shapes from the parchment. Using some white chocolate, add a white dot to each eyeball. The tops of your zefir will look a bit powdery due to the sugar, so carefully brush them with a light coat of liquor to make them look more vividly orange. Using the dark chocolate, pipe 3 stripes onto each side and the top of the lion heads. Adhere the eyes, snout and inner ear using a dab of chocolate. Fill more dark chocolate into a bag and snip a very small/narrow hole into the tip, then use this to pipe the nose and mouth.
10. To finish off the tigers, adhere the little pink cheeks. Enjoy!
These tasted even better than I imagined they would! Between the concentrated orange juice and the zest, these had an incredibly fresh flavor. The texture is a bit firmer than American marshmallow, but it’s still a melt-in-your-mouth kind of candy. I hope you’ll give it a try!
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