Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Diane's Perfect Pascha Cheese

This year I gave up on my search for the perfect Pascha cheese recipe, the one that mimics my friend Diane's. Instead, I asked her nicely and she generously shared her recipe. Hers is the best that I've ever had. The BEST. She told me that for the last few years she has crushed ripe strawberries and folded them in, and that everyone loves that version as well.

Last year, I made three flavors: vanilla, hazlenut and mocha. The hazelnut was a huge hit, and the mocha one was a distant second. The vanilla one was almost untouched. So, this year, I decided to make a LOT of hazelnut pascha cheese, which I did. I also did an orange-almond flavor reminiscent of my Italian grandmother's traditional Easter dessert pie, which we called pizza dolce. Its yummy!
Here is Diane's basic recipe:
5 lbs bakers cheese
3 C heavy cream, whipped
1 2/3 C softened butter
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla bean
4 1/2 C sugar
Whip cream and set aside. Cream butter and sugar thoroughly. Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the yummy seeds. Add the seeds and the vanilla and mix well. Add the cheese and beat until mixture is smooth, without any curds showing. Fold in the whipped cream. Line a large pascha cheese mold or clean flowerpot with cheesecloth and drain mixture for a couple of days, but at least overnight.
Notes from Diane: Diane's mold is HUGE. Its probably a foot high. She has also been known to freeze some of this with no loss of quality. Diane tells me that she has recently been crushing some ripe strawberries and adding them, and everyone loves it. Ricotta can also be used if you can't get farmers cheese, but decrease the sugar to about 3 3/4 C.
My notes: I halved Diane's recipe, using 2 1/2 lbs of whole milk ricotta cheese. I just can't egt farmers cheese here in the deep South. Sigh.... Half was flavored with hazelnut coffee flavoring syrup and went back into the ricotta tub with some jabs from an ice pick on the bottom. One quarter was left with the vanilla flavoring. The other quarter was flavored with almond coffee flavoring syrup and some finely grated orange rind. I made this a week ahead and set it to drain on Monday, April 2nd. I think that when you use ricotta, it needs about double the normal amount of time to drain.


Genevieve said...

THanks for posting this. I might try it. I had the most delicious Pascha cheese many years ago....I would love to learn this delight!

George said...

Blessed Holy Week to you!

I wanted to mention that I actually tried Diane's recipe last year for our Agape breakfast following Pascha service and firstly was asked where on earth I managed to find the recipe and strictly ordered to ensure that it is made every year going forward. In fact, it sorta sabotaged my efforts to get some of the recipes of the older Russian ladies in the congregation as they're all concerned I will use theirs instead of this one! Go figure, huh?

Subdeacon George
Seattle, WA

DGGrekoff said...

What? No eggs? Interesting, but I think I'll try it.

Anonymous said...

How many grapefruit sized cheeses do you think this would make?

TeddyG said...

Denise - how much of the coffee flavoring syrup do you use? Have you tried any other flavors? As much as I would like the almond, I won't be able to use it in my house.

missingbecheery said...

Dear Anonymous, I would say that this makes the equivalent of 3 good-sized grapefruits.

Dear Teddy, I usually flavor half or a third of this recipe at a time, so the amount of coffee syrup is relatively small. Start with 1 or 2 TBS and taste. When you use the coffee syrup, cut down on the sugar a bit, because the syrup is super sweet.

I made the farmer's cheese yesterday and it drained overnight. It's VERY firm and dry - I only got about 1.75 lbs, so I'll need to add a bit more liquid and perhaps a little more butter to my pascha cheese.
I'm making my pascha cheese today, splitting it into two flavors, the orange almond and probably the traditional vanilla. Tonight, I will set my kulich to rise, and tomorrow afternoon between the vesperal liturgy in the morning and Holy Friday matins in the evening, I'll bake it.

Blessed Holy Week to everyone!

Denise aka What I'm Cooking Now

missingbecheery said...

About other flavors I've tried: I'm half Italian, and my grandmother made superb panettone, so one year I made a panettone flavored cheese: butter, anise, honey and lemon flavors. Oh my, it was delicious! However, the Russians and Americans at church hated it. Anise - either you love it or you hate it. I've made mocha flavor with instant coffee and chocolate powder, nutella flavor with instant coffee and hazelnut coffee syrup, orange & chocolate with grated orange rind and chocolate powder. Hm... I might try something new this year - I'll have a look at the coffee flavorings at Cost Plus this morning. Maybe something apricot or peach? I could fold in some minced fruit too... hm... we'll see.

I like using the flavorings rather than extracts because the extract flavor seems to get stronger as time goes on, and it can have a weird, alcohol aftertaste if you are using a lot. For some reason, the coffee syrups don't do that, and they have a strong flavor in the cheese.