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.