Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pascha Cheese 2008

In my never-ending quest for the perfect Pascha Cheese recipe, this year I tried the recipe from Larousse Gastronomique circa 1938, slightly adapted. I tried this recipe because it uses cottage cheese rather than farmer's cheese, pot cheese or even ricotta - all of which are outrageously expensive this year. Fresh Market will gladly order me the first two, at $8.50 and $9.00 per pound!!!! Yikes!

Once again, I broke the recipe into thirds and flavored them according to my own tastes. The most popular flavor last year at the Agape meal following the Paschal liturgy was the orange and almond flavor which is a riff on the famous Italian Easter dessert pie, Pizza Dolce. There is something about those flavors that mean Pascha to me and makes my Italian heart happy! I was feeling particularly Italian, so the second flavor is chocolate and hazelnut, which I'm calling Nutella. Original, eh? Since I had a theme going here, I decided to make the third portion to mimic my most beloved Grammie's pannettone - butter, lemon, honey and anisette. Oh yeah!

So, this year's flavors are: Pizza Dolce, Nutella and Pannettone! I'll let you know how they went over on Sunday!

Here is the basic Larousse recipe which I adapted to ingredients available to me:
4 lbs creamed cottage cheese (or 3 lbs dry curd cottage cheese)
1/2 C sour cream
1/4 lb salted butter, room temperature
2/3 C white sugar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Prepare creamed cottage cheese by placing in a fine mesh colander and rinsing under running water until the water is completely clear. Place the rinsed cheese curds in a large square of cheese cloth, tie tightly, and place back in the colander. Place the colander in a bowl to catch the drippings. Weigh the cheese curds down with a large can of tomatoes and set in the fridge for 2 days. At the end of the two days, the curds should be very, very dry and there should be a lot of water in the bowl. Discard the water. If you can get the dry curds, you can omit this step.

Place the dried curds into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add the sugar and whiz some more. Then add the sour cream, vanilla and the butter and whiz for a couple of minutes until it is perfectly smooth and creamy. You can stop at this point and set it to drain as one large pascha cheese, adding fruit and nuts as you desire.

I then divided the vanilla mixture back into the three large cottage cheese containers for individual flavoring

Pizza Dolce: 1 scant tsp finely grated orange zest + 3/4 tsp almond flavoring

Nutella: 1 1/2 tsp hazelnut flavored coffee flavoring syrup (Torani brand is what I have) + 2 - 3 Tbs chocolate syrup

Pannettone: 1/2 tsp butter flavoring (I would have used more butter but I didn't have any since we are vegans!), 1/4 - 1/2 tsp anise flavoring, 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest, + 1 1/2 Tbs honey

To see my prior years pascha cheese recipes, go here and here.

I'll take a photo of this year's batch later on when DD is home from school, since the camera was last seen in her hands.....


Mimi said...

I've never attempted it, I just eat it at the Potluck!

Best wishes!

H and S said...

This sounds amazing... but what is it? is it dessert? is it a snack? is it very "cheesy"? I've never heard of it before. Do children like it?

Joan said...

I have used this recipe, found in the newspaper, for 25 years. A aquaintance who is a chef liked it enough to add to his repetroire. This is an uncooked version. Ideally, do make it on Holy Friday to let it drain and set. It serves about 12, very rich so serving size is small.

16 oz. cream cheese
2 cups small curd cottage cheese
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup mixed candied fruit, finely diced
1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, cooled slightly
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to firm peaks

To garnish:
2 tablespoons red candied cherries, slivered evenly or
2 Tablespoons dark raisins

Line a new, (or old one reserved for this purpose)clean 6-inch clay flowerpot or similar size carved wooden pashka mold with a double layer of cheese cloth, about 2 feet in length. In food processor, blender or with mixer, beat cream cheese until soft and creamy. I prefer the food processor. It makes the smoothest mixture. Gradually add cottage cheese, sugar and vanilla and beat to a fluffy smooth mixture. Gradually add melted butter, beating at medium speed. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl, if not already in one. Stir in fruits, raisins and almonds. Fold in whipped cream.
Fill mold with pashka. There may be a cup or so extra. Tap pot on counter to settle mixture. Fold cloth over top of pot. Place on a platter, right side up, in the refrigerator. This recipe doesn't drain very much. To serve, invert on serving platter and carefully peel off cheese cloth. Garnish one side of the pashka with XB (Slavonic acronym for Christ is risen) using the candied cherry slivers or dark raisins.
I like to serve with fresh strawberries. Clean the clay pot well with hotwater and baking soda. Let air dry for several days before storing away for next year. Nice wooden molds are hard to come by even in Russia. I have had my daughter scour St. Petersburg this summer where she is studying for 6 weeks and no luck. They sell a red plastic version there and she says I wouldn't want it. Plastic may be perceived as more sanitary than wood but it also won't absorb the moisture as wood does. I have seen one wooden one on the internet.

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