Saturday, March 06, 2010

Pascha Cheese 2009 Redux

My friend Michele was opining about pascha cheese on Facebook today, which got me thinking about when I need to start my pascha cheese this year. Pascha is in..... gulp.... only four weeks! Now, if you think I'm crazy for thinking so far ahead, then you don't know what an Orthodox Choir Director's life is like during Lent and Holy Week. For example, between Lazarus Saturday (the day before Palm Sunday) and Pascha itself, a time period of only 8 days, I will direct/sing about 17 services, all of which are basically nonstop singing of music which is completely different for each service and sung only once a year. Yep. To prepare a choir for this liturgical marathon takes a number of extra practices during the month prior.... probably five rehearsals in all this year. And don't forget the regular weekly services during Lent: Vespers on Saturday night, Matins and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning, Presanctified Liturgies on Wednesday and Friday evenings. It pays to be organized and to look ahead.

Last year, I used my online friend Rebecca M's pascha cheese recipe with real farmer's cheese, and it was a winner. It set up wonderfully in my little red plastic pascha cheese mold. I think the plastic molds don't work as well as the wooden ones for some reason - maybe the wood wicks the moisture away from the cheese better. Maybe someday I will get a beautiful carved wooden mold, but not this year. This year I will use the red plastic mold and little flower pots for the overflow.

Here is Rebecca's original recipe so that I don't lose it, along with her comments:

Sure -- my version is a raw egg recipe. I've never had an issue with this, but I've begun to worry that I should shift it a bit. I'm considering trying making the egg yolks into a custard and cooking them that way -- but I hesitate to wing it with a batch the size I make. Although, I got much, much less careful about being exact with this recipe when I read somewhere that the butter and cream and egg yolks are in the recipe to compensate for the fact that the cheese they use in Russia is much higher in fat -- so it's just basically taking farmers cheese and fattening it up. With all of those caveats, here's the recipe.

Rebecca's Sirnaya Pascha

In a large bowl, put:

3 lbs of farmer’s cheese

Break it up with a spoon or potato masher (or pass it through a sieve if you are both a perfectionist and a masochist).

In a separate large bowl:

12 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar

Beat until pale and ribbon forms.


1 tspn vanilla extract
1 tspn almond extract
1 cup heavy cream

Beat for a minute or two.


1 pound butter (melted and cooled)

Add the cheese to the egg mixture.

Add nuts and dry fruit as desired:

1/2 cup crushed, thinly sliced almonds
3/4 cup yellow raisins
[other dried fruit according to personal preference]

Line a large flower pot or wooden mold with cheese cloth. Fill with the sirnaya pascha. Cover with a dish, weight down, set in a bowl (to catch liquid that drains) and leave it until ready to serve.

(Best if prepared 2 days in advance)


Michele said...

Ah ha! I come here and find myself mentioned!

And when you're a choir member, you need to plan ahead, too! I'm planning on making my kulich on Holy Thursday - I have the day off from work and we do the Vesperal Liturgy at 7 am.

Did you order the plastic Pascha mold online? I think I found it...

Michele said...

Also, it is possible to reduce this recipe? With it being just me, I don't need a ton.

And I assume I can do this *without* a mixer (I tend to keep my kitchen on the simple side!)?

missingbecheery said...

Last year, I think I halved the recipe. Go ahead and quarter the recipe and it should be just fine! This is not one of those exacting recipes where the chemistry of it all counts, so if it doesn't quarter exactly perfectly, it will be ok!

Another thing - I added a "search this blog" widget, so you can easily find any recipe, such as all my pascha cheese recipes where I talk about the various ways I have flavored mine. I hope that's helpful to you!

LousyCook said...

I use another recipe, but it also calls for raw eggs, which I'm not completely comfortable with (and I could not find pasteurized eggs no matter how much I looked.) But I had a similar thought that you did about trying to make a custard or something.

The recipe I use calls for 3 egg yolks and 1 egg beaten till fluffy. I halved the recipe because as written it makes enough to feed an army, so from there: I ditched the whole beaten egg entire, and put two egg yolks in a prep dish. I then put the prep dish in a small sauce pan with about 1/4 inch of water and heated over low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, being careful not to end up with scrambled eggs.

Haven't tried it, but I'll let you know in about 18 hours!

Here's the full recipe if anyone is interested:

3/4 lb farmer's cheese
3/4 lb cream cheese
1/4 lb butter
1/4 lb powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 heavy cream, whipped
1/2 tsp vanilla
Zest from one orange:

1. Run farmer's cheese through sieve, add pinch of salt, set aside.
2. Cream butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar.
3. Put 2 egg yolks in a prep dish and beat. Put prep dish in small sauce pan filled with about 1/4 - 1/2 inch water. Heat over medium heat, stirring the yolks frequently. The idea is to get the yolks to be something like a custard, where they coat the back of a spoon. You want to cook them gently and for long enough to make them safe, but be sure not to "cook" them, so you don't end up with partially scrambled eggs.
4. Add egg yolks to cream/butter/sugar mixture. Incorporate thoroughly.
5. Add cream/butter/sugar/egg mixture to farmer's cheese and incorporate thoroughly.
6. Fold in whipped cream.
7. Add vanilla and orange zest.
8. Drain in cheesecloth.

Blessed Pascha to all!