Sunday, March 29, 2020

Celebrate This Easter With a Heritage Polish Easter Cheesecake

Happy Easter – “Wesołego Alleluja”

Are you bored yet?   Have you started thinking about your family’s celebratory Easter meal yet?  It’ll be a bit more challenging this year since we’re staying close to home and can’t always find all the groceries we need.  But with the extra time on our hands, it’s a great opportunity to explore our Polish roots and try a new Polish heritage recipe.
 Traditionally the Easter meal is a mid-day, room-temperature feast served after church.  Or this year, it may be church-on-line or on U Tube or some other social media platform.  Our family’s Easter menu has been pretty much the same for over a century, dating back at least to Peter’s great grandparents in Warsaw in the early 1900’s. The menu has been honored through six generations, including Peter’s emigration to Canada in the 1950’s, through our marriage, kids, and a 10-year old grandchild.  Lucy already has an adventuresome palate, is learning to cook, and last year loved some of our traditional Easter dishes.  She won’t be with us this year but we may still drop off some of this delicious cheese cake on their doorstep.   

So today we want to share with you a very traditional recipe for a Polish Easter cheesecake that goes back several generations.   It’s absolutely delicious, a perfect ending for your Easter meal, and not hard to make if you follow the recipe exactly.  And all the ingredients should be available in a regular grocery store – even in this time of shortages.

Yields 32 portions
1/3     cup butter
     cups flour
½       cup confectioners’ sugar
     teaspoons baking powder
1        egg
3        tablespoons sour cream
¾       cup seedless raspberry jam

Using the paddle attachment of a standing mixer, cut the butter into the flour until it forms coarse crumbs.   Mix the egg with sour cream and add, then add the sugar and baking powder.  Mix until all the ingredients come together into a soft dough.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out 2/3 of the dough to fit a 9x12-inch pan, buttered and sprinkled with bread crumbs.  Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes.  The crust will be only partially baked.  Remove from oven and cool.  Spread the raspberry jam over the partially baked crust.

Note:  if you wish to make a traditional decorative lattice on top of the cheesecake, reserve the remaining third of the dough and keep it cold until you are ready. If you’ve chosen to forgo the lattice, use the entire dough ball in the baking pan.

Cheese Filling
6        eggs
     cups confectioners’ sugar
     teaspoons vanilla extract
2        teaspoons lemon zest
2        teaspoons orange zest
2/3     cup unsalted butter, softened
     tablespoons flour
     pounds ricotta or farmer’s[PJW1]  cheese
½       cup candied orange rind, finely chopped
1        egg white, beaten

Using a standing mixer, beat the eggs with the confectioners’ sugar for 5 minutes at high speed.  Add the vanilla, and lemon and orange zests.  Combine the cheese with the butter and flour and add to the egg and sugar mixture.  Fold in the candied orange rind.  Spread mixture over the partially baked crust and raspberry jam.

Bake for 50 to 65 minutes or until the cake is firm.  Remove and cool.

To decorate the top with lattice, remove the cake from the oven after the first 30 minutes, or as soon as the filling is firm enough to support the dough strips without sinking. 

Form the remaining dough into thin, even rolls (like long straws) and place them diagonally across the top of the cheesecake in a criss-cross pattern.  Brush the latticework lightly with a beaten egg white.

Note:  for aesthetics, try to lay out the lattice rolls evenly parallel to each other, but don’t worry if they break or don’t quite stretch to the edge.  Stretch and seal the breaks and they’ll be just fine after baking – a few imperfections add rustic character to your cake. 

Return the cheesecake to the oven and continue baking for an additional 20-30 minutes until the lattice is golden brown and the cheesecake is firm.

This is a great time for exploring your Polish roots by trying some new heritage recipes.  Our books each have 45 traditional Polish dishes that have been handed down from our family or our friends’ families.  They’ve been updated for modern kitchens, so no more “pinch” of this or “glass” of that.  And each has been extensively tested, much to the delight of our friends and neighbors.  Each recipe is accompanied by beautiful photography. Each book contains poignant family stories about growing up Polish. And each book is full of helpful hints and tips to help make your dishes successful.  The books are available autographed and personally dedicated, on our website (in the U.S.) or a bit cheaper from any online bookseller such as Amazon (worldwide).  Your family will love you for it. 

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