Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Plan for Cheesecake

We like to make plans. We plan our future and we think that everything will happen the way we want. We think that our lives are in our hands and that we can decide about everything. We are convinced that we will always be in a good health, and nothing will change for worse. We get frustrated easily if something does not work out.

My mum visited us for Easter. She brought a lot of Polish specialties, and curd cheese - "twaróg" (I can get it in Paris, as well, in stores carrying Polish food and specialties, but this one straight from Poland is better and much cheaper). Some time ago I decided to bake a Kraków – style cheesecake ("sernik krakowski"), although I am not a great amateur of cakes. And probably it is a pity, because in Poland to baking and eating cakes is a great tradition.

My mum left on Friday, the 9th. I opened the box of cheese in the late afternoon. It was still good, but on that day it was already late and I planned to bake the cake on the next morning only.

That Saturday, April 10th, I got up later than usual. It was ten o’clock already; I sat down on our comfortable coach, sipping my (instant) coffee with milk, I turned my PC on, and once I opened the Gazeta Wyborcza web page, as I do every morning, I thought that there was something wrong with me. It could not be possible that the governmental plane carrying the Polish President Lech Kaczyński and his wife died in a plane crash close to Smoleńsk in Russia, just like this. It could not be true that they crashed just before visiting Katyń, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet massacre.

“The plane carrying the President and his wife crashed” – I screamed at my husband and his shocked face reflected that indeed, something was wrong with me. But second after second, and minute after minute, once we switched the Polish TV on, we realized, that I was fine and that the plane did crash, that not only the President and his wife died, but also dozens of top officials and the crew members, leaving their families in despair and the nation in a shock. It was not only a horrible truth, but a scary ironic snigger of history. Even though I did not vote for him and his right wing and conservative party “Law and Justice”, I was paralyzed by the scope of the tragedy.

I then forgot about the cheese. Being far away from Poland, I spent nearly the whole weekend in front of TV, watching the news.

On Monday, I realized that the cheese was not good anymore. The plan to bake a cheesecake collapsed. Instead, we made 60 pierogis with potatoes and cheese – using by the way – my new pasta machine I got from my aunt as a birthday gift.

And then suddenly my friend called from Warsaw, announcing that she would be visiting Paris the next day. Thanks to her, I was again offered some fresh curd. I baked the cheesecake on Thursday evening. And on Friday, the sky over the Europe closed because of the volcanic cloud…

The President and his wife were buried last Sunday, in a crypt of the Royal Castle in Kraków.

The official national mourning is finished. And a politician from the President’s party, Law and Justice, said today: “We will put sepia billboards with sad eyes and a signature of Jarosław Kaczyński all over Poland (the President’s twin brother) and we will win the Presidential elections from scratch”.

Yes, national mourning is finished. 

But last week I had a nice surprise. My recipe for oscypek with lingonberry preserves, presented some time ago on the blog, was awarded by Edyta from EKOQUCHNIA, who organized a slowfoody action on her blog. I won a culinary slow food book. It is a first little success, encouraging for a new blogger. Thanks, Edyta!


Variation on Kraków Style Cheesecake

“Kraków Style Cheesecake” ("sernik krakowski") is a Polish classic. However, recipes vary so much that one genuine recipe does not exist. The traditional Kraków Style Cheesecake should have a square or a rectangular shape with pastry lattice on top. Often, people cover the cake with icing, which I really hate. I was thinking about this cheesecake for a couple of weeks, analyzing recipes that I have at home and those I could find on the web. I wanted my cheesecake to have crispy sweet dough at the bottom; that is why I decided to use my husband’s recipe. I do not like aroma extracts or vanilla sugar, used in many recipes, so I decided to candy orange skin and use a lot of grains from fresh vanilla beans. I resigned from raisins. I thought it would be too much. However, you can use some, if you like.
I reduced the amount of sugar a bit. I finally used 180 grams and when I will make the cake next time, I definitely will use no more than 150 grams. This is, however, a matter of personal taste.
I used fresh, Polish curd cheese, which has a solid texture. You can find this type of cheese in stores carrying Polish and Russian food. In lack of both, you can try to replace this cheese with ricotta, however, both taste and texture will be a bit different.
And I baked my cake in a round mold.
Finally, as you can see, my cake rather is a variation of the traditional Kraków Style Cheesecake, instead of the original one.
I gave one half of the cake to our favorite butcher, Monsieur Bajon. I cannot wait to find out whether he liked it or not and I will visit him again soon.


Makes 1 round mold 6 cm high of 22 cm diameter

1. Sweet dough

Ingredients
100 g powdered sugar, sifted
125 g butter
Salt
1 egg
250 g flour

Preparation
In a mixing bowl, place butter, sugar and salt. Mix with a wooden spatula until the butter gets white.
Add the egg and mix furthermore until the mixture gets whiter by adding air into it.
Add the flour and do not over mix. By over mixing the flour, the dough will shrink while baking.
Empty the bowl on a table and work with your hands to complete the mixing of the dough. Form a ball and let the dough rest in the refrigerator for a few hours.
This recipe makes more dough than needed for the cheesecake. You can easily freeze the remaining part and use for another cake or a sweet tart.


2. Candied orange skin

Ingredients
1 medium orange, carefully washed and dried
50 g granulated sugar
Water

Preparation:
Peel the skin of the orange with a peeler. Remove the white part of the skin by scratching it with the blade of a small kitchen knife.
Use a sharp knife to cut the skin into a fine julienne.
In a small saucepan, put the sugar and barely cover it with a bit of cold water.
Cook sugar until the “thread” stage (the syrup drips from a spoon, forms thin threads in water) - about 110° Celsius.
Add the orange skin into the syrup and cook slowly for about 5 minutes.
Remove skin from syrup and place it in a container to cool down.

3. Cheese filling

Ingredients
720 g fresh fat or medium fat curd cheese (sold in stores carrying Polish or Russian food; eventually to be replaced with ricotta)
180 g powdered sugar, sifted; plus some extra for the finishing
4 eggs – separately whites and yolks
2 table spoons potato flour, sifted
2 vanilla beans
80 g soft butter
100 ml whipping cream
Candied orange skin from 1 medium orange

Preparation
Start from preparation of vanilla beans and orange.
On a cutting board, cut vanilla beans along and remove grains with a sharp, small kitchen knife. Put them aside. Throw the beans away or use for another purpose.
On a cutting board, place ½ of the orange skin and chop it as finely as possible. Should it be too sticky, dissolve in a bit of water and dry out before chopping. You should obtain your orange crumbs ready.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Remove the sweet dough from the fridge. Cut it into halves. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough in a circle. It should be about 24 cm in diameter and around 7-8 mm thick. Place it on a baking sheet.
Wrap the remaining dough and freeze it (you can use it for another cake).
Using a fork, prick the surface of the dough and bake for about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and right away, before it gets hard, cut the dough circle to the exact size of your mold.
Start preparing the cheese mixture.
In old recipes it is advised to grind the cheese using a meat grinder. The texture of the cheese is quite consistent and before mixing it with other ingredients it should be worked into a homogenous mixture.  I do not have a grinder in Paris. I simply used a food processor using the kneading hook attachment, which easily changes the block of curd into a smooth mixture. You can try to do this with a potato masher or even a fork, but you probably will not get the same texture.

In a bowl, or in a food processor, mix butter with egg yolks, until the mixture is homogenous and smooth. Add vanilla and crumbs of candid orange skin, mixing all the time. Then little by little, add powdered sugar and potato flour. Mix until the sugar is completely absorbed by butter and egg yolks. Add cream and mix everything. At the end, add – little by little – the cheese and mix until the mixture is completely smooth. Put aside. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff (add a bit of sugar about half way). Then fold the egg whites delicately into the cheese “appareil” one third at a time.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

Place the sweet dough at the bottom of the mold and pour the cheese mixture over it. Make sure that the surface is even. Bake between 30 to 40 minutes. The cake is ready once the blade of a knife or a wooden stick remains dry after its insertion into the cake. The cake will grow during baking. Switch the oven off, open the oven door a bit, and leave the cake inside for another 10 to 15 minutes so its surface will not suddenly drop. Then remove the cake from the oven.
Once the cake is completely cooled down, remove the cake from the mold. Sprinkle the surface with some extra powdered sugar, and decorate with the remaining orange skin.

26 comments:

Szalony Kucharz said...

Oh, the cheesecakes! Have I made loads of them thoughout my amateur "career" as a pastry "chef"! I think it all started with cheesecakes in my case, all the baking and stuff. To give you a glimpse of my fixation with tvarog (the fresh, acidic cheese pressed from soured milk, so popular all over Central Europe), let me just say that I used to have it for every breakfast until the age of twenty something - in sweet, porridgy style: mashed in sour cream, with sugar and cinnamon. Occassionaly, I would also have it spicy and savoury, in form of the so called gzik, with slices of onion (either fresh or just sauteed), smoked bacon (or ham), scalions, salt and pepper - which is a specialty of the Greater Poland region. To say that I consider myself an expert on tvarog is an understatement.

Because of the natural, "rustic", sour taste of tvarog, Polish cheesecakes (and German too, from what I've heard, as they also use their version of tvarog, the quark cheese) have that tangy, refreshing flavor, which gives their sweetness additonal dimension and "lean-ness" (is that a word?) - compared to creamy, heavy indulgence of New York style cheesecakes, or sweet sinful lightness of Italian varieties.

Your cheesecake looks absolutely delicious, Magda! You should definitely bake more, even if you don't have a sweet tooth for it. After all, pastry making is considered to be the highest form of architecture by some, not just food preparation. So you don't have to eat - just build! I'm sure somebody else will relieve you of the dauting task of putting the slices in their mouths, chewing and swallowing. And asking for another, please. ;o)

As for the tvarog that goes bad, there is a brilliant way to use it up: fried cheese, which is another specialty of Greater Poland. The very, very rancid crumbs of tvarog are melted in the pan, with salt, pepper and lots of caraway seeds, to kill off the pungent smell (which is quite obnoxious, to be fair), formed in moulds before the semiliquid mass sets, and then cut in slices, and spread on sandwiches, just like Laughing Cow, or any other processed cheese.

Magdalena said...

Nice to see you again, Kucharz. I will come back to your comment in the evening, but now I have a question how to do this cheese with caraway. Can you share any good recipe? I have around 700 g of curd (tvarog - how I should call this cheese, by the way?) in the fridge. It is not very rancid. Should I wait until it will smell really bad?

Konsti said...

Droga Magdaleno, ten sernik to po prostu majstersztyk!
A jedna z rzeczy, za jaka najbardziej tesknie mieszkajac we Wloszech, jest wlasnie polski bialy ser:) pewnie, ze mozna go zastapic ricotta, ale to jednak nie to samo...
Pozdrawiam spod Krzywej Wiezy.

Szalony Kucharz said...

Here's a good recipe, with detailed description:

http://www.mojeprzepisy.pl/Przepis/ser_smazony_2/

Just remember to add a teaspoon or two of caraway seeds, when frying.

Apu said...

This look delicious!! Love the candied ornage peel.

ruchikacooks said...

Looks delicious! Love the flavor of orange in cheesecakes..

Karolina said...

Your cheesecake is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Can't wait to dig in my Mum's next week, but I don't know if my flight will be cancelled or not. :/

Anyway, if I manage to buy good quality curd cheese, I will certainly use your recipe, because it looks fantastic!

Have a nice day, Magda. :)

notyet100 said...

i am bookmarkin this,..

Mich said...

Zdrowiej!
Twój wpis widziałem ale lubię się skupić na wszystkich niuansach, które poruszasz więc czytanie zostawiam na wolniejszą chwilę:)
ciepłe pozdrowienia,
m

Magdalena said...

I am sorry for answering only tonight.

Kucharz: as always your comments are extraordinary. I had no idea that you had an episode with pastries, even if it was the “amateur” adventure. As to eating tvarog everyday for breakfast, I preferred its salty versions – mixed with fresh chopped green onions, chives, parsley, dill, young crispy and spicy radishes, ripe tomatoes, sour garlic cucumbers or fresh ones, smoked ham or smoked fish. I like gzik, as well, I made it few times.
You are encouraging me to bake more, but for somebody like me, who rather does not like sweets, meaning cakes, and prefers salty tastes, it may be difficult; I am not so convinced if I can put enough of my “heart” into this kind of preparation. But I agree with you – pastry art is the highest form of preparation and I think (maybe I am wrong) that one can recognize a good restaurant and “un vrai chef”) by the quality of desserts.
The cheese you mention at the end (“zgliwialy”) I will fry only tonight. It took five days to obtain the right texture. I checked it today and … wow – it stinks like an outdated piece of brie!

Apu, Ruchikacooks and notyet – thanks for visiting my blog and reading my cheesecake recipe.

Karolina, thanks as always…if you will have a chance to use my recipe, be careful about baking time – you know, I indicated baking time in our oven, which is quite old. Maybe I
should mention this in my recipe and adjust it accordingly.

-------------------------------

Mich, dzieki. Jeszcze nie wyzdrowialam, choc mam sie lepiej, nadal biore antybiotyki niestety.

Konsti, witaj znowu. Dziekuje za slowa uznania.
A jak Ci sie mieszka po Krzywa Wieza? Pozdrawiam.

Paula said...

piękne zdjęcia i wspaniałe pomysły!

Magdalena said...

Paula: dziekuje, dziekuje....

tasteofbeirut said...

Beautiful cheesecake Magdalena.

Magdalena said...

merci, tasteofbeirut :) !

Angie's Recipes said...

German cheesecake uses Quark (curd cheese) too...I am sure this one would be more tasty as it's added with candied orange skin. A very cheesy and yet not-so-fattening cake for a lovely weekend!

Magdalena said...

Hi Angie, thanks for visiting my blog. As one of my readers, "Szalony Kucharz" already wrote, Germans use their quark cheese; however, addition of orange skin in my Polish-style cheesecake is not so common, I think, in my country...

Deeba PAB said...

How absolutely gorgeous the cheesecake is... I have 500gms of quark { a curd cheese} in my fridge. Will try and scale the recipe down.

Magdalena said...

Hello Deeba,

thanks so much for visiting my blog.
As regards the cheesecake, Polish style curd (tvarog - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curd)
is a bit different in texture, I suppose that quark is more liquid. You can try to follow my recipe, but it is probable that you will have adjust the amount of flour. Have a good afternoon!

tytty said...

hi all from melbourne Australia!

i'm so glad you posted this recipe. i love cheesecakes that are brown all over on the outsides, which is hard to find. often we get "new york style" ones

monarch cakes is quite a famous continental bakery here. (http://www.monarchcakes.com.au/)
They have a "100 yr old polish baked cheese cake" using cottage cheese but my favourite is their poppy seed delight. I was wondering if you have a similar recipe? Thanks heaps

Magdalena said...

Hello Tytty! It is a pleasure for me to read such a nice comment from Australia. Of course I have already checked that pastry shop that you linked and I must say that a lot of cakes that they sell may be called Polish - style cakes (plum cakes, poppy seed cake and so on). I read that it was established by Polish immigrants. As regards your question - yes, I have a recipe for a poppy seed cake (they are very popular in Poland) and I will present it soon. I will be leaving for Poland this weekend and I will spend the whole summer in Krakow, my hometown....
P.S. In Poland, more and more NYC style cheesecakes are popular...people experiment and experiment...take care !

tytty said...

thanks for the prompt reply. i love pastries with fillings..pies, tarts, especially those which pastry totally envelop fillings like monarch's Presburger Bejgli (http://www.monarchcakes.com.au/images/media/large/image25.jpg)

i found out that the baker at monarch is german <;

have fun in krakow! i look forward to learning more bout polish desserts

Magdalena said...

Tytty, from Poland to Germany is not far away...and there exist a lot of similar preparations...:)

Inspired2cook said...

Looks delicious! I love cheesecake!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Magda,
It is very sweet of you to promote so much polish style cheese cake. To reach almost perfect stage, please improve your directions for the orange peel.
Anna

Anonymous said...

hi, your cheesecake recipe looks just the thing i need for a birthday cake for my friend rozalja.
thanx

Lucy said...

Wow! Your cheesecake looks amazing. One of my Polish friends keeps bringing cheesecakes like this home with him - his mum bakes it, but he always forgets to get me the recipe. It's always so moist and tasty. Now to source some twaróg in the UK! :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...