Sunday, April 4, 2010
Recettes Secrètes: Pashka
Pashka - or "pasha" - is a sweetened fresh cheese mold made for Russian Orthodox Easter. Tasting something like cheesecake, contemporary Pashka recipes often combine cream cheese and farmer's cheese (the driest form of cottage cheese).Pashka is properly packed into a special mold that shapes it into a pyramid embossed with the letters "XB," which stands for Khristos voskres ("Christ has risen"). A clay flowerpot has become the modern stand-in for the metal mold.
Pashka is generally eaten spread on a very lightly sweet yeast cake called kulich. If you can't find kulich (or babka), the Pashka is delicious spread on other eggy yeast breads, such as challah and brioche. But you can't beat a good dollop on a fresh strawberry.
After reviewing many varying recipes, I decided on this one below which seemed equally authentic and relatively easy to make. I was not disappointed! (Although if I did it again I would use a heavier weight and chill longer then 24 hours - my Pashka lost its flower pot shape within an hour. It hardly mattered though, it tasted delicious!)
2 pounds homemade cottage cheese or farmer's cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into pieces
6 large hard-cooked egg yolks, crumbled
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
3/4 cups ground almonds
1/2 lemon, zest grated
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup golden raisins
Chopped candied fruits, for decoration
In a large bowl, combine the cottage cheese or farmer's cheese, sugar, cream cheese, and egg yolks, stirring to mix.
Serve with strawberries and/or challah bread.
Pashka will hold up chilled in the refrigerator, well wrapped, for up to two weeks. But it is best enjoyed at a temperature closer to room temperature.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Recettes Secrètes: Beet Cake!
I wanted to bake my best friend a special and unique cake for his birthday. When I heard about curious beet cake, I thought "I have no idea how that will turn out but YES that's IT!" I was not disappointed! For lovers of carrot cake and zuccini bread - but slightly more sublime, and accessible for straight cake-lovers and well. The beets add moisture and depth of flavor (though not the expected red hue - that bakes out into a mellow gold color). Beware: the orange zest flecked cream cheese frosting is good enough to eat with a spoon!
Beet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pound beets (or 2 boxes of peeled baby beets from TJs)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 1% low-fat milk
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, chilled
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare cake, peel beets using a vegetable peeler. Grate beets, using the large holes of a grater (I used my food processor with grate blade), to measure 2 cups.
Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray.Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, oil, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well-blended. Add beets; beat well. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour batter into prepared pans; sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on wire racks; remove from pans. Carefully peel off wax paper, and cool cake completely on wire racks.To prepare frosting, beat orange rind, vanilla, and cream cheese with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar; beat at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat).Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting; top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle nuts over top of cake if desired. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.
(I whipped up a small batch of this for decorating)
1 cup powdered white sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons beet juice (reserve from package, or grate one medium raw beet into coarse shreds and then squeeze out juice with your fist.)
Mix together the sugar, butter, and salt. Add the vanilla. Then beat in the beet juice, adding a little at a time, until desired color and consistency is reached.
Decorate, display and serve proudly!
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