Zapekanka iz Tvoroga – Baked Russian Cheesecake Recipe

Tea, for the English and Russians alike is the highlight of the day.  I love tea too.  I’m quite partial to Whittard’s Caravan Russian Black Tea, served with a slice of lemon. And while all manner of biscuits or cakes may be great to eat while enjoying your favourite warm beverage, there is nothing better than a simple Russian cheesecake.  A true afternoon delight…

Zapekanka iz Tvoroga - Baked Russian Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients

15g butter

2 slices of white bread, blitzed to breadcrumbs

4 eggs

500g ricotta cheese

(unless you are lucky and live near a Russian supermarket which sells proper cottage cheese)

90g caster sugar

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 a lemon

3 tbsp semolina

75g currents

1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

Soak currents and lemon rind in lemon juice and vanilla extract

Separate the eggs

Beat egg yolks with caster sugar, ricotta and semolina

Add currents and lemon rind to egg yolks

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks are formed

Gently fold in egg whites using a metal spoon

Zapekanka iz Tvoroga - Baked Russian Cheesecake Recipe

Grease loose-bottomed cake tin with butter

Generously apply breadcrumbs to the tin

Pour mixture in to tin

Heat in oven on 175 degrees Celsius for 35 minutes or until golden brown on outside and set inside

Zapekanka iz Tvoroga - Baked Russian Cheesecake Recipe

Serve dusted with icing sugar and garnished with assorted berries such as blueberries, bilberries, strawberries or raspberries (or a mixture of any of those mentioned)

Zapekanka iz Tvoroga - Baked Russian Cheesecake Recipe

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Hungarian Chocolate Cake Recipe

Hungarian Chocolate Cake
Hungarian Chocolate Cake

I made a promise to some of my colleagues at Glam that I would bake them a cake and as one of my colleagues is Hungarian I took inspiration from the Hapsburg’s traditional confectionary.  I am not particularly artistic so my efforts are always going to be rustic rather than looking as if it has been picked up at a patisserie but at least it gives it a real homemade feel.  This chocolate cake is a simple chocolate sponge with a mocha buttercream filling and a chocolate and brandy icing topping.  I have made this cake once previously and I made the icing on top a lot thiner so it literally ran off the spoon and covered the whole cake and sides but this time I made it thicker  and piled it on the top.  Depsite the sugar and butter content of the cake, it contains no preservatives or artificial colourings or flavourings and is surprisingly light and not sickly, making it the perfect little treat for your family or friends!

Ingredients

For the cake

125g soft butter or margarine

125g caster superfine sugar

125g self-raising flour (or plain flour plus 1 tsp baking powder)

2 eggs

2 tbsp drinking chocolate

2 tbsp cocoa

1 tbsp cold milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream filling

75g butter

1 egg yolk

175g icing sugar

1 1/2 tbsp cocoa

2 tbsp strong espresso coffee made with 1/1/2 tbsp hot water

1 tsp brandy

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate icing

125g plain dessert chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

15g butter

2tbsp water

225g sifted icing sugar

1 tsp brandy

1 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

For the cake

Preheat oven to Gas No. 4 or 180 degrees Celsius

Lightly grease two 7-inch sandwich tins

Put all the ingredients into a bowl

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Beat by mixer or wooden spoon until smooth and creamy

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Divide the mixture between the tins, smooth level with a spatula

Bake the sandwiches for 25 minutes until springy to touch

Allow to cool on a cooling rack

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For the buttercream

Cream the butter until creamy in texture and light in colour

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Beat in the egg yolk

Sift together the sugar and cocoa and beat into the butter alternating with the coffee

Add the brandy and vanilla extract and beat until smooth and easy to spread

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When the two cakes are cool spoon the buttercream spread over the top of one and place the other on top of that

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Place in refrigerator to set the buttercream slightly

For the chocolate icing

Break up the chocolate and place in small thick-bottomed pan with the butter

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Add the water and warm over a gentle heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until a smooth cream is formed

Gradually stir in the icing sugar, adding more water if necessary to achieve the thickness of the icing you desire

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Stir in the brandy and vanilla extract

Hungarian Chocolate Cake
Hungarian Chocolate Cake

Take cake from refrigerator and ice the top of the cake and sides if desired

Place in refrigerator for 1 hour to set icing

Store in an airtight container in a cool place

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Lenivye Vareniki – Cheese Dumplings

These little Russian dumplings, a cheesy version of Italian gnocchi, are a real favourite of mine, but be warned, they require some time to make.  Personally, I think the easiest thing is to make up a huge batch once or twice a year, freeze in small batches, and simply defrost and reheat when you want them.  This is such a typical little East European dish which can be eaten either savoury, such as with bacon, or as a dessert with smetena (sour cream) and sugar.

dumpling-1
Lenivye Vareniki

Read more…

Almond Jewish Kipferl Biscuits

This biscuit recipe is one of my tried and tested favourites.  I took a particular interest in Jewish history and Judaism while at school after visiting the Synagogue in Reading.  I studied Religious Studies after school as an extra GCSE and during the year in which we looked at Judaism, Joe Perl and his wife Sylvia who were Holocaust survivors, would come in and tell us about their beliefs and feed us scrumptious food that they would normally eat over festivals or holy days such as the Sabbath.  A year or so after I left school I came across a giant Jewish cookery book.  I’ve used it so much and its dessert recipes are usually good.  This is my adaptation of the traditional Jewish Kipferl biscuits which originated and continue to be popular in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire states.  They make great presents when tied up in some cellophane, and I usually hand them out, somewhat ironically, at Christmas time.  I suppose I should really call them my Hanukkah gifts!

Almond Jewish Kipferl Biscuits
Almond Jewish Kipferl Biscuits

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Croatian Citrus Ricotta Squares

This super light cheese cake has a sponge base and top and has a creamy filling with just a hint of ricotta.  It makes a great little dessert after a heavy meal and goes well served with a few seasonal berries such as blackberries, cherries or strawberries, soaked in a little cherry brandy (marsaka).

Croatian Ricotta Citrus Cake
Croatian Citrus Ricotta Cake

Read more…

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Varna Chicken

This is a really tasty and healthy dish originating from Bulgaria.  It’s super quick and requires few dishes so the washing up is limited!  The chicken is smothered in a rich, herby sauce.  Serve the chicken with rice to mop up all the wonderful juices.

Varna Chicken
Varna Chicken

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Russian Lepeshki Recipe

Russian Lepeshki Biscuits
Russian Lepeshki Biscuits

Baking is something of a guilty/secret pleasure.  I love baking.  I love baking bread.  I absolutely adore baking biscuits.  I seem to manage to surround myself with people who also love baking, those who are able to produce baking perfection.  Why is baking such a guilty pleasure for me?  I’m normally one of those people who likes to throw everything in a pot, stir, serve and eat.  You can’t really do that with baking.  It takes precision.  So don’t tell anyone that I actually quite enjoy the technicality of baking!  It’s just between you and me!

When I came across a recipe for Lepeshki, a Russian biscuit which uses sour cream instead of butter and just knew I had to give the recipe a go.

Ingredients (for about 24 biscuits)

275g self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

90g caster sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)

1 egg separated

1 egg whisked

120ml sour cream

2 tsp vanilla and almond extract

(You can use less, you can use more, I just really love vanilla and almonds)

1 tbsp milk

50g flaked almonds

Instructions

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit / Gas Mark 6

Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl

Make a well in the centre

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Whisk one of the eggs and mix with the sour cream, vanilla and almond extracts and milk

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Add to the dry ingredients to form a soft dough

(I feel I should divulge some information regarding flour at this point.  The original recipes was for 225g of flour, but this made a dough which was so runny there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to roll it out.  I added more by eye and think you probably need 275g of flour instead but as each flour varies, you will have to give it a go and if it becomes too dry you may need to add some extra wet ingredients.  I think the recipe I had was just a bit wrong, but still, use your instinct rather than relying on numbers!)

lepeshki-4

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until about 8mm/ 1/3in thick

(It may be preferable to cool the dough in the fridge before rolling as it becomes warm very quickly and it may be good to roll out sections at a time and keep the remaining in the fridge until you are ready to cut more)

lepeshki-5

Cut the biscuits into rounds with a 7.5cm/3in cutter

Transfer the circles to a lightly oiled baking sheet on a baking tray

Separate the other egg

Brush the biscuits with the egg white

Sprinkle with flaked almonds

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Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until light golden brown

Transfer to a wire rack to cool

Serve!
Serve!

Store in an airtight container (unless you are feeling particularly piggy and want to devour the lot!)

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Deliciously Light Lemon Cake

If you are permanently on the hunt for the lightest cake in the world, look no further.  This Romanian cake is made from a blend of thick yogurt, lemon and honey and is the lightest cake I have ever consumed.

Ingredients:

50g butter

115g caster sugar

2 large eggs

115g Greek yogurt

Grated rind of 2 lemons

Juice of 1/2 lemon

150g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

curls of lemon rind to decorate

For the syrup: juice of 1/2 lemon, 4 tbsp honey, 3 tbsp water, 1 cinnamon stick

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 190ºC

Grease and line a shallow, 7-inch square cake tin (I made extra to fit my rectangular tin)

Allow butter to soften.

Cream together the softened butter and sugar either in a bowl or a mixer until pale and fluffy.

Creamed butter and sugar

Slowly add the egg yolks, Greek yogurt, lemon rind and juice.

Beat until smooth.

Smooth

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until just stiff.

Egg whites

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Fold flour and baking powder into yogurt mixture.  Fold carefully, do not excessively stir because you will stretch the gluten in the flour.

Yogurt mixture, flour, baking powder

Then, fold in egg whites, again carefully, making sure they do not lose all their air, otherwise the cake will not be light.  A top tip is to use a metal spoon not a wooden one!

Ready for the tin!

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

Ready for the oven!

Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and firm to touch.

Turn out on to a plate and peel off base paper.

For the syrup, put the lemon juice, honey, water and cinnamon stick together in small pan.

Honey & cinnamon

Stir until boiling.

Cook until syrupy.

Remove the pan from the heat.

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.

Syrup done!

Spoon the warm syrup over the cake then sprinkle with lemon rind.

Leave to cool completely and cut into 16 pieces.

Finished product

Finished product ready to cut into slices.

Serve!

Serve!

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