(Eastern Orthodox molded Easter cheesecake)
Paskha — also known as Пасха, paska, pasca and pascha — is a pyramid-shaped confection that is served for Easter in the Eastern Orthodox homes of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and also in Poland and Lithuania. Similar in taste to a cheesecake without the crust, paskha is traditionally spread on slices of kulich, a sweet Easter bread.
6 to 8 servings
- Farmer's cheese (see variations) -- 2 pounds
- Unsalted butter, room temperature -- 1/2 pound (2 sticks)
- Sugar -- 1 1/2 cups
- Egg yolks, hard-cooked -- 6
- Heavy cream -- 1 cup
- Blanched almonds, finely ground -- 1/2 cup
- Lemon zest, finely chopped -- 2 tablespoons
- Vanilla -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
- Raisins -- 1/4 cup
- Drain farmer's cheese overnight in a fined-meshed sieve or through several layers of cheesecloth. After the cheese has drained, press it through a medium-meshed sieve once or twice to break up the curds and make it light and fluffy. Set aside.
- Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
- Reduce speed to medium low and beat in the farmer's cheese, heavy cream, almonds, lemon zest and vanilla.
- Line a pashka mold or a clean terracotta flowerpot with cheesecloth that has been rinsed with water and squeezed dry. Fill the mold or pot with the cheese mixture. Place a lid or a small plate on top of the mold and set a weight on top. Place the mold in a bowl to catch any liquid and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
- Unmold the paskha onto a serving plate and use the raisins to decorate the sides (see variations).
- Cheese: This dessert is traditionally made with a type of farmer's cheese called tvorog. It is known as Quark in German. Many recipes recommend substituting pot cheese, cottage cheese or ricotta.
- Cooked Paskha: Beat the egg yolks, cream, sugar and vanilla together in the top of a double boiler until the sugar is dissolved. Set over simmering water and whisk until the mixture just begins to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Proceed to mold the paskha.
- Mold: The pyramid-shaped mold for paskha is called a pasotchnitza (пасочница). If you don't have one, a terracotta flower pot makes a fine substitute. Just make sure it's clean. A third option is to gather the paskha up into a neat ball in several layers of clean cheesecloth. Hang it from a rod suspended over a bowl to catch any liquid in the refrigerator.
- Decoration: The paskha cheesecake is traditionally decorated with the "Chi-Ro" (XP) symbol, an Orthodox cross and the Cyrillic letters X and B, which stand for Христосъ Воскресe, or "Christ is risen." Molds have indentations of these symbols in them. You can use raisins, candied fruit, nuts and even flowers to decorate your paskha with these symbols.