Do you have a recipe you’ve made so many times you know it by heart? Better yet, was that recipe passed on to you by your mama? The one I am about to share with you is one of those recipes. The first time I made it I was in my early teens and since then I’ve made it hundreds of times…literally. It was my mom and my “go to recipe” when there was only about half an hour between a phone call and guests appearing on our doorsteps. We made it so many times we used every kind of fruit filling possible. I thought we exhausted all the options but I was wrong.
Last Saturday morning I woke up with a strong urge to bake and I knew I was craving something Slavic. That’s right it’s a thing. I made a dash to the closest Polish shop and picked up a pound of farmer’s cheese. It was a good start. When I grabbed the closest to me cookbook an old, marked with food stains piece of paper fell out. I grinned widely when I picked it up. The precious sheet of paper contained a collection of our family’s favourite recipes typed up by my mom and sent to me when I left for college in America. Bingo! That’s exactly what I needed.
If you follow my blog you’d know that when it comes to recipes nothing is sacred to me. I love to change things up and what started out as my mom’s favourite recipe became highly experimental at some point of the process. Needless to say, I was beyond pleased when I cut into it (after hours of waiting for it to cool) and found out the risk payed off!
What my mom and I always made was essentially a seasonal fruit encased in rich and buttery pastry but somehow I ended up with a fruit cheesecake with a buttery crust and almond crumb topping. Pure luxury.
Have I convinced you that you too need it in your life?
For the pastry:
- Flour-2 1/2cups
- Butter- 1 cup/250 gr.
- Sugar- 1 cup
- Egg- 1
- Baking powder-1/2 tsp
For the filling:
- Apricots- 12
- Farmer’s Cheese (Tvorog)/Cream Cheese- 500 gr/16 oz
- Eggs -2
- Sugar- 1 cup
- Semolina- 2 tbsp.
- Vanilla bean/Vanilla extract- seeds from 1 vanilla bean/ 1 tsp.
- Ground Almonds ( for the topping)- 1/4 cup
In the food processor combine flour, cold butter, sugar and baking powder, pulse until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs, add the egg and pulse until just combined. (This could also be easily done in a regular bowl with a pastry blender.) Take the pastry out of the food processor, it will be soft. Pinch off 1/3 of the pastry, wrap it in a plastic wrap and put in the freezer. Wrap the rest in the plastic wrap as well and put this portion in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Now let’s take care of the filling. Cut your apricots in half and pit them. Set aside. (I also planned to use the red and black currants at first but then changed my mind and that is why they are in the picture.)
Combine farmer’s cheese or cream cheese, eggs, sugar, semolina and vanilla bean seeds in a large bowl using a hand mixer until smooth or a food processor if you want your farmer’s cheese to be less grainy. ( I processed mine in the food processor for a silky consistency.)
When the pastry is finished chilling take it out of the fridge and roll it out to fit an 9″ springform pan lining the bottom and the sides all the way to the top. Don’t worry if your pastry tears, just take the overhanging pieces and patch up the holes! That pastry is very pliable and forgiving. When your springform pan is lined all the way put it back in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Then take it out of the fridge and fill it with the cheese filling and top with apricots.
Now it’s time to get your crumb topping out of the freezer. In Russia this dessert is called “Tertiy Pirog”, which literally means “Grated Pastry” because the top is being frozen and then grated directly on the filling with a vegetable grater like so.
I decided to toss my crumbs with ground almonds for an extra indulgence. Trim off your overhanging sides and press them gently in to blend with the crumb topping. When the pastry casing bakes it magically all blends together beautifully.
Put it in the preheated oven at 350F/180C and bake for 50 minutes or until golden. Cool it for an hour until cool to the touch and then chill it in the refrigerator for at least 2 more hours to ensure the cheese filling in cooled completely. (Waiting for it was the hardest part for me. ) Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired and enjoy with a cup of tea!