Paskha is a cheesecake like dessert that is traditionally served in Russian homes for Orthodox Easter. Recipes for this regal dessert vary from region to region and home to home. The taste, no matter what recipe is used, is extraordinary. It is often moulded into the shape of an egg, crown or mount. Paskha is sometimes made with simple fruit and nuts or with more complicated mixtures of dried fruits and nutmeats.
- 3 1/2 pounds (1.5 kg) thick fromage blanc or baker's cheese, such as ricotta, brousse, etc.
- 1 Cup (250 ml) sugar
- 1 Cup (250 ml) heavy cream
- 8 ounces (225 g)(2 sticks) softened butter, sweet
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 Cup (125 ml) candied fruit and peel
- 1/2 Cup (125 ml) finely chopped blanched almonds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Drain the cheese by placing it in a strainer and putting a weight on top - otherwise the loaf may not keep its shape.
- In a bowl, macerate the candied fruit with the vanilla.
- Break up the cheese with the back of a spoon; mix in the butter.
- In a saucepan, heat the cream until bubbles start to form around the edges.
- In another bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar; pour in the hot cream; return the mixture to the saucepan and return to the heat; cook gently over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens - do not let it boil or it may turn lumpy.
- Remove from the heat; add the candied fruit; place the saucepan into a large bowl of ice water and stir until the mixture has cooled.
- Add the cheese and the almonds; put the mixture into a mould*; cover with a muslin cloth and place a weight on top; refrigerate at least 8 hours before unmoulding; decorate and serve.
- To slice, slide your knife through to make horizontal slices, saving the top slice and replacing it: it's more attractive that way.
Creating this delight took hours - it requires weighing down "pot cheese" with a heavy board to drain the moisture and then pressing it though a sieve before the other ingredients were added. A Russian princess told a 19th century reporter of a version where she added no nuts or currants, but the zest of one lemon. Depending on the household, it is decorated with almonds and candied fruit, or served with a slice of almond bread (in the Baltic states) or with walnut and raisin bread.
*The mold should have a hole in the bottom to allow the cheese to continue to drain. If you don't have a paskha mould, use a terra cotta flower pot, which will also provide the proper shape.