Saturday, February 13, 2010

Zapekanka

I’m having problems with zapekanka. It’s a kind of Russian cheesecake made from curd cheese (also called farmer's cheese or tvorog in Russian; see my recipe here). I’ve played with recipes from old Russian cookbooks, the kind that don’t have precise measurements or baking times. Normally this isn’t a problem—I never measure ingredients and substitute them at will. This works pretty well for me, except, of course, when baking. It doesn’t help that farmer’s cheese is a soggy ingredient, so some guidelines come in handy here.

Unfortunately there aren’t too many zapekanka recipes out there—this one, by a Russian-born food blogger, is probably the closest to what I’m looking for. I’ve always thought of zapekanka as a breakfast food or a light dinner, not dessert, however. Anyway, I had some leftover curd cheese last week, and I improvised this recipe:

1.5 cups curd cheese mixed with a bit less than ¼ cup sugar, ½ tsp. vanilla extract, 3 tbs. flour, ½ tsp. baking powder and an egg yolk. The egg white was beaten until peaks formed and added to the rest of the ingredients. I also tossed in some raisins (any kind of dried fruit works well in a zapekanka). I baked the whole thing in a buttered, 9-inch pan at 370 degrees for about 45 minutes. The final product was beautifully golden and airy, although it quickly sank once it left the oven. It was also a bit soggy and too sweet, just like two previous attempts.

So, readers, any advice for making a successful zapekanka? Recipes in Russian are welcome. (I don't usually search online in Russian because I can't read it as fast as English--blame first language attrition.)

16 comments:

Lo said...

I've never had zepekanka, so I'm completely pulling at straws here. But, do you suppose it would help to drain the farmer's cheese?

m.v. said...

I kinda like mine overly sweet and eat it as dessert but the ones I tried were pretty dense a la cheescake. This recipe wants it to rise but what's there besides few spoons of flower to hold it up. Also it has way too many ingredients. I will look for the recipe when I get home in a few days but the first commenter is right the cheese shouldn't be very moist,try hanging it in a cheesecloth overnight.

irina said...

Mmmm... is it possible there's a Polish version of this? Made with a bit of orange zest? Because a Polish friend made something like that, and it was yummy.

irina said...

PS. "Sigh" on the first language attrition thing.

Anonymous said...

You might want to try lowering the temperature of the oven i.e., 350C and cooking for longer - up to 60 mins.??? (from your pic it looks over cooked)

Katrina@Around the world in 80 markets, and more.. said...

oh, zapekanka, lots and lots of memories of my childhood lunches in kindergarden. we used to have it with kisel - gloopy and stodgy but zapekanka underneath was worth scraping through!

Yulinka, I know I owe you at least one recipe already! I'll look this one up as well and let you know..

Iris said...

I've added cream of wheat (farina?) and haven't had a problem with it being too moist.

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Lo-My farmer's cheese isn't all that soggy, but it might help.

M.V.-Yes, please share your recipe. Most old recipes I've seen called for 5-6 ingredients...I did substitute regular flour for the cream of wheat that's normally used in zapekanka.

Irina-I'm sure there's a Polish version. An an Estonian one--I remember seeing a similar recipe on the Nami-Nami blog.

Anon--I will try a different temperature. My zapekanka wasn't overbaked, just soggy, though.

Katrina--Thanks! I'll pass on the kissel', but I love zapekanka with jam.

Iris-Cream of wheat is a good idea. I think it'll work better than flour here.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

There really is such a thing as first language attrition? I thought one always stayed fluent in their native language.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with the recipe you were asking about. :-)

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Michael--Unfortunately, first language attrition is real. If you don't use a language, you lose it. It's not that you suddenly stop understanding it, but your skills deteriorate over time.

m.v. said...

Finally had a chance to look it up, russian version is here http://gotovim-doma.ru/view.php?r=123-recept-Tvorozhnaia-zapekanka

Farmer's Cheese/Tvorog-500g=1.1 lbs;
1 egg;sugar-3 tbsp;sour cream - 3 tbsp;
cream of wheat/semolina -2 tbsp;raisins = 100g (3-5 oz);vanilla or vanilla sugar.in the absense of meat grinder (I have it :-))try to rid the cheese off small lumps (food processor maybe),add 2 tbsp of melted butter,egg whipped with sugar,cream of wheat,1/2 tsp of salt,vanilla. mix thoroughly and add raisins. place into a greased and covered with bread crumbs baking dish,smooth out the surface, spread sour cream on top and sprinkle with leftover melted butter. bake for 25-30 min at 355F.looks like this recipe has plenty of positivie comments

RCakeWalk said...

I know Lo and I think alike when that was going to be my comment... This looks like a recipe with potential...and for some reason reminds me of the sweet/savory noodle kugel, one of my favorite things. M.V. 's recipe looks good, too. I hope you'll have an update when you perfect it!!!

elmey said...

I don't think American farmer's cheese is exactly the same consistency as tvorog or quark (which is the name I know it under), so draining it would probably help.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark_%28cheese%29

You can get quark at specialty delis here in the US, but it's not very common. Maybe ricotta would work?

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Elmey-I think I've tried quark in Europe, but it has a very different consistency. It's like whipped cream cheese. Ricotta would work in this type of cheese cake, but it has quite a different flavor.

Anonymous said...

i make my own tvorog (about 5 lbs every 2 weeks). The first three days we mostly eat it fresh with fresh raspberries and a drizle of honey and i give my children to take to their home about 1 lbs each. What is left goes to blinces, vatruzkas, danishes, etc. If i plan to do zpekanka or to use it in the nodle coogel, then i cook my yogurt longer to get not too soft tvorog. In zapekanka (using my tworog) i do not need to add buter or sourcream, because i do my tvorog from a fermented full fat milk. I have never exactly mesured any thing for zapekanka but i do add salt, sugar (not much, because i serve it with honey), 1 TBL sp self rizing flour (or all purp. fl with 1/2 tea sp of baking powder or soda) and 3 TBL spoons of cream of weat for about 2.5 lbs of tvorog + 2 egg yoks and a little vanila extract. I bake at 350 F until ready.
i save the egg whites for Kiev Tort. --Lera

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