Pierogi with Sweet Cheese

  • Pierogi  are  little semi-circular parcels of pasta which are made with a multitude of fillings.
  • I wrote a very large post about them over 4 years ago.
  • Today I am looking at ones with a sweet filling  – in this post – sweetened twaróg – curd cheese.
  • Pierogi with sweet fillings are made in just the same way as savoury ones.
  • Circles of dough have a filling placed on them.  The dough is folded over and pinched to make a semi circle and these are boiled in slightly salted water.
  • Once boiled, sweet pierogi are dredged with icing, granulated or caster sugar and are often served with soured cream.  They are best eaten straight away.
  • I must admit that when I was younger I did not really like sweet pierogi but now I think they are utterly delicious especially when served with soured cream.

Sweet Cheese Filling

Ingredients

  • 200g curd cheese/twaróg or yoghurt cheese
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk or 1 tablespoon of soured cream
  • 1- 2 drops of vanilla essence
  • Tiny pinch of salt

Method – Filling

Thoroughly mix all the ingredients together.

Ingredients – Dough

  • 250g pasta flour or plain flour & 2 tablespoons of fine semolina
  • 150ml water
  • 1 tablespoon oil – sunflower or light olive
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg yolk

Method – Dough

  • In a jug or bowl mix together the water, oil and the yolk.
  • Put the flour and salt into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
  • Pour in the liquid from the jug and initially use a knife to mix this into the flour and then use your hands to mix the liquid and flour to get a ball of dough.

 

  • Turn this out onto a floured board and knead the dough for a few minutes until you have a smooth ball.
  • Cover and leave to rest for about ½ an hour.
  • *
  • Cut the dough into half.
  • Prepare a large tray and cover it with a clean cotton or linen tea towel and sprinkle this with flour.
  • On a floured board roll out the dough a half at a time until you have a sheet of thinly rolled dough.
  • Cut out circles using a 7 cm diameter cutter.
  • The excess dough can be re-mixed and rolled out again.
  • Around a half tablespoon of filling is put on  each circle and then they are folded over and the edges pinched together to make a good seal.
  • You learn from experience how much filling to put in as too much will make it hard to seal them and if not properly sealed they will burst on boiling.  Do not worry if you have a few mishaps – it still happens – even with experience – it is hard to salvage one that has gone wrong – just accept that there will be a few that you do not cook.
  • Place the sealed pierogi on prepared tray until they are all made, do not let then touch each other.
  • *
  • To cook the pierogi, use a large pan of boiling water to which you have added some salt and a drizzle of oil.
  • Drop the pierogi in one by one and allow them to boil.  I usually do about 6 to 7 at a time.
  • As they cook they will float to the surface, let them boil for 2 minutes and then remove them with a slotted or perforated spoon and put into a colander above a pan for a few seconds to drain and serve.
  • Continue boiling batches in the same water.
  • If you want to make all the pierogi to serve together then you need to get a large oven proof plate.
  • Keep the plate warm in a low oven.
  • As you take out the cooked pierogi add them to the plate trying not to make them touch.
  • Keep on adding more as they cook.

To Serve

Sprinkle with icing, granulated or caster sugar and some soured cream.

Served here on Royal Doulton – Carnation –  1982-1998

 

 

Curd Tart – English Cheesecake

I have been doing some research on old English recipes and looked at curd tart recipes – these are similar to Polish baked sernik .

  • Curd tarts in England originated in the early 17th century.
  • In Yorkshire they were traditionally baked for Whitsuntide.
  • Nutmeg is a very popular spice in English baking.
  • Curds are coagulated milk proteins – casein.
  • Raw milk will coagulate naturally when left in a warm place.
  • Pasteurised milk needs the addition of something acidic such as lemon juice, vinegar or lactobacillus (found in natural yoghurt).
  • You can make your own curds. The following is an easy way to make curds and these are the curds* used in the recipe below.
  • *
  • *Polish twaróg or yoghurt cheese is more tangy.

Making Curds

  • In a deep saucepan put 500ml of milk, 3 beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Heat gently until it comes to the boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Curds will form.
  • Put the mixture into a large sieve or muslin bag and leave for a few hours.
  • Leave the curds to go cold.
  • It is often good to make the curds the evening before you need them.
  • 500ml of milk will give around 200-225g of curds with this method.

 

Ingredients

  • Around 200g of curds (as above)
  • 110g granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs – beaten
  • 60g currants
  • Grated nutmeg
  • *
  • Shortcrust pastry or a richer pastry such as  kruche ciasto

Method

  • Grease and line the base of a loose bottomed tart tin.
  • Pre-heat the oven to GM5 – 190°C.
  • Roll out the shortcrust pastry thinly and line the tin with it.
  • With a fork, chop up the curds into small pieces.
  • Whisk together the curds, sugar and eggs.
  • Stir in the currants.
  • Pour the mixture into the lined tart tin.
  • Sprinkle liberally with freshly grated nutmeg.
  • Bake for around 30 minutes.
  • Leave to cool on a wire cake rack.

Served on tea plates by Royal Doulton, Counterpoint, 1973 – 1987

 

The Perfect Pancake

Naleśniki are thin pancakes like the French crêpes. Their name comes from the Polish verb to pour.

In Poland pancakes are eaten all year round, with either savoury or sweet fillings, and not just before Lent. (In fact pancakes are not amongst the special foods eaten before this time of fasting).

We used to have then about once a week but I never seemed to have been involved much  in their making except for spreading the fillings on, so when I started to make them myself I had lots of disasters!

My pancakes were always a bit hit and miss.  Often the constancy was not constant nor the  thickness and nearly always the first one of the batch would stick to the pan and have to be thrown away.

Then I looked up the recipe in my old Polish cookbook, made a few telephone calls to various relatives and also followed Delia Smith’s advice and bought a special frying pan which I use only for pancakes.

Kuchnia Polska 15th Edition 1971 - Polish Kitchen or Polish Cookery
Kuchnia Polska – 15th Edition 1971

So I now I think I know the secrets of making perfect pancakes and these I will now pass on.

Sift the flour

You must use a mixture of milk and water – 50/50 is the best – this ensures that the pancakes do not burn as easily and also enables you to make then very thin and elastic so they are easy to work with. (This is the most important tip).

  • Beat the eggs and add then them first to the sifted flour.
  • Add the milk mixture to the egg and flour mix until you have a batter the consistency of pouring cream.
  • Leave the batter to stand for at least 1 hour in which time it will thicken, then add a little more liquid.
  • Use a special thin pan which you use just for pancakes, mine has a base diameter of 20 cm and is made of steel, once seasoned, just wipe it clean between uses with kitchen roll – never scour it or use detergent.
  • Work out how much batter you need for a pancake and find a measure which will then give you a consistent amount – I use a small ladle which holds 45ml.
  • Have a dish of melted butter or margarine and sunflower oil for frying so you can add just enough and tip some back if needed.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 ml milk (full or semi-skimmed)
  • 200 ml water
  • pinch of salt

This amount makes around 8 pancakes.

I remember this recipe as it is all the 2’s for ease, but it will depend on the flour and the size of the eggs, you might not use all the milk & water mixture or you might just need a little more.

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Heat the pan – you want a high heat but not too much to burn the pancakes – you will find you have to keep adjusting the heat. (As I cook using gas this is easy to do).

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Pancake Batter & Ladle

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Using the ladle pour the mixture into the pan.

Tilt the pan so that the mixture covers the surface completely and evenly.

Cook the pancakes on one side and turn then over (or toss them English style), you can make them up one by one or stack then up with a piece of greaseproof paper in between them. You can do this and leave then for later use

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There are many recipes for pancake fillings both savoury and sweet.

I think the 2 most popular sweet fillings in Poland are sweet curd cheese (see a previous post) and stewed apples with cinnamon.

Pancakes with sweet fillings are normally folded into triangles – fan -shaped  by folding the pancake into half and half again.

Pancakes with savoury fillings are normally rolled up and often then put in a dish, topped with a sauce or grated yellow cheese and put in the oven for a time.

In these instructions I have used photographs of pancakes being made with the sweet curd cheese filling.

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Frying the Pancake
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Sweet Curd Cheese Filling
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Spread with Filling
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Folded in Half
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And Half Again
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Dusted with Icing Sugar

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I find two are enough for me!

You can make the filled pancakes in advance prior to dusting them with icing sugar and then heat them up on both sides – using the pancake pan again – maybe with the addition of a little butter.  Then dust them with icing sugar.

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Reheating a Filled Pancake

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Sweet Curd Cheese – Polish Pancake Filling

This sweet fresh curd cheese mixture is one that is used as a filling for  pancakes in Poland.

You can make this mixture with twaróg – curd cheese, cream cheese or yoghurt cheese.

Use 1 packet of cheese, usually 200g – 300g , to this add 2 to 3 tablespoons of soured cream and 2 to 3 tablespoons of icing sugar and mix this together till you get a smooth mixture. You can add 2 to 3 drops of vanilla essence.  Do not add too much sugar – you want the contrast of sweetness & sour.

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Sweet Curd Cheese Mixture
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Pancake Spread With Sweet Curd Cheese Mixture
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Pancakes Folded Polish Style with Sweet Curd Mixture Dusted with Icing Sugar

See The Perfect Pancake

Other Methods of Serving

Add a spoonful or two on top of red fruits such as strawberries and raspberries which have been dusted with icing sugar.

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Strawberries from the garden
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Alpine Strawberries – growing in my garden.

Classic Polish Curd Cheese Mixtures

Twaróg – Polish Curd Cheese  is used extensively in cooking and finds its way in many guises onto the Polish menu, especially at home, both in sweet and savoury dishes.

The following are what I consider to be  popular classic savoury  fresh cheese mixtures and are often served for breakfast with bread and salad.

Here in England I think they could be served at lunchtime. As well as with bread and rolls they can be served with crisp-breads, oatcakes or crackers.

3 Classic Curd Cheese Mixtures

You can make these with Twaróg – Curd Cheese or with Cream Cheese.

You can also use yoghurt cheese – (Look out for a post on how to make this later).

The amounts used are just approximate, using  one packet of cheese, which is normally around  200g – 300g,  for each mixture and can be varied to taste.

If using curd cheese, add a pinch or two of salt and a couple of spoonfuls of soured cream, mix together until smooth.

If using cream cheese just take it out of the packet and mix it in a bowl –  you can add a spoonful or two of soured cream to make it a  softer consistency if you wish.

Mixture 1

To the cheese add a few tablespoons of finely chopped chives or the green parts of spring onions.

In Poland  szczypiorek (which in dictionaries is given as chives) would be used – however I think it is slightly different and is much larger than the chives I grow here in England.

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Chives Growing in a Pot

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Spring Onions and Chives
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Curd Cheese and Chives

Mixture 2

To the cheese add a couple of teaspoons of caraway seeds

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Curd Cheese and Caraway Seeds

Mixture 3

To the cheese add some chopped gherkins

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I find these are the best gherkins to use as they are not vinegary.

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Chopped Gherkins
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Curd Cheese and Gherkins

 

Typical Polish Breakfast Fare

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These cheese mixtures can also be served with bliny  -little buckwheat pancakes.  (Look out for a  a post on how to make these later).

Sernik – Polish Cheesecake

Baked cheesecakes have a very long history with the Ancient Greeks baking them with cheese and then the Romans adding eggs to the recipes.

Varieties of cheesecakes were made in the Middle East and mentioned in the Old Testament.  Maybe a land flowing with milk and honey is so good as these are ingredients needed to make a cheesecake!

The traditional cheesecake in Poland is a baked cheesecake and it is found in Christian and Jewish Traditions.

One story is that King Jan III Sobieski brought the recipe back with him after his victory against the Turks at the Battle of Vienna (1683).

This could tie up with the fact that  one version of the cheesecake  in Poland is called Viennese – Style.

When immigrants to the United States of America from Poland, Russia and Germany took their recipes with them in the 19 Century  we eventually got the New York Cheesecake.

As ser is the Polish word for cheese  – we get  sernik as the Polish word for cheesecake.

Cheesecakes are made from twaróg – curd cheese, eggs and sugar and how they turn out depends not only on the proportions of each but also the cheese that is used.  Butter and soured cream may also be used.

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My mother used to make her own curd cheese from fresh farm milk that was allowed to sour and then the solid curds were separated from the whey by pouring the soured milk into a muslin cloth and leaving this to drain.

Unfortunately you cannot make soured milk from pasteurised milk.

Recently I have been making my own yoghurt and yoghurt cheese.  You have to use a live yoghurt starter with pasteurised milk. This is very similar to twaróg, not identical but very near. The result tastes wonderful but it takes a lot of time and effort to get enough cheese at home and so the following recipes use bought cheese.

You can find twaróg now in Polish shops and some supermarkets and sometimes under its German name qwark.

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Twaróg – Curd Cheese

Previously as the curd cheese was not available  my recipes have been adapted to use a Philadelphia ™ style cream cheese.

Philadelphia ™ is a cream cheese invented in 1872 in New York State.

Full fat makes the best cheesecake. You can use a mixture of full fat and medium fat but never use low fat cheese.

You cannot make a good baked cheesecake from low fat cheese.

Curd cheese is slightly grainy and to get the best results you either need to put it through a mincer or  use a blender. 

A traditional baked cheesecake has 2 layers – a cake base and then the curd cheese layer on top.

In my mother’s original cake the cheese mixture was poured over a baked cake base but for ease I often use a crushed biscuit base.

Mama’s Cheesecake

IMG_20150730_065011576_HDRBiscuit Base Ingredients    

75g melted butter

150g digestive, rich tea or morning coffee biscuits

You need a round tin with a loose base or a spring form tin or you will not be able to get the cake out.  I always use an anodised aluminium tin, 23cm in diameter and 7 cm deep, which does not rust.

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Selection of my anodised cake tins

Grease the tin well with butter.

Crush the biscuits to make fine crumbs and use some of these to coat the sides of the greased tin.

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Crushed biscuits

Add the melted butter to the rest of the biscuits and mix together. Put this mixture onto the base of the tin pressing it down firmly.

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Biscuit crumb mix – pressed into the tin

Leave the tin in a cold place whilst you make the cheese mixture.

Cheese Mixture Ingredients

700g of curd cheese or cream cheese (at room temperature)

6 egg yolks

2 egg whites

4 tablespoons of caster sugar

50 to 75g of melted butter

3 drops of vanilla essence

1 to 2 tablespoons of semolina (optional)

Pre heat the oven to GM4 – 180oC.

In a large bowl beat the yolks and sugar until they are thick and creamy – the mixture should be lighter in colour than the original yolks and be creamy. (This may take around 5 minutes).  Then add the cooled melted butter, cheese and vanilla essence.

If using the semolina, add this now – it makes the cake a bit denser. (I rarely add this with cream cheese, more often with curd cheese).

Beat the whites with a whisk until you have soft peaks and fold these into the mixture.

Pour the mixture on top of the biscuit base and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours. Check after an hour, if the top starts to get too brown before the cake is cooked place a piece of foil over the top.

Once the cake is cooked switch off the oven, you can leave the door open slightly and let it cool down in the oven, this prevents it sagging and cracking too much as it cools. (It will sag and often does crack – this is not unusual).

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Once the cake is cool you can take it out of the tin.  I use a tin can and put the cake tin on this and slide the side of the cake tin down.

Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar before serving.

This cake tastes best if allowed to get cold, so make it the day before it is needed.

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Variations

You can make endless variations on this basic recipe by adding raisins, mixed peel, fresh raspberries and so on or adding a drizzle of melted dark chocolate on the top when it has cooled.

In Poland one type of cheesecake is described as  Viennese and another  as from Kraków. The Viennese one has sultanas or raisins and orange peel in the cheese mixture and sometimes some chocolate on top, whilst the one from Kraków  is traditionally baked in a square or rectangular shape and has a lattice of  pastry over the top and  will  also have sultanas or raisins in the cheese mixture.

Cheesecake Version 2

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I cannot quite remember the origin of this version,  I think  my mother got it either from one of her friends or from the Polish newspaper.  It has soured cream as one of the ingredients but no butter.  It uses all the egg whites which are stiffly beaten causing this cake to have a lighter texture and it rises more  but does sink down again as it cools.

The instructions are the same as the one above for the biscuit base.  It is the cheese mixture which is different

Cheese Mixture Ingredients

600g curd cheese or cream cheese (at room temperature)

100g caster sugar

6 eggs separated

120 mls soured cream

grated rind of 2 lemons or 3 drops of vanilla essence

Pre heat the oven to GM4 – 180oC.

In a large bowl beat the yolks and sugar until they are thick and creamy, add the lemon rind (or vanilla essence), soured cream and cheese.

IMG_20150720_173754727IMG_20150720_173742094In another large bowl whisk the whites till they are stiff and fold these into the cheese mixture using a metal spoon.

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Pour the mixture on top of the biscuit base and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Check after 50 minutes if the top starts to get too brown before the cake is cooked place a piece of foil over the top.

Once the cake is cooked switch of the oven, you can leave the door open slightly and let it cool down in the oven, this prevents it sagging and cracking too much as it cools.

Once the cake is cool you can take it out of the tin. I use a tin can and put the cake tin on this and slide the side of the cake tin down.

Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar before serving.

This cake tastes best if allowed to get cold, so make it the day before it is needed.

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Polish Cheese

The origins of cheese pre-dates recorded history but one of the earliest archaeological evidence of cheese production in 5,500 BC is from Kujawy in Poland.

Ser is the Polish word for cheese.

Unlike in France, Poland does not have dozens of varieties of cheese.

There are basically three types of cheese in Poland – white, yellow and smoked.

White cheese is made from curd cheese.

Twaróg is the name for curd cheese and is the most important cheese for cooking in Poland both for savoury and sweet dishes.

It is often known as ser wiejski  – village cheese.

This is the cheese that both sets of my grandparents would make on a very regular basis.

Twaróg

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Twaróg is made from soured milk and can be classified as a fresh acid-set cheese or as a fermented milk product. The soured milk is poured into muslin clothes and then hung up to separate the solid curds from the whey.  This results in the traditional wedge shape.

Rennet is not used in its production.

In German it is called Qwark, in Dutch it is called  Kwark and is similar to the French Fromage frais.

It is similar to yoghurt cheese which is made from strained yoghurt.

Science note

Soured milk and yoghurt are both produced by the action of bacteria in milk.

However it is mesophile (moderate temperature loving) bacteria which produce soured milk and thermophile(higher temperature loving)  bacteria which produce yoghurt. What that means is that soured milk is naturally prevalent in cooler climates than yoghurt.

Historical note

There is evidence of soured milk production in 10,000BC and yoghurt production in 6,000BC.

Twaróg  is used extensively in Polish cookery both savoury & sweet.

Recipes using Twaróg will feature in many of my future posts.

Yellow cheese is hard cheese and although there are several varieties they are very much like the Dutch cheeses such as Edam and Gouda.

Smoked cheese – the most famous is from the Tatra Mountains and it is made from sheep’s milk – it is called Oscypek.

This cheese has been made from the 15th Century.

The curds are pressed into wooden decorative shapes.

It has a protected trade name under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin.

Some scenes of the Tatra Mountains

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Zakopane is a much visited town in the Tatra mountains. Its name means dug in and it is in at the bottom of a valley surrounded by mountains.

Wooden houses typical of Zakopane

House in Zakopane

My beautiful picture

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Oscypek – smoked cheese – from the Tatra Mountains – is often served grilled with cranberry or lingonberry jam.

Oscypek for sale in the streets of Zakopane

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Lady selling Smoked Cheese
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Smoked Cheese made with Sheep’s Milk
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Some cheeses are made with Goat’s Milk

Górale – Highlanders – Shepherds from the Tatra Mountains

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Folk Dancing
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Folk Dancing

World Cheese Production

Some Very surprising Statistics

If anyone had asked me about world cheese production before I started this post, I would have guessed that  the biggest producer in Europe was France or maybe The Netherlands.  I would have been very wrong!

Looking at the figures for 2011 & 2013 for World Cheese Production in metric tonnes I found that –

The top 6 in both these years are as follows:

  1. United States of America
  2. Germany
  3. France
  4. Italy
  5. Netherlands
  6. Poland.

Also the United Kingdom  does not feature in the top 10 at all.

Thinking about this,  I of course realised that here in The United Kingdom  many of the cheeses for sale are imported many from France and The Netherlands.

In recent years Polish cheeses are appearing not only in the many Polish shops in the United Kingdom but also in some of the regular supermarkets.