Sernik Base with Peanut Butter

My mother often used this base when she made her sernik (baked cheesecake)  – it is a recipe she used in later years as the use of peanut butter is not at all traditionally Polish!

Ingredients

110g butter or block margarine

90g caster sugar

175g plain flour

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon of peanut butter (I prefer to use crunchy)

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Method

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.

Add the lemon rind, egg yolk  and peanut butter and cream again.

Mix in the flour with a wooden spoon and then using your hand bring this all together to form a soft dough.

Place the dough in a fridge for several hours.

 

 

 

Pre-heat the over to GM5 – 190°C

Use a loose bottom tin (or spring-form tin)  22cm or 20 cm in diameter.

Grease the base and sides of the tin.

Press the dough onto the base of the tin.

Prick the surface of the dough with a fork.

Bake for around 15 – 20 minutes until the top is golden.

Let the base cool completely before using it.

 

 

 

 

Using The Base

The base must be thoroughly cooled before use.

The base can be stored on the tin base for later use if needed – wrapped in foil or in an airtight container.

Sernik

Make your sernik (cheesecake) mixture and pour this onto the base and bake as per your recipe.

I used around 450 – 500g of yoghurt cheese with the addition of  mixed peel as in my another cheesecake recipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great cake lifter from Lakeland Plastics.

 

 

 

Cake is on a Lead Crystal cake stand

Cake forks are Crazy Daisy by Portmeirion designed by Sophie Conran in 2009.

Tea plates are Enchantment by Colclough from the mid 1950s – 1960s.

 

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.

IMG_20150730_065310865

 

 

 

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.

IMG_20150729_112712566
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.

IMG_20150719_072923126
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.

IMG_20150719_072912227
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.

IMG_20150719_074056491
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).

IMG_20150729_184757916

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.

IMG_20150730_065042097

IMG_20150730_065052219

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

IMG_20150721_073510768

 

 

 

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.

IMG_20150720_174620485

 

 

 

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.

IMG_20150720_210451582(1)

 

IMG_20150721_073504010

 

IMG_20150721_073510768

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polish Cakes

 

 

Cakes & Pastries

There seems to be is no end to the variety of cakes in Poland: yeast cakes, tort(layer cake), poppy seed cakes, apple cakes, cheesecakes, cakes with berries, honey cakes, cakes with nuts and many more. I could write a book just on cakes alone, even on just one type of cake.

The influence of France, Austria and Hungary can be seen or rather tasted in some of the cakes and pastries. This has come about through royal alliances in the past with foreign princesses bringing their chefs to Poland.

There are special cakes for different days of the year especially  Easter and Christmas Eve.

A Few Notes on Ingredients

I have adapted some recipes, as did my mother, to take into consideration the availability of ingredients here in England.

Cream in Poland is smetana – soured cream, and before its general availability in England we would use single or double cream with lemon juice added to it.

As in many countries in Europe, there is not any self-raising flour in Poland. There are different flours for bread making and there is a special plain flour for cake making to which you have to add baking powder. Many recipes use potato flour and sometimes cornflour.

Sugar in Poland is from sugar beet and is white sugar so there is not a tradition of cakes with brown sugar or syrup or treacle. Strangely enough the sugar is granulated or icing there is not any caster sugar.

Butter in Poland is unsalted and this although is better for baking and certainly for making butter cream, I do not find it makes enough of a difference to go out and get this type specially, salted will do if that is what you have.

Tort is usually layered up with rich butter cream or similar.

Chocolate is usually dark chocolate.

I  am going to start with a Traditional Poppy Seed Cake recipe.