The satisfaction of another homemade cheesecake is just around the corner.
While our buds have taken a trip around the Baltics before, in Estonia's case, there is also plenty of curdy reasons to dive in. Cheese seems to feature across much of their sweet and savoury inventory and also into their confectionery with Kohuke, a chocolate-covered cheese curd bar sold by the packet and often referred to as an Estonian energy bar.
So, with the cheese and chocolate affiliation strong, the peat cake, or turbakook, comes as no surprise as an Estonian dessert to raise both kitchen brows in delight. The biscuit crumb is said to resemble peat, a soil-like substance, which features as the base as well as the topping. It features farm cheese, a crumblier and drier version of cottage cheese, usually served in a firmer block. It is teamed with sour cream and sugar before being sandwiched by a top and bottom layer of crushed chocolate biscuits. It is baked, wobbled and then chilled and finished in a dusting of cocoa powder.
Phoebe Wood's recipe from Feast Magazine is a cheesecake wonder on the SBS Food site. I still remember making this recipe when I first joined the team many cheesecake moons ago now. Using several opened biscuit packets for the crumble coating was great but it was coating the top in more biscuit crumble that has since paved the way for many cheesecake combinations. It certainly helped that I was already part of a cottage and farm cheese-loving household, typically used for our savoury pita pies and palačinke, so it was nice to have another home for it. While the recipe calls on farm-style cottage cheese, you can also weave in ricotta, kajmak, queso fresco, mascarpone, cream cheese or a combination of a few of the above, if that's all you've got handy. Just be sure the filling isn't too wet or runny went it layers on top of the biscuity base. A touch of cornflour (optional) in the filling, firms it all up, acting as a kind of insurance against the cheesecake crumbling when you go to slice it, but you don't have to wield it.
Vanilla extract is a great flavour in this filling, but you can also interchange almond or coffee essence, or swirl through some maple syrup, chocolate sauce or even Biscoff to cut through the tartness of the cheese. Once baked, you'll notice still have a wobble factor, true story, before it sets.
Bake and chill
Preheat your oven to 160°C. Grease or line a 20-cm springform cake tin and set it aside.
To make the crumb, pulse these ingredients in a food processor:
- 300 g chocolate biscuits
- 2 tbsp cocoa
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 50 g butter, melted or browned for nuttiness
Pulse until crumble and combined. You can decide how coarse or fine you want it to be. Then gently press half the mixture into the base on the tin and set aside the other half.
To make the filling, combine in one bowl:
- 750 g farm-style cottage cheese, or a combination of ricotta, mascarpone, cottage, kajmak
- 80 g sour cream
In another bowl, beat until thick and pale:
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
Fold the cheese mixture into the egg batter along with:
- 1 tbsp of cornflour
This is where you would swirl through any syrups, sauces or spreads you'd like. Spread over the biscuit base. Scatter the remaining biscuit crumb mixture over the top.
Bake for 50-60 mins, or until it sits somewhere between a gentle wobble and a set. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to cool completely with the door slightly ajar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Dust with extra cocoa, to serve.
Definitely, big spoon territory and it's also great with stoned fruits and berries as well as ice cream.
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The pretzels in the base are a salty counterbalance to the crisp apples and rich caramel topping the cake.
This cheesecake recipe is from my debut cookbook, Polska, and based on the one my grandma used to make for all kinds of family celebrations during my childhood in Poland.