Yield: Serves about 16
Pahska is a molded, creamy white dessert-like cheese embellished with bits of chopped fruit traditionally served for Russian Orthodox Easter celebrations, along with a stately plain yeast cake similiar to a brioche. Molded into a tall, narrow pyramid, pahska is served cut into slices, as the consistency is similar to a raw cheesecake. Its flavor is clean, slightly acid, and never runny or moldy. In lieu of a carved, truncated wooden pahska mold, a mesh or metal colander with the capacity of about 2-1/2 quarts will do nicely. A cone-shaped chinois strainer is close to the traditional shape, right down to its plained tip. Pahska must sit in the refrigerator for 2 days, where it will drain off a surprising amount of liquid so place the mold over a shallow bowl and cover it with plastic wrap to protect the delicate flavors.
This is a wonderful special-event almond and dried fruit cheese torta, as beautiful as it is delicious. Pasqua or Pashka, from the Greek word pasha, which means “to pass over,” is one of the most traditional of Greek Orthodox Easter foods, served with a sweet bread like Kulich or Babka. The mold is important. I like a cone-shaped chinois mesh strainer, since it also has a planed tip, but you can also use a slow cooker crock, just line it with plastic wrap under the cheesecloth. You can also use a mesh or metal colander.
Decorate the unmolded pahska with whole blanched almonds, placing them down the sides. Surround with whole, fresh strawberries and a few flowers, if desired, and sliced Easter breads.
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or finely minced vanilla bean
2 tablespoons fruit liqueur, such as apricot, pear, or raspberry
2-1/2 pounds fresh farmer’s cheese
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 egg yolks
1 cup superfine sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
1/4 cup dried currants
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup minced dried apricots
1/4 cup minced dried pineapple
1/2 cup slivered blanched almonds
1. Whip the cream with the vanilla and brandy until soft peaks form. Set aside. Combine the cheese and butter, with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, beating until fluffy and well blended. Add the yolks one at a time and beat in the sugar. Add the whipped cream mixture and the zests, fruits, and nuts. Mix just to combine evenly.
2. Line the mold with 2 layers of damp cheesecloth, with the excess hanging over the edge. Spoon the cheese mixture into the mold, filling it to the brim. Fold the edges of cloth over the cheese. Cover with plastic wrap and place a heavy object, such as a foil-wrapped brick, on the cheese. Place over a shallow bowl and refrigerate from overnight to 2 days.
3. To unmold, place a serving plate over the mold and invert. Gently lift off the mold and remove the cheesecloth. Stud the sides with the whole blanched almonds. Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time. Refrigerate any leftovers immediately and store, tightly wrapped, for up to 4 days.
Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2017
Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.