05 Jan Ukrainian Cheesecake aka Tvorog Zapekanka
It seems like almost every country has its own version of cheesecake. I’m not surprised. Cheesecake is an ultimate comfort dessert made with luscious soft cheese, eggs, and vanilla. Today I’m excited to share my favorite childhood desserts – Ukrainian Cheesecake, aka Tvorog Zapekanka. As I mentioned before, cheesecakes are usually made with a variety of soft creamy cheeses. In Slavic culture, we use the one and only tvorog cheese. That’s why our cheesecake is more tangy than creamy. Here is a short article I wrote for those who have not been introduced to tvorog yet.
Where to get tvorog cheese?
Tvorog is one of the essential staples in Slavic cuisine. It’s not only a foundation for multiple sweet and savory dishes but also a delicious product to enjoy on its own. The closest relative of tvorog is its French cousin – Fromage blanc. Both kinds of cheese have a similar flavor profile, but you’d still immediately taste the difference. For getting tvorog, you have two options – buying it from a Russian/Slavic grocery store or making it from scratch. You’ll be able to get tvorog from any Russian store near you, even the smallest one. I personally prefer making tvorog from scratch. It’s much easier than you think. I’m happy to share my Tvorog recipe with you!
A few tvorog zapekanka secrets!
- Moderate heat. To make Ukrainian cheesecake moist and light, I recommend baking it at 325°F. And don’t forget to rotate the pan 180° halfway through baking to ensure even cooking.
- Soak the Raisings. Soaking the raisins in hot water for about 15 minutes will make them moist and soft. Always drain and pat dry them before putting them into the batter.
- Cool it down slowly. This tvorog cheesecake will get tall and fluffy while baking. But it will lose a part of its height once cooled down. To prevent it from dramatically collapsing in the middle, let the cheesecake in cooldown in the oven for 20 min, with the door halfway open.
- Cover with chocolate. Chocolate ganache is one of the most favorite toppings for Ukrainian cheesecake. When making ganache, use quality dark chocolate to add a note of decadence.
- Store in the fridge. Tvorog zapekanka will stay moist and delicious for about 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. You can store it in the same baking pan. Just cover it with a couple of layers of plastic wrap.
Ukrainian Cheesecake aka Tvorog Zapekanka
- Mixer or whisk
- 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 3 large eggs separated
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 100 g 3.5 ounces granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 600 g 1.3 pounds tvorog cheese
- 80 g 2.8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons semolina
- Place the raisins in a small bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let the raisins soak for 15 minutes until soft, and then drain them and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside until needed.
- Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla extract, sugar. Whisk until the mixture is combined. Then add the tvorog cheese, butter, raiains, and semolina. Mix well with a spatula until the cheese mixture is smooth and creamy.
- Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks.
- Gently fold in the egg whites into the cheese mixture, carefully mixing it in with a spatula.
- Preheat the oven to 325F. Spray a 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan with baking spray. Scrape the tvorog mixture into the pan and transfer it to the oven. Bake the cheesecake for 75 min, rotate the pan 180 halfway through baking. Turn the heat off when the cheesecake is golden brown on top but still slightly jiggly in the center.
- Let the cheesecake to cooldown in the oven for 20 min, with the door halfway open. This will prevent it from collapsing in the middle. After 20 min, remove tvorog zapekanka from the oven and let it completely cool on a wire rack.