This recipe for a molded Easter cheese dessert is known variously as paska, pasca, paskha and pascha.
Russian, Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Polish cuisine all feature paska, a word that literally means "Easter" or "pascal" for the holidays. Easter in a Russian Orthodox home isn't complete without kulich (a sweet yeast bread similar to Italian panettone) and paska blessed by the parish priest.
If you can't find dry curd cheese, you might want to make your own farmer's cheese from scratch. It's easy.
This no-bake dessert traditionally is made into a round ball, a brand new terra cotta flower pot or pressed into a pyramid-shaped mold, known as pasotchnitza (пасочница in Cyrillic) and originally made of wood but now often made of plastic with the sign of the cross and other religious symbols in relief.
Paska tastes somewhat like cheesecake without the crust and is often spread on slices of kulich.
- 2 pounds dry curd (or farmer's cheese)
- 5 large room-temperature egg yolks
- 2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup almonds (coarsely chopped)
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1 cup candied citron (chopped)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 8 ounces unsalted butter (whipped)
- Garnish: almonds, glacéed cherries, candied citron, green leave candies
- Pass the farmer's cheese through a sieve or food mill and set aside.
- In the top of a double boiler, mix egg yolks with sugar. Add cream and heat over barely simmering water, stirring constantly, until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Don't overheat or the eggs will curdle.
- Remove from heat and add reserved cheese, almonds, raisins, citron and vanilla, mixing well. Add butter and continue stirring until the mixture cools (this long stirring gives the paska a smooth and velvety texture).
- If you have a paska mold, line it with a double thickness of dampened cheesecloth. Pour the mixture inside and cover with a double thickness of dampened cheesecloth. Place the lid or a small plate on top and weight down with a heavy can. Place a bowl under the mold to catch any runoff and refrigerate 24 hours. Unmold onto a serving plate and decorate with almonds, glacéed cherries, candied citron and green leaves, if desired. Cut into thin slices as this is very rich.
- If using a new terra cotta flower pot, proceed as above.
- If forming into a ball, over the sink, wrap the mixture in a double layer of dampened cheesecloth and twist into a tight ball. Place in a colander with a bowl underneath to catch any moisture, cover with a plate and weight down with a heavy can. Proceed as above.
- For a perfectly round ball, close the cheesecloth with butcher's twine and then tie it to a rack in the refrigerator, suspending it over a bowl to catch drips.