I've finally cracked it! Today I made a proper Polish cheesecake.
The cheesecakes we had in Poland were wonderful - light, full of flavour and not too sweet.
Tod bakes a great cheesecake, but his recipe is American, has lashings of sour cream on top and is very rich. It also comes with a biscuit crumb base, whereas many of the cakes in Poland have no base.
Over the last few weeks, I've been trying various Polish recipes from the internet, but each time the cheesecake looked great as it emerged from the oven - like a soufflé - but then collapsed as it cooled.
But today's sernik was perfect. The trick I've discovered is to bake the cake at a much lower temperature than most recipes suggest and for much longer and not to over-beat the egg white.
So here's my recipe for the perfect Polish cheesecake....
- Five eggs - separated
- About a kilo of cottage cheese (here in France I use Faisselle which is very wet, so I strain two kilos of it overnight through muslin, which brings the weight down to about a kilo in total)
- 70 gm caster sugar
- 110 gm butter
- 70 gm sultanas (some recipes suggest soaking the sultanas in brandy)
- one tablespoon of potato flour
- one tablespoon vanilla essence
- zest of one lemon
Beat the sugar and butter until nice and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time still beating the mixture.
Add the strained cheese to the butter/egg mixture and beat to a smooth texture.
Add the sultanas, potato flour, vanilla essence and lemon zest and beat again.
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until they are just stiff (but don't go on any longer) and then fold the beaten egg whites into the cheese/egg mixture. Spoon the mixture into a buttered and flour-dusted cake tin.
I use a nine inch diameter cake tin with deep sides and a removable base. I butter and flour-dust the sides and bottom and then line the sides with a double layer of baking parchment.
Most recipes suggest baking at 180°C or even hotter for about 40-50 minutes and this is where I found the frothy mixture rose too much and too quickly and then collapsed. So I now bake at 140-150°C for about 90-100 minutes until the top is just beginning to brown and feels springy to the touch. I also leave the cake in the oven to cool.
It's a struggle to get a French bottle gas oven cool enough and the settings are not subtle, so I have the regulo just below "1" and put the cake tin on the middle shelf on two layers of newspaper and have a tin of water in the bottom of the oven. This slows down the whole baking process, means the cake rises more slowly and stays risen and light. And tastes great!