It’s no secret that in our house we travel for the food. We haven’t stopped talking (or instagramming) about our recent lunch at Venissa in Burano, and we still dream about the amazing Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, the wonderfully cheesy khachupuri in Georgia, basically everything we tried in India, the list could go on and on. However, ask me which foods I miss from Kazakhstan, and my mind goes blank. There were a handful of local dishes like lagman and baursaki, and a few soviet classics like borsht and vinigret that we enjoyed while we were there, but very few dishes actually made it into our recipe repertoire.
In fact, this may be the first recipe I have tried to recreate since leaving over a year ago. It all started at the market, where these massive piles of apricots were basically screaming at me, and before I knew it, I found myself reaching across the counter to take posession of a two kilo (about 4.5 pounds) bag. I can’t say that apricots are on the top of my list of favorite fruits, and it only took about 30 seconds after I shoved the apricots into my bag for buyers remorse to set in. Luckily, it didn’t last long, because I suddenly remembered this Russian Apricot Cheese Cake from my two years in Kazakhtan. This cheese cake is made with tvorog (farmers cheese/ricotta) and apricots covered with what I can only describe as sugar cookie topping. Every time I’ve been served this cake, it’s tasted a bit lighter (and–if only slightly–healthier) than its American cousin. The apricots, which are baked right into the cake, cook down into the perfect combination of soft, sweet, and tart, and really compliment the fresh taste of the filling.
Fortunately, farmer’s cheese or “fresh cheese” is easy to find in Croatia, and a quick search on pinterest for russian cheese cake led me to Julia’s post and fabulous recipe over at Vikalinka. Her recipe was exactly what I was looking for. I followed her advice and ran the filling through the food processor for a nice creamy texture, but I have to admit that I found myself missing the more rustic texture of the cake I tried so many times in Kazakhstan, so I think that next time I will mix it by hand. I also added a bit of salt to both the crust and the filling, since my American pallate struggles with the saltless desserts of eastern europe. Aside from that, I found the recipe to be perfect. Easy to throw together, and delightful to eat.
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 12 Apricots
- 16 oz (500 grams) fresh cheese/farmer’s cheese/tvorog/ricotta
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or half a packet of vanilla sugar
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, butter, and baking soda. Pulse several times until the dough is crumbly. Add the egg and continue to pulse until the dough comes together and starts to form a ball.
- Remove the dough from the food processor. Wrap about 2/3 of the dough in plastic wrap, flatten into a disk, and put in the refrigerator for about 30 min. Form the remaining dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and put in the freezer.
- For the filling, there are two options-zip it through the food processor for a silky/creamy texture, or mix it by hand if you like it a bit coarser. Combine the cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla (either in the food processor or a mixing bowl) and mix until well combined. Stir in flour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a well floured surface until it is bigger than your pan. You can use a spring form pan if you have one, but I used a regular cake pan that I greased and lined with parchment paper.
- Press the crust into the pan. Don’t worry if it tears, just patch it up with extra bits of crust. Put the crust lined pan back in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
- Wash the apricots, slice in half, and remove the pits.
- Remove the pan from the fridge and pour in the cheese mixture. Arrange the apricot halves evenly on the cheese.
- Remove the remaining crust from the freezer and grate over the apricots.
- Bake for about 55 minutes until the top of the crust is golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the pan. Then remove from the pan and transfer to the refrigerator.
- Serve chilled.