Traditional Polish cheesecake is made using Polish ‘twarog’ cheese (also called ‘bialy ser’ in Poland), or ‘curd cheese’. It’s a little denser than classic baked cheesecake (made with cream cheese) though still creamy, delicious and easy to make.
Preheat the oven to 400 F/ 200 C/ gas mark 6. Line the bottom of a 23 cm (9’’) springform pan with parchment paper and lock the rim.To a food processor add the flour, baking powder, sugar, cocoa, pinch of salt and butter.
Pulse until crumbly. Add the egg yolks and blend until a dough forms.
Remove the dough from the blender, place on top of a parchment paper sheet and roll out until it’s at least large enough to cover the bottom of your pan (ideally it should be about an inch larger in diameter).
Turn the parchment upside down and let the dough drop into the pan then press firmly into the bottom as well as about 1 cm (0.5’’) up the sides (though it’s ok to just cover the bottom of the pan). Pierce with a fork all over and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely. Once cooled grease the inside of the rim with butter, add 1 tablespoon of ground almonds into the pan and coat the sides by tilting and turning the pan around. Gently turn upside down to remove excess almond mixture. Set aside.
Make the cheesecake batter
Once your crust has cooled make the cheesecake filling mixture (at this point preheat the oven to 325 F/170 C/ gas mark 3).To the food processor add the twarog cheese and pulse until it’s thick, sticky, smooth and creamy (do this thoroughly to avoid a grainy texture). Set aside.
Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale (2-3 minutes).
Addthe vanilla extract, one egg yolk, 1 tablespoon of corn flour and 2 tablespoons of the twarog. Beat just until combined, then gradually add the remaining 2 egg yolks and corn flour along with the twarog, double cream and orange zest. Beat until the mixture is smooth (but do not overmix).
Gently fold in the raisins. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks appear then gently but thoroughly fold into the cheesecake mixture (in 3 goes).
Assemble the cheesecake
Pour the cheesecake filling mixture over the crust and smooth out the top.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 55 minutes. Switch the oven off, but DO NOT remove the cheesecake (or open the oven door) for one hour. After an hour leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door open for an additional 15 minutes.
Once completely cooled use a thin spatula or knife to loosen the cheesecake from the rim of the springform pan then remove the rim. Dust the top with icing sugar and serve. For best results use a sharp knife to cut the cheesecake, wiping it clean and dipping in warm water between slices.
Remove the cheesecake filling ingredients from the fridge at least an hour before making the recipe.
*I used full-fat twarog (7.5% fat per 100g) but you can use the half-fat variety (3.5% fat per 100g) if you prefer. I’ve made this cheesecake with both and in my opinion the full-fat twarog yields better results – the cheesecake is creamier and a little less crumbly.
Pulse the twarog cheese until smooth, thick and creamy. It should have the consistency of a spread. This step is important as it will determine the texture of your cheesecake.
I recommend making the crust in a food processor (it takes seconds), but you can do it by hand if you prefer. Combine the dry ingredients with the butter using the tips of your fingers until crumbly then add the egg yolks and make the dough. Try to do this quickly so the butter stays cold (if the dough becomes too sticky pop it in the freezer for 10 minutes before rolling out).
You can make the crust in advance and leave in a cool place (in the pan) until you are ready to make the cheesecake.
Do not over mix the cheesecake filling once the eggs have been added.
It’s important to cool Polish sernik gradually so leave it in the oven for an hour after you’ve switched it off (see Instructions).
Keep refrigerated, covered, for up to 4 days.
Served chilled or microwave individual slices for a few seconds to loosen the texture first.
Freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag (slices or small pieces). Alternatively wrap the cheesecake in several layers of plastic wrap and finish off with 1 layer of aluminium foil and freeze for up to 3 months.