In Poland, the cheesecakes were always baked, and made with tworog, a dense, slightly sour white cheese like farm cheese, which has to be passed through a potato ricer and then beaten thoroughly to get it smooth.
The mixture always included eggs, and also butter, and sometimes cream and beaten egg whites as well. Almost all the Polish cheese cakes had dried fruit, and orange rind, and a layer of crust, top and bottom, since many were traditionally baked with a lattice top. This rich dense cake is the taste of Rita's childhood; during the war, her father sometimes brought cakes from a bakery in Warsaw, a magical taste when they were in hiding.
In Australia, Rita makes a lighter version, still with dried fruit, but with ricotta instead of the more dense farm cheese, no butter and no crust.
It produces a delicious cake that is far less work than the Polish cake of her childhood, since all the ingredients go into the mixer in one go. The cake is not as smooth as a cake made from American cream cheese like Philadelphia, but it has a beautiful texture. This version is sweetened with dried fruit and brightened with roasted nuts. It does have some flour or semolina, but you can use corn flour for a delicious gluten free alternative (or substitute matza meal at Passover.)
- 1 kilo / 4 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 5 tablespoons plain flour or semolina (can substitute corn flour for a gluten free cake, or matzo meal at Passover)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 5 tablespoons brandy or marsala, or any sweet alcohol. If you are out of alcohol, a mixture of lemon juice and maple syrup works well too.
- 1/2 cup raisins or sultanas
- 1/2 cup pine nuts or coarsely chopped almonds, lightly toasted
1. Put cheese in a colander above a bowl and let it drain.
2. Pour the brandy over the raisins and let soak until plump, about 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F degrees. If it's fan forced, 10-15 dgrees less. Grease a 26cm/ 9-inch springform pan.
4. Combine the sugar and flour.
5. Beat the cheese in a mix master or food processor until smooth. Blend in the sugar- flour mixture, eggs, cream, vanilla, and salt.
6. At the end, fold in the raisins (including the soaking liquid) and nuts.
7. Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until firm around the edges and lightly browned, about 1 1/4 hours. Tum off the oven, open the door, and let the cake cool there for 30 minutes, before taking it out. Serve warm or at room temperature. (If the cake is refrigerated, you can warm it in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes)
To make a chocolate cheesecake, add 1/2 cup unsweetened raw cocoa powder and 1 ounce finely grated dark chocolate to the mixture.