This creamy fruit studded spread is traditionally served with the Russian Easter Bread, Kulich. If you like cream cheese than paskha with its addition of lemon zests, sultanas, raisins and nuts is right up your alley. I never thought I would be able to make cream cheese but this is cream cheese! A much better version too and without adding unnecessary thickeners. Some recipes will add raw eggs or hard boiled egg yolks whilst others will leave out the eggs totally. Egg yolks do enrich the taste of anything it is added to so I cooked the egg yolks and cream into a custard sauce before adding them in. There are numerous ways to put pashka together and there are recipes which call for store bought cream cheese. I like the idea of going the traditional way and draining the cottage cheese (or farmer’s cheese if you can get a hold of it). It is an extra step no doubt but I believe it gives it a purer taste. This is a delicious spread. Try it spread on a fruit studded kulich. It is a tall loaf. Soft and rich enriched with more egg yolks, butter and milk.

It is a challenge to bake but try out my recipe, Kulich A Russian Easter Bread Baked By A Non Russian. I baked 10 kulichi in 2 weeks to get the recipe right. More importantly, I have addressed the challenges and gone into detail about how to get a successfully baked kulich.

Paskha Fruit Studded Cream Cheese Spread Without The Raw Eggs

Prep: 20 minutes 
Cook: 5 – 10 minutes
Inactive: Drain cottage cheese overnight. And then, another 24 hours in the refrigerator after ingredients are mixed together.
Level: Easy
Makes: ~2 and 1/2 cups 
Oven Temperature:
Can recipe be doubled? Yes
Make ahead? Keeps well in the refrigerator if kept clean (use a clean utensil to scoop out required paskha and refrigerate promptly) for up to 2 weeks.

Ingredients

500g full fat cottage cheese
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup double/thickened cream
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 lemon zest
4 Tablespoons (2 oz)(55g) softened butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 Tablespoons currants/sultanas/raisins
4 Tablespoons mixed citrus peel
OR
1 whole Sugar Frosted Tangerine diced up (image below)*
2 Tablespoons diced almonds
* I prefer to use dried Sugar Frosted Tangerine as I do not like the look and taste of those glacey, syrupy, citrus peels – too artificial tasting. I buy the tangerines from Traditional Chinese Medicine shops. It comes in the shape of a flattened tangerine. One piece would give you about 5 Tablespoons of diced tangerine peel. They are really nice eaten as candy. I also use it in combination with chinese tea leaves, chrysanthemum, wolfberries/goji berries, red dates, ginseng etc. to brew a special blend of tea. Recipe below, under ‘Tips‘. To use, cut into wedges like I did and remove any seeds or hard pith. Sometimes there will be none of these, other times plenty! Then, cut into smaller pieces. 

Method

Drain the cottage cheese
1. Set a small colander over a bowl. Line the colander with cheese cloth or a disposable draining paper. Pour the cottage cheese onto the cheese cloth, pull up the cloth ends, twist and rest over the cheese. Weigh down with a plate and something heavier on the plate. Allow enough room between bottom of bowl and colander for whey to collect. Leave it in the fridge overnight and up to 2 days.

Make the custard
1. In a bowl, add egg yolks and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar.
2. In a small pot, warm the thickened cream over medium to high heat until tiny bubbles appears around the circumference. Decrease temperature to medium low, use a whisk to stir the cream while you add the egg yolks and sugar mixture. Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens into a custard like consistency. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes.
3. To test if the custard sauce is ready, dip a wooden or metal spoon into the sauce. Run your finger down the back of the spoon. It should leave a distinct mark. If you are using a silicon spoon, the mark might not be that distinct. Better to use a wooden or metal spoon.

4. Remove from the burner and continue stirring. You do not want the residual heat to scramble your custard. Transfer to a bowl and cool slightly.

Mixing ingredients together
1. It is easiest to mix all the ingredients using a food processor or a mixer. If you mix it by hand, you might not get as smooth a cheese spread.
2. Transfer the drained cottage cheese into a mixing bowl. Either by hand or in a food processor, mix lemon zest, vanilla essence and then the softened butter gradually into the drained cheese until full incorporated.
3. Next add the cooled custard into the cheese mixture until well mixed in.
4. Finally, with a large spoon or spatula, fold in the dried fruits and almonds.
5. Taste and adjust seasoning. More sugar (use icing sugar so it blends in easily) or perhaps lemon zest or vanilla extract?

Storing the paskha overnight
1. As this makes about 2 and 1/2 cups of paskha, find a suitably sized disposable plastic container or an empty can of canned food or a clean flower pot with a draining hole. Make a few holes at the base of the plastic or can so that excess liquid can drain. I find that as the cottage cheese has been pre-drained rather well, there would be hardly any whey left to drain out. It depends on how well you drained the cottage cheese so I still would not skip this step.
2. Line your draining vessel with a cheese cloth and fill up with the paskha, pull cloth ends up, twist and rest over the top.

3. Place a plate on paskha and weigh down with canned food and refrigerate 24 hours. I like the imprint that the cheese cloth leaves on the surface of the cheese. Makes it look rather rustic and authentic. Use a thin kitchen towel if you do not have cheese cloth.

Serve ideally, with the Russian Easter Bread, Kulich, or spread on any other bread.

Tips

8 Treasures Tea
A good way to use up any remaining pieces of Sugar Frosted Tangerine. I had a similar tea in a sichuan/szechuan cuisine restaurant. They had called it the ‘8 Treasures Tea’ (because it contains 8 ingredients?). It is pleasantly floral and you can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. Using less tea leaves, citrus peel and ginseng roots and adding more chrysanthemum flowers will give you a more floral tasting tea. Red dates, wolfberries and the sugar frosted tangerines not only provides flavour but also sweetens the tea. Ingredients can be purchased from Traditional Chinese Medicine shops or in better stocked supermarkets and Asian grocery stores.

Ingredients
1 and 1/2 litres water
1 citrus peel
1/4 cup of red dates
1 sugar frosted tangerine
1 Tablespoon chinese tea
1 Tablespoon wolfberries/goji berries
1/4 cup of sugar frosted winter melon
OR
1 large piece of rock sugar (or equivalent to 1/4 cup worth)

OR
1/4 cup sugar
3 handfuls of chrysanthemum flowers
1 handful ginseng roots (specifically the inexpensive ginseng fibres/”beards”)

Boil the water in a pot. Add all the ingredients, lower heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover and let it steep for another 10 minutes before serving.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

This Greek Easter Bread, Tsoureki, is much easier to bake than the Russian Easter Bread, Kulich. It taste just as delicious but the highlight of the Tsoureki has to be the pillowy texture of the bread. Baked correctly, when you tear into the Tsoureki, it tears off in strands, much like cotton candy or candy floss!

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