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Monday, April 25, 2011

Romanian Pasca (Easter cheese and egg cake) with raisins

The Pasca is such a staple in Romanian houses not a single Easter holiday goes by without having the two main desserts on the table, which are this and a good loaf of cozonac (here's an example of the original version of cozonac and the faster and easier version). In most of my years spent at home with my folks, I used to purposefully annoy my mom when she asked me, year-round, what I wanted for dessert. I would answer "Pasca" although I knew all too well it's something we do, traditionally, only on Easter and that there are plenty of other yummy desserts we could have. I would especially say that on Christmas just see her roll her eyes at me :)
Back to this wonderful dessert, you need to know that it's basically a pie dish filled with a combination of sweet cheese (but not cream cheese like in the New-York style cheesecake, it has to be slightly more chunky and crumbly, more like cottage fresh cheese) and fruits (usually raisins, but other dry fruit and nut combinations are practiced). It's not very sweet (the whole thing only has a few spoon of sugar, but it tastes sweet because of the delicate cheese and fruit mixture.
This is a very basic and easy version of the pasca, and while I didn't have access to the fresh cow milk cheese one is supposed to use for this, I improvised quite well and I can honestly say I couldn't feel much difference from the original in the end. Enjoy your Easter holiday and be sure to give this a try :).

Ingredients (makes one round pie, for a 26 cm dish):

For the dough:

  • 4 tablespoons of yogurt (75 g)
  • 150 g butter
  • 250 g flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar

For the filling:

  • 500 g ricotta cheese
  • 120 g cream cheese (like Philadelphia), full fat
  • 100 g raisins
  • 3 eggs
  • one cup of warm peppermint (or white) tea
  • 3 tablespoons sugar

Place all the ingredients for the dough in a large bowl:

Mix them with your hands (the butter will be harder to incorporate, but work at it) until you have an even dough. It won't take more than 5-6 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball:

Cover with a kitchen cloth and let it rest for 2 hours. Meanwhile, make a cup of tea (peppermint for a fresh touch or white tea for a delicate flavor; don't try using black or green tea, the combination with the cheese will give an overall dubious taste - or red tea because it matches fruits better) and soak the raisins in it:

You may leave the raisins just until you'll use them. When the time is up and you're ready to bake the Pasca, preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Press the dough into the pie dish (no need to pre-grease it) with your palms until it's evenly spread and it covers everything:

Lightly drain the raisins and put them in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, cream cheese and sugar:

Lightly beat the eggs and add them too:

Mix everything with a fork for a couple of minutes until you have an even filling. Pour it in the pie dish over the dough:

Put the Pasca in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Take out and allow to cool a bit:

Slice up and dig in! Happy Easter! :)

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