Los Angeles personal chef Agnieszka Graczyk (Agi) hails from Poland. Though she's been in the U.S. nearly a decade, this traditional Easter cheesecake always reminds her of home - in fact, she called her mother in Poland to double-check the recipe below. Says Agi:
"Poland is a country with deeply Catholic traditions. Hence, Easter is just as important a holiday to us Poles as Christmas. Since it falls around the beginning of spring, we bring to our tables eggs in various forms. Though an egg, being a symbol of birth and new beginning, dominates the Easter table it is also accompanied by white sausages, black pudding (kaszanka), bread and a few types of cakes. One of the typical choices is a traditional Polish cheesecake (sernik). However, in Poland, we call it a Viennese cheesecake. While the name suggests its origin in Austria, it has been a part of Polish cuisine for centuries."
Agi, a fixture in the kitchens of Hollywood executives like Emmy-winning director Todd Holland, cooks more Californian than Polish these days - local organic produce, free-range chicken, meat from happy cows. You'll find her signature healthy living recipes on her blog One More Bite, like chicken cordon bleu with goat cheese and cranberries, wheat berry salad, and sweet potato portobello "cupcakes." Contact Agi on Twitter @1MoreBite for information about her personal chef services.
For the backstory on this recipe, see Easter Eggs...in a Cheesecake from Agi's blog - it's funny!
Polish cheesecake "sernik"
- 2.5 lbs country cheese (or ricotta), well drained of any residual liquid
- 6 eggs, separated (preferably organic)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, soft (preferably organic)
- 1 cup raw cane sugar
- 1 Tbsp potato starch
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup raisins soaked in 3-4 Tbsp good rum, then drained (save the rum)
Using a food processor, combine the cheese and butter into a coherent mass. Grab a small bowl and a hand mixer and beat egg yolks and sugar together until light and creamy, saving 1 Tbsp of sugar for the egg whites. Add the eggs with sugar into the cheese mixture along with potato starch, vanilla extract, drained raisins and baking powder. Mix well.
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until they form stiff peaks, adding the remaining sugar at the last minute along with a pinch of salt. Gently combine the cheese mixture with the egg whites. It should take you about 5 minutes. You do not want to mix it rapidly, as that will deflate the eggs and your cake will end up dense and flat.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grab a 9-inch round baking pan, grease its bottom and sides with a little butter and dust with a touch of flour. Pour the batter into the form and insert into your hot oven. Bake for 40 minutes and check the cake. If it’s getting too brown on top, cover it with a piece of tin foil. Bake another 10-20 minutes. Turn off the oven, crack open its doors and let the cake sit inside for another 10-15 minutes. Remove the cake and let it cool on a rack inside the form.
When cool, dust the top with powder sugar for decoration, or top with chocolate ganache as in the photo above (recipe follows).
- 3 oz dark chocolate (70% coco)
- 2 Tbsp reserved rum
- 3 Tbsp heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp agave nectar (or honey)
In a double boiler slowly melt the chocolate and gently combine it with all the ingredients. Make sure the water in your pot is only gently simmering (not boiling) and it does not touch the bowl you’re melting the chocolate in. When the chocolate becomes silky and smooth, let it cool for a few minutes and them carefully distribute it all over your cheesecake. Store the cake in a refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight before serving.