Russian Zupfkuchen

Russian ZupfkuchenWotchers!

Bit of a quirky recipe this week, since Russian Zupfkuchen is actually a German dessert and practically unknown in Russia. Many thanks to Florian Fischer (@MaddingKraut on Twitter) my official German culinary attaché, for his help and advice.

OK, if I was pressed, I’d say it was a little like a baked cheesecake, but before any cheesecake-haters run screaming for the hills, let me assure you that it’s textures and flavours are so much lighter and fresher than a traditional, say, New York Cheesecake. Don’t get me wrong, a New York style cheesecake can be an absolute delight, but no-one can deny that it’s incredibly rich and filling and a little on the heavy side.

This Russian Zupfkuchen has a crisp, intensely chocolatey biscuit-like crumb and topping, surrounding a light, almost melt-in-the-mouth, creamy filling, delicately flavoured with vanilla. The real star of the piece, however, is Quark, an acid-set soft cheese, very common in many north-European and Slavic countries.

It is available in supermarkets in the UK, at around £1.00 for 250g and is naturally fat-free. After mixing with eggs, sugar, flavouring and a little cream, during baking it puffs up like a soufflé, gently settling back as it cools. Once chilled, the result is light, creamy without being cloying, and a wonderful contrast between the softly-set filling and the richness of the pastry.

Which brings me to the single slight downside to this recipe – the pastry. It tastes incredible – SO crisp, SO friable and SO richly flavoured  – and is a bit of a devil to work with. Once made, you need to chill it for several hours, rather than the more usual 30 minutes, and it softens very quickly, so lining the baking tin can become a rather drawn-out affair if the day is warm, as it needs to keep going back into the fridge/freezer to firm up almost every few minutes.

Which is why, gentle reader, the picture at the top of this post aint lookin’ too purdy. And I did try my best, several times. I suspect my mistake was trying to make the pastry too thin that was my downfall. If you fancy an easier alternative, try the chocolate pastry from The Midnight Meringue instead.

Russian Zupfkuchen

For the pastry:

200g plain flour
50g cornflour
120g icing sugar
170g butter
1 large egg
50g cocoa powder
1 pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder

For the filling:

140g icing sugar
3 large eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla pod, or vanilla extract to taste
500g quark
2tbs cornflour
1 pinch salt
175ml double cream
60g unsalted butter, melted

  •  Put all of the ingredients for the pastry into a food processor and blitz.
  • The mixture will eventually come together into a very soft paste.
  • Tip out, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 3 hours.
  • Remove 1/4 of the dough and put it in the freezer to chill
  • Grease and line a 24cm spring-form cake tin with parchment.
  • Roll out the remaining chilled pastry to between 5-10mm and use it to line the cake tin.
  • Chill the lined tin in the fridge while the filling is made.
  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Whisk the eggs and the icing sugar until pale and frothy.
  • Stir in the quark, vanilla, salt and cornflour.
  • Whisk the double cream until thickened and stir though, together with the melted and cooled butter.
  • When everything is smoothly mixed, pour into the prepared baking tin. It will rise during baking, so don’t fill the pastry case too full.
  • Take the remaining pastry from the freezer and grate it, coarsely, over the surface of the filling.
  • Bake for 1 hour. Turn the tin around after 30 minutes to help bake evenly.
  • Cool completely. Cover with foil, then chill in the fridge.
  • Remove from the tin and cut into portions when chilled.

3 Comments on “Russian Zupfkuchen”

  1. Ingrid says:

    Lovely recipe, thanks. There is an easier way to deal with the pastry:
    I can translate, if you like the recipe or steps.
    Cheers, Ingrid

  2. Lynn Blokzijl says:

    I think it looks wonderful, shame I’m not near enough to pop ’round for a piece 😉

  3. Christine says:

    Excellent recipe delicious! Also thanks to Ingrid as I followed the YouTube link method for lining the tin which was easier than rolling out the pastry. (I didn’t understand a word, just followed the pictures)

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