I’ve been making Pashka for decades, ever since first reading about
Russian Easters in an old, now collectible Time-Life book series, Foods
of the World. Initially I made it out of curiosity, but it’s so
delicious it’s become part of my family’s non-Russian Easter tradition;
something my out-of-town children also make for their Easter feasts. We
serve it surrounded by strawberries – definitely NOT a Russian
tradition, but definitely a delicious combination. It’s one of the few
times I buy strawberries out of season.
Russian Pashka usually includes chopped candied fruits. I don’t care for them, and leave them out, but add them if you like. Special wooden Pashka molds are used in Russia that outline XB or XP that signify “Christ is Risen;” you can make the design yourself using toasted slivered almonds or bits of candied fruit. I use a 4-square-sided flowerpot; a round one works well, too. Farmer’s or pot cheese is used in Russia, not easily found here; whole-milk ricotta makes a worthy substitute.
- 1 1/2 lb. whole milk ricotta
- 1/4 lb. unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 c heavy cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla
- 1/2 c. chopped candied fruit, optional, plus additional for garnish, optional
- Lightly toasted slivered almonds for garnish, optional
Heat the cream in a heavy pan until small bubbles start to form around edge of the pan.
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk or mixer until thickened and a ribbon falls from the whisk. Stirring constantly, add the hot cream in a thin stream to the egg/sugar mixture, then return the mixture to the pan. Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until thickened. Do not allow to boil. When thick enough to coat a spoon, remove from heat, stir in vanilla and cool completely.
Thoroughly combine custard with the cheese/butter mixture and stir in the candied fruit if using.
Mixture may be placed in a cheesecloth-lined mold; then chilled, or chilled first and then shaped with a spatula. May be made at this point several days ahead.
An hour or two before serving, unmold the pashka or shape it into a mound with a spatula. Garnish with toasted almonds or bits of candied fruit if desired.