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Friday, April 15, 2011

Pasha and Kulitsa--Eastern Finnish creamy dessert and bread for Easter

This week, I made pasha and kulitsa, dishes that are traditionally eaten at Easter in eastern Finland.  My husband had never had these before, but I will definitely be making them again for dessert on Easter Sunday.  Pasha is a creamy dessert, kind of like a fruit and almond flavored cream cheese.  Kulitsa is a sweet bread, full of raisins, with a beautiful golden color.  Everyone was really excited to try it, it is the kind of food that you just can't stop eating once you start!  

I made two size 4 coffee filter sized  pasha and two loaves of kulitsa, the plan was to have one for dessert after dinner, and the other for the next day...somehow almost all of it disappeared last night!  

The pasha takes at least 24 hours to make.  There are a lot of different flavorings used in pasha in Finland, including raisins, currants, cherries, or candied citron.  Another complication with making this in the United States is that we don't have "maitorahka" or quark.  I did quite a bit of research before deciding on this combination of several recipes.

The ingredients I used were:

16 ounces of 4 percent milk-fat cottage cheese (2 cups or 5 dl)
1/2 cup sour cream (1.25 dl)
(note:  if you have maitorahka or quark available, just use 6.25 dl instead of the cottage cheese and sour cream)

2 tablespoons soft butter
2 tablespoons of pasteurized egg product or 2 pasteurized egg yolks
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup ground or finely chopped almonds
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup dried cherries (or raisins or currants or candied citron if you want to change the flavor)

First, if you don't have maitorahka or quark, put the cottage cheese in a food processor or blender and process until it is smooth:

Next, add the butter and sour cream and process again.  Make sure the butter is soft or you may find a lump in the finished product.  Add the egg, in Finland eggs are sold pasteurized, but here they are not generally.  Do not use raw, unpasteurized eggs in this dish because it is not cooked.  Here are the products I used:

Next, add the sugar.  If you are using vanilla sugar instead of liquid vanilla, it is best to mix it with the granular sugar before putting it in the pasha.  Otherwise it may lump together and spoil the dish.

Use a spatula to mix in the dried fruit.  The most traditional dried fruit to use is raisin, but after some research I found that a lot of people really like the cherry pasha, and I thought my kids would like it better, too.

The pasha needs to drain overnight.  To do this, I used coffee filters and to support them, I used some parts out of old coffee makers.  Make sure to remove the mechanism that keeps the coffee from coming out unless the pot is under the filter.  This is easy to do, there is a little rubber ring that can be removed from the inside.  I'll put them back before I use these for coffee again.

If you don't have these laying around, you could also use a large yogurt container for the support, but make sure to punch a hole in the bottom.  You could use cheesecloth in a sieve instead of the filters and make one large pasha.  Anything that has a hole in the bottom can be used, as long as it is lined with a filter or cheesecloth.

This was my set-up.  After filling the filters, I used a small bowl to weight down the pasha, then set them in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  About 2/3 of a cup of sweet liquid drained from them in that time.  Just before serving, unmold the pasha by putting a clean plate over the top, then flipping it upside down.  Peel off the filter or cheesecloth.  Decorate with fruit and serve with whipped cream or as a topping for kulitsa.  The recipe for kulitsa is here.

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