Curd cheese, which is a type of cottage cheese or quark, is incredibly popular in Ukraine. In fact, the Ukrainian name for it, "syr," means, literally, "cheese."
It is the king of all cheeses, and my grandmother and then mother made it on a regular basis. There was always a white muslin hanging off the tap, an enamel bowl collecting the pearly drops of whey underneath, eventually accumulating enough tasty liquid to be used to make flatbreads.
The cheese itself was used in everything: to stuff dumplings, to stuff flatbreads, just on its own with a dollop of thick sour cream and fresh raspberries for breakfast. We even mix it into pampukhy (Ukrainian doughnuts) dough.
It adds a welcome tangy flavor to desserts, and these cookies are so moreish, it is really hard to stop yourself from devouring the whole batch. During tough Soviet years we used to use margarine, but now I love to add good-quality French butter for an extra luxurious feel.
Excerpted from Mamushka: Recipes from Ukraine and Eastern Europe (Weldon Owen 2015).
For the cookies:
- 80 grams (3 ounces) margarine or butter, softened
- 200 grams (7 ounces) Syr (recipe below), Polish twarôg, or quark
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds only
- 1 orange, zest only
- 200 grams (7 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 50 grams (2 ounces) sugar
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional)
For the Syr (curd cheese):
- 1.7 liters (2 3/4 pints) raw (unpasteurized) milk