Desserts: 34 posts

Tested recipes for desserts, fragrant baking and sweet treats

Syrnyky, Ukrainian Fried Cheesecakes Recipe

Syrnyky is a dish I order anytime I see it on the menu. Traveling around Ukraine, I ate these small fried cheesecakes at canteens in Odesa, diners in Kherson or fancy restaurants in Lviv and they have always been satisfying. In Kyiv, a restaurant chain called Puzata Hata, “pot-bellied hut,” has a wonderful oven-baked version of this popular treat. Syrnyky can be a great breakfast option or a luscious dessert, depending on what toppings you choose. Whatever way they are served, this dish is the ultimate comfort food.

Syrnyky are made from a fresh cheese called syr in Ukrainian. It’s a type of farmer’s cheese, with small, fairly dry curds and a sour flavor reminiscent of yogurt. The closest substitute is any soft white cheese, like tvorog, twaróg, quark, or even well-drained cottage cheese. Since the flavor of syrnyky is dominated by cheese, with flour being used merely as a binder, pick your favorite variety.  

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Ukrainian Comfort Food: Milk Rice with Jam

During these cold days, I’m craving comfort. I open my grandmother Valentina’s notebooks and browse her favorite recipes. She loved to cook and she meticulously noted down different dishes she made and how she altered them over the years. However, one recipe is not in the books because it’s too simple to be written down. It’s a recipe for a milk rice that Valentina made almost every week. It included only four ingredients–rice, milk, salt, and sugar, but it tasted heavenly.

The secret to a delicious rice pudding is in slow simmering. The quality of the ingredients matters, and while Valentina used whole-cream milk from her neighbor’s cow, the pudding comes out perfectly even with the supermarket milk I buy. The flavors are pure and inviting, and this is the ultimate comfort food.

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Saffron Biscotti with Pistachios and Chocolate

Saffron’s fragrance is complex. A leather accent shimmers darkly against the brightness of green and herbal notes. A languid floral undercurrent meets a spicy warmth. You would think that such an intricate fragrance would be difficult to pair, but as Persian cooking demonstrates, saffron marries well with a wide range of scents and flavors. And so I thought, why not pair it with dark chocolate?

Chocolate is another versatile ingredient despite its richness, and it serves as a perfect sidekick for saffron. The two ingredients complement each other in the most delightful way–the first impression of fresh spice is followed by the floral richness. I sometimes taste gardenia and sometimes a hint of a rose. And to enjoy saffron’s sumptuous color, I selected my favorite recipe for biscotti.

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Laurent Gerbaud: The Chocolate Treasure of Brussels

Brussels is a city renowned for its chocolate, but even so, the creations of Laurent Gerbaud stand out. Their flavors are exquisite, their quality is impeccable and the presentation is beautiful. The boutique on Rue Ravenstein, located close to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts–another one of the city’s treasures–is a place I return often to taste chocolates or linger over a glass of wine.

In my recent FT Magazine article, Laurent Gerbaud, I talk about this enigmatic confectioner and his craft. The range of flavors is seasonal–fig and apricot in the summer and yuzu in the winter. One of my favorite discoveries has been milk chocolate with salt and green cumin, a combination that seems unexpected and tastes addictive.

The boutique itself is a destination–charming and serene.

When I’m finally ready to step back into the real world, I leave with a couple of chocolate bars or perhaps a Mondrian set, a box divided into squares and rectangles reminiscent of the Dutch painter’s compositions. Gerbaud’s is edible art at its best. The flavors range from delicate to intense, but the experience is invariably of pure delight. To continue reading, please click here.


Ukrainian Apricot Cheesecake (Syrnyk)

If I had to choose a favorite dessert, it would be cheesecake. If I had to choose a favorite fruit, it would be apricot. So, why not put the two together? The creamy cheese filling contrasted with the luscious fruit and crumbly pastry makes for a perfect summer treat.

Syrnyk, from the Ukrainian word for cheese, syr, is a local favorite. There are hundreds of variations, from the sumptuous Lviv-style syrnyk covered with chocolate glaze to the crustless cheesecake usually baked for breakfast. (Yes, Ukraine is the place where cheesecake can be had first thing in the morning.) But when I found a recipe in my great-grandmother’s cookbook for an apricot syrnyk, I was tempted enough to brave the heat wave and fire up the oven. The result was worth it.

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