What makes a cheesecake Polish? The cheese! Instead of cream cheese, which is used to make New York style cheesecake, this uses farmers cheese, or twaróg. Oh, there’s also a cup of mashed potatoes! Why not? Serniks are traditionally made plain or with raisins. And apparently raisins are just as polarizing in Poland as they are elsewhere (I don’t get it, I like raisins).
Anyway, this sernik is paired with a sharp and refreshing blackberry and thyme topping in an ode to the wild berry bounty of Polish forests.
- 1.5 cups ground graham crackers or plain vanilla wafer cookies (about 10 sheets of graham crackers)
- 5 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp softened butter for greasing pan
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 lb farmers cheese
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup plain mashed potatoes (peeled)
- 1 stick unsalted butter (4 oz)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp orange or lemon zest
Blackberry Thyme Topping:
- ~ 12 oz fresh blackberries
- 1 lemon (zested and juiced)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp fresh thyme or lemon thyme (or 1/2 tsp if dried)
- 1 tbsp water
Preheat oven to 375F / 190C.
Butter a round 9 inch cake pan generously with about 1 tbsp softened butter (springform pan helpful but not necessary if well buttered).
Crust: Combine ground cookies, melted butter, sugar, salt. Once texture is like that of wet sand, put onto the buttered cake pan and press down until bottom is evenly covered with packed crust, with about half an inch going up the sides.
Blackberry thyme topping: Add blackberries, water, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and thyme to a small pot or pan over medium-low heat. Gently mash some of the blackberries, but leave about half whole, and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
Cheesecake: Put cheese in food processor and purée until smooth. You you don’t have a food processor, press cheese through a sieve.
Beat eggs and sugar until mix turns light yellow, about 5 minutes on high speed, or a few minutes longer if whisking by hand.
Add vanilla, butter, farmers cheese, cooled mashed potatoes, baking powder, and zest and mix until you have a smooth batter with everything evenly incorporated.
Pour batter into pan, and bake for 1 hour.
Remove cheesecake from oven once bake and allow to cook for at least 30 minutes. If you did not use a springform pan, simply put a flat plate over the pan and turn upside down, and the cake should slide out. Then put another flat plate on top of the crust side and flip again so your cake is right side up.
Pour cooled blackberry mixture on cake and serve.