Hrudka – Easter Cheese from Eastern Europe – Sous vide and traditional methods!

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Hrudka - Easter Cheese

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Hrudka - Easter Cheese 48.668831, 18.572293 Hrudka - Easter CheeseSlovakia (Directions)

It’s March and while we should be starting to get some warmer Spring-like weather here in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, it’s still kind of wintery.  Last Wednesday, we got 12-18 inches of snow in some places, but that doesn’t keep me from knowing that Spring is just around the corner. Easter is also only a week away now and it is time to make some hrudka, eastern European Easter Cheese.

Slovakian heritage, but found hrudka later in life

Patrick Jaszewski standing in front of the city sign of Chmelova

I visit my grandmother’s family’s town in Slovakia

My last name is Jaszewski. My father’s father’s side is Polish and my father’s mother’s family has Rusyn roots in the Carpathian mountains of what is now Slovakia, but I didn’t have hrudka in my Easter basket growing up.

I first tasted it when a co-worker, Chris, mentioned it me a few years back.  He knew that I was into food and thought that is was something I might enjoy. So I gave it a shot and made it at home.  

Russian orthodox church in Chmelova

Russian orthodox church in Chmelova

Hurdka is a simple cheese that takes little effort to make at home.  

It was delicious!  How had I missed this growing up?

 My grandmother’s Easter cheese

This year, when I was prepping to make my hrudka, I decided to call my grandmother to see if it was something she ever made.  Turns out she made it for my father and his siblings every year for Easter. Instead of hanging to drain the liquid off, she pressed it under a pan filled with water to weigh it down.  She also made cheese bread.  These would be part of the Easter baskets each year.  My grandparents and their kids would bring the baskets with their kielbasa down to the church on Holy Saturday for mass and then to be blessed in preparation for Easter the next day.

History of this recipe

When my mom married my dad, she was given a book of the Eastern recipes at her bridal shower. His family knew that he loved the food he grew up with and she could make his favorites in their new lives together.  She still has the book: Our Traditional and Favorite Recipes; Fourth Printing 1978. Compiled by the Mother’s Club of St. Mary’s Russian Orthodox Church, Minneapolis, MN.  That book has the recipes for the Hrudka – Easter Cheese (listed as “egg cheese ball” & “hrudka”), as well as the “Cheese Bread” that I understand, is called paska.  One look at this vintage book and you can tell how much it has been loved and used over the years my parents have been married – 35 years and counting!

The version for hrudka in the book doesn’t call for sugar or vanilla, but that varies according to your personal taste.  The version I made originally did include vanilla, so I’ll include it below as an optional addition for a “sweet” variation.  It is also possible to make savory variations with the addition of pepper, chives, parsley, wild garlic, saffron, etc.

Really, it is a blank canvas that you could use to customize however you like.  I happen to favor the sweet version the best and eat it straight. My coworker, Chris, and my dad’s family made the plain cheese and then put it into a sandwich.  There are so many great ways to eat it!

Hrudka – Easter Cheese from Eastern Europe - Sous vide and traditional methods

Hrudka – Easter Cheese from Eastern Europe - Sous vide and traditional methods

Rate this recipe
2 ratings
Category: brakfast
Cuisine: Slovakain, Ukranian, Eastern European
Hrudka – Easter Cheese from Eastern Europe - Sous vide and traditional methods

Ingredients

6 hours, 30 minutes
8
192
    For the basic base:
  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 quart (946ml) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
    For the sweet variation
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 55g (about ¼ cup) sugar (optional)
  • Pinch of nutmeg (optional)
    For the savory variation
  • Pinch of saffron
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons herbs like chives, parsley, wild garlic (optional)

Instructions

Prep
10 minutes
Cook
1 hour, 30 minutes
Ready in
6 hours, 30 minutes
    Traditional cooking method
  1. Start heavy pot or double boiler over medium heat
  2. Beat eggs. Add milk and salt and mix well. (Also add any optional spices, sugar)
  3. Add to double boiler & cook stirring constantly
  4. At about 190-200F, eggs will start to curd and whey will separate
  5. Remove from heat (Stir in herbs if making savory version)
  6. Pour into a colander lined with a clean white cloth
  7. While still hot, as soon as you can handle it, squeeze as much liquid out as possible
  8. Twist and hang at room temperature until set (about 5-8 hours)
  9. Wrap and chill
  10. Slice and enjoy!
    For the sous vide method
  1. Set sous vide circulator for 195F
  2. Beat eggs. Add milk and salt and mix well. (Also add any optional spices, sugar)
  3. Pour mixture into glass mason jars and tighten lids "finger tight"
  4. Gently submerge in sous vide bath
  5. Cook for 90 minutes
  6. Remove from heat (In a large bowl, stir in herbs if making savory version)
  7. Pour or scoop out into a colander lined with a clean white cloth
  8. While still hot, as soon as you can handle it, squeeze as much liquid out as possible
  9. Twist and hang at room temperature until set (about 5-8 hours)
  10. Wrap and chill
  11. Slice and enjoy!

Notes

Nutrition is based on "base" recipe without sugar or add-ins. Time is assuming sous vide.

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 151g
Calories per serving: 192
Fat per serving: 10.52
Saturated fat per serving: 4.57g
Carbs per serving: 1.67g
Protein per serving: 7.67g
Fiber per serving: 0g
Sugar per serving: 15.81g
Sodium per serving: 357mg
Trans fat per serving: 0g
Cholesterol per serving: 288mg
https://explorers.kitchen/recipes/hrudka-easter-cheese/

Cooking and lessons learned

Hrudka - Easter Cheese Nutrition Facts

When I made this the first few times, I used the traditional method.  It is really simple to follow and in intuitive.  The cheese curdles when it hits the right temperature and then you can strain it.  All the visual cues are there.

However, I wasn’t satisfied completely because it sometimes scorches on the bottom of the pan and you have to stir constantly for 20-30 minutes while it comes to temperature.  I wanted to try and develop a sous vide version so that wouldn’t require the hands-on time.  My first attempt at sous vide with this recipe was custardy and delicious, but not as firm as I would have liked.  I used 180F as my cooking temp and while it was really creamy, the proteins didn’t fully tighten up and expel the as much liquid as the traditional version (I squeezed out 1.5 cups vs 2.5 cups of whey).

Therefore, I’m proposing a cook temp of a very hot 195F for 90 minutes.  I haven’t tested this yet, but since I wanted to get this out before Easter, I’ll have to try it again next year.  If you try the sous vide method, please let me know how it comes out!

Russian Orthodox church in Chmelova

Russian Orthodox church in Chmelova

More photos from my trip Slovakia

As I was choosing photos for this post from my trip to Slovakia, I had such a hard time narrowing it down, so here are a few more from Chmelova and Bardejov.

Having 1 Euro beers with my cousin Mitch at a tiny bar in Chmelova

Having 1 Euro beers with my cousin Mitch at a tiny bar in Chmelova

 

Beautiful historic hotel I stayed at in Bardejov

Beautiful historic hotel I stayed at in Bardejov

Pretty building at Bardejov's historic city center

Pretty building at Bardejov’s historic city center

Bardejov's historic city center

Bardejov’s historic city center

Title photo of Patrick Jaszewski introducing the pie crust comparison. Shows logos of Bon Appetit vs America's Test Kitchen vs Milk Street

Pie Crust Showdown – Bon Appetit vs America’s Test Kitchen vs Milk Street

This is pie crust 3 ways!  I test recipes from Bon Appetit, America’s Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, and Milk Street putting them head-to-head to find out which crust is the best for your application.

Pie Crust Showdown

Bon Appetit vs America’s Test Kitchen vs Milk Street

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No-shrink pie crust - Milk Street

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No-shrink pie crust - Milk Street 42.358527, -71.054778 No-shrink pie crust - Milk Street177 milk street, boston, ma (Directions)

Each of these uses very different techniques and produces slightly different results.  They all have a place in your toolbox, so join us in looking at each one!  You’ll have a buttery, flaky pie crust that your friends and family will love.

The birth of a pie series

This whole pie series is inspired by my friend Fausto who lives in Panama and asked me to teach him how to make pumpkin pie.  So, I recorded videos for him, but thought that it would be great to share with YouTube as well as part of my Explorers Kitchen project.   Continue reading

Overhead view of lattice weave with foolproof vodka pie crust and a sweet potato pie filling. It is set on a marble table and a red buffalo plaid napkin and a pie server

Foolproof Vodka Pie Crust- (Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated)

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Foolproof Vodka Pie Crust- (Adapted from America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated)

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Foolproof Vodka Pie Crust- (Adapted from America\'s Test Kitchen/Cook\'s Illustrated) 42.344315, -71.035078 Foolproof Vodka Pie Crust- (Adapted from America\'s Test Kitchen/Cook\'s Illustrated)21 Drydock Ave 210 E, Boston, MA 02210 (Directions)

This is my adaptation of Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen’s “foolproof pie dough” crust originally published in Cook’s Illustrated’s November 2007 issue.  While I have their print compilation of all the 2007 recipes, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt posted it as well on Serious Eats.  My version of this vodka pie crust is slightly different in that I prefer to use lard instead of vegetable shortening.  It imparts a better texture, flavor, and has no trans fats.  In the video, I happen to be out of both and I use some schmaltz (chicken fat) instead. This is one of the recipes we tested as part of our YouTube video series investigating 3 different ways of making pie crust. Continue reading

Depicts flakiest pie crust originally by Bon Appetit filled with James Beard's pumpkin pie. Pie plate is white and is set on marble table with red buffalo plaid napkin

Flakiest Pie Crust – Bon Appetit’s Pie Crust

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Flakiest Pie Crust - Bon Appetit's Pie Crust

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Flakiest Pie Crust - Bon Appetit\'s Pie Crust 40.712968, -74.015289 Bon Appetit - Flakiest Pie Crust1 World Trade Center, New York, NY 10007 (Directions)

This is Bon Appetit’s pie crust, in fact, their “Flakiest Pie Crust”, one of the recipes we tested as part of our YouTube video series investigating 3 different ways of making pie crust.  It is super simple – only a handful of ingredients and a bowl, bench scraper, and a rolling pin.   You can make this easily at home. Continue reading

Close-up photo of no-shrink pie crust originally by Milk Street. Also shows custard brown sugar tart filling with a red buffalo plaid napkin and flowers

No-shrink pie crust – Milk Street

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No-shrink pie crust - Milk Street

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No-shrink pie crust - Milk Street 42.358527, -71.054778 No-shrink pie crust - Milk Street177 milk street, boston, ma (Directions)

This is my first run at testing Milk Street’s Foolproof Single-Crust Pie Dough. In the recipe they published in their Milk Street magazine, they claim that it makes a crust that doesn’t shrink when it bakes. I’ve had great luck with the Foolproof Vodka Pie Crust originally developed by Christopher Kimball’s other venture Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen, so I wanted to test this one out too.  It grabbed my attention right away because it uses a novel way of getting the water into the recipe.  It has you make a gel with water and cornstarch by heating it in the microwave for a few seconds.  The recipe also calls for some sour cream, an ingredient that I don’t often see in pie crusts. I wanted to test this no-shrink pie crust right away and compare it to other methods.

Our comparison videos

Here is part one of the two-part series.  I go through each recipe up to the point of rolling out and baking the no-shrink pie crust and two others:

In part two, I roll out each recipe and give commentary on how easy each recipe is to work with.  Finally, I bake and taste each crust and share my feedback.

Here’s the recipe in print.

No-shrink pie crust – Milk Street

No-shrink pie crust – Milk Street

Rate this recipe
1 ratings
Category: dessert
Cuisine: French, American
No-shrink pie crust – Milk Street

Ingredients

2 hours, 3 minutes
8
359
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 159g (about 1 cup + 2 tablespoons) flour, all-purpose
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1.25 sticks) butter, frozen or very cold, sliced every quarter inch
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

Instructions

Prep
2 hours
Cook
30 minutes
Ready in
2 hours, 3 minutes
  1. Whisk together water and cornstarch in a cup or small bowl until fully incorporated
  2. Microwave on high, stirring once until gooey/set, about 30 to 40 seconds
  3. Set in freezer to cool for 10 minutes
  4. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor. Run the processor for 2-5 seconds to incorporate
  5. Add chilled water/cornstarch gel (it should wiggle like gelatin) and pulse 5 times to combine
  6. Add butter and sour cream
  7. Run the processor for a bout 15 to 30 seconds, just until the dough starts to "ball-up" and stick to the blade (see video)
  8. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap, form a 4-5 inch disc
  9. Wrap up the dough and rest in refrigerator for 1 hour to 4 days
  10. Add the butter and sour cream and process until the dough comes together and begins to collect around the blade, 20 to 30 seconds.
  11. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap and pat into a 4-5 inch disc
  12. Wrap up the dough and rest in refrigerator for 1 hour to 4 days
  13. Heat oven to 375F
  14. Roll out the dough as needed for your recipe and lay into pie tin carefully- take care not to stretch the dough
  15. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes
  16. Blind bake, covered in foil 3/4 full with pie weights for 25 minutes, rotating once
  17. Remove the foil and weights
  18. Return to oven for 5-7 minutes to brown crust
  19. Cool on a rack for about an hour before filling and using for recipe as needed

Nutrition information

Serving Size: 44g
Calories per serving: 359
Fat per serving: 23.16g
Saturated fat per serving: 14.261g
Carbs per serving: 31.76g
Protein per serving: 5.27g
Fiber per serving: 1g
Sugar per serving: 2.67g
Sodium per serving: 354mg
Trans fat per serving: 0g
Cholesterol per serving: 45mg
https://explorers.kitchen/recipes/no-shrink-pie-crust/

Tasting and lessons learned Nutrition data for Milk Street Crust

This no-shrink pie crust worked really well!  I love the flavor of the sour cream in the crust – it’s slightly tangy in a very pleasant way.  The sour cream seemed to aid the browning reactions and added some flavor complexity.  It wasn’t quite as buttery as the Bon Appetit recipe, but it was every bit as good.

Rolling it out took some patience.  It’s a little fussy to work with and there are a lot of steps to bring it together and bake relative to a traditional recipe.  In my opinion, it was not as easy to handle as it was advertised by Milk Street.  It was supposed to roll-out like Play-Doh, but that was not my experience.  I’ll use it again in the future and hope that it will handle better.

Please let me know down in the comments if you’ve had the same experience or if it worked great for you!