Paskha or pasha is something many people eat during Easter here in Finland regardless of their religion. We have even commercial — of course sugar-laden — versions of paskha. Originally paskha is enjoyed by Orthodox Christians on Easter and the dish originates from Russia.
Well, for some people Easter is not Easter without paskha, whereas some people cannot stand it. Finnish paskha differs from Russian paskha in the sense that Russian paskha has smooth texture and the ingredients are simpler. Actually I didn’t know this difference before I did some googling and found this recipe for Russian paskha. I adapted my own sugar-free low-carb paskha version from that recipe.
Russian paskha is seasoned with just a hint of vanilla while the Finnish version is bursting with almonds, raisins, sultanas and lemon flavor.
Tips for making the paskha
German-type quark is the best for making this Russian-type paskha. Be sure that the quark is unsweetened and naturally low in carbs. The higher the fat contents, the better. Below is a picture how the quark should look like. On the left the quark is just removed from the package, on the right is the same stuff, mixed with a spoon.
I tried to make some experiments with self-made quark using this recipe, but got some ricotta instead or quark (more about that on my Facebook page). The next experiments were a bit better, but I didn’t manage to develop a perfect recipe for home-made quark. I hope I get a proper recipe developed in the future. Yes, there exist several recipes for home-made quark, but I would like to develop one of my own as some kind of a research project.
In case you cannot find proper quark, you can use also farmer’s cheese which is puréed smooth in a food processor or pressed through a sieve. In a real emergency case, plain Greek or Turkish yogurt with high fat content will do. Now I hear some voices saying “But that’s not real paskha!” Well, I hear the same voices when I mention the words “low-carb paskha”, since after the fast of Great Lent there is nothing low what comes to food and drinks… With all the butter, quark and egg yolks, paskha is quite hearty stuff. And of course, the conventional paskha contains a good load of sugar as well.
For paskha mold, any conic or pyramid-shaped dish with holes will do. Strainer works also well. Below some examples of suitable paskha molds:
The egg yolks are heated at high enough temperature, so there shouldn’t be any issues with raw egg yolks. If you are worried, just heat the mixture properly, but don’t let boil.
If you don’t have cheesecloth, for example clean muslin squares work equally well. I had made some muslin squares with sewing machine for my baby, and I made some extra for cooking purposes. As a rule of thumb, the thinner the fabric, the better the result.
If you make the paskha mixture on Good Friday, you will have ready paskha on Saturday night. Paskha is also great for Sunday brunch.
My paskha experiments
I’ve made low-carb paskha for a few years in a row, for every Easter. Last year’s experiment was nice, but the recipe was a bit too complicated. I also decorated the paskha quite ornately. I colored part of the whipped cream pale yellow with turmeric:
For this year, I started searching for some new ideas. One recipe caught my eye immediately. The recipe was for a genuine Russian, smooth-textured paskha and the ingredients were simple. The directions, however, were complicated. I decided to adapt the recipe to my low-carb needs and also try to simplify the preparation process.
For my first experiment, I reduced a bit the amount of quark. I kept the amount of the butter same, since I prefer rich paskha. For sweetener, I decided to use again my favorite, powdered Zsweet. I didn’t want to use erythritol crystals, since I was afraid that they won’t dissolve completely, or they form hard crystals while the paskha mixture is chilling. Actually, one experiment I made with pure powdered erythritol, and even that crystallized into small, globular shapes. With Zsweet I didn’t have any problems.
At some point I added one more egg yolk. It improved the texture slightly but nicely.
I didn’t calculate any nutrition information, because it’s difficult to estimate what is the final carb count after the whey is removed. The total amount of carbs is 18.2 grams before the mixture is strained.
Tips for variation and ideas for use
To make Finnish-type paskha, you can add some or all of the followings. If you are strict with carbs, please keep in mind that all of them increase the carb count, especially the raisins:
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed juice from organic lemon
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) organic almonds, chopped
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) organic raisins, chopped.
I also made chocolate paskha, where I added 1 oz (30 g) finely chopped 100% baking chocolate. I melted the chocolate together with the other ingredients. The result was great, although the paskha could have been slightly sweeter. I think milder chocolate with some 85 % cocoa solids would have also worked better than 100 % stuff. Well, I just wanted to keep the carb count at the minimum. I think for the next chocolate paskha I add some cocoa powder and dark chocolate shavings.
So now you have made this low-carb paskha and are wondering how to use it. Orthodox Christians eat it with kulich. Many Finns eat it as dessert as it is. Maybe they add some whipped cream on top, and some fruits. Personally, I always add some whipped cream unless I eat the paskha with kulich. As a kulich substitute, I baked a version of my Fluffy Bread where I used vanilla whey protein instead of unflavored whey protein. I also added 1/3 cup (80 ml) chopped raisins and 20 drops stevia to give some extra sweetness. Well, you cannot call that real kulich, but a very nice substitute. It tasted great with this version of paskha.
I also used paskha as filling in my Low-Carb Linzer Hearts. I had added some grated orange zest to the cookie dough, and that suited perfectly the taste of paskha.