Gluten Free Biezpienmaize – Traditional Latvian Cottage Cheese Slice

Biezpienmaize was, and still is, one of the favourite bakes from cottage cheese in Latvian cuisine. It was so popular, that it could be found in every cafe, patisserie or bakery. This pastry tasted delicious and was quite nourishing. It was an excellent quick snack or lunch on the go in my students years. There are many variations of this sweet slice recipe, at least half of them include raisins, some have cinnamon and some lemon zest and vanilla. My favourite is the plain one, with a relatively thin layer of crumbly shortcrust pastry and generous layer of soft and airy cottage cheese, beaten with eggs and sour cream into a fine texture.

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Cottage cheese slice can be baked as a rectangular tart and cut in traditional generous slices,

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or as a round tart, baked in cake tin with removable sides. It is very easy to bake it in a regular baking tray, but the problem will arise of safe removal of the bake from the tray. It can be removed safely when the bake fully cools down, but you will never have the dry and crisp bottom of the slice when the cooling down happens in the tray and not on a wire rack.

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The texture of the pastry in cottage cheese slice differs from the classical shortcrust. The pastry is softer, more buttery and soft in the bite. Cottage cheese layer texture also differs from a typical cheesecake texture. It is lighter, softer and more airy. It is moist enough without being heavy and wet.

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When creating gluten free version of biezpienmaize recipe I did what I alway do, trying to recreate the texture and the taste of the pastry I remember, without just making substitutions to make a product gluten free. And as always the recipe is different, compared to the original cottage cheese slice recipe, both in shortcrust pastry and cottage cheese layer ingredients.

Ingredients:

pastry for rectangular (28.5 x 18 x 3 cm) or round (25 cm diameter) tarts

  • 150g gluten free flour mix (I used Well and Good Crusty bread mix)
  • 50g sugar
  • 5g vanilla sugar
  • 70g unsalted butter (I used Lurpak unsalted butter)
  • 40g sour cream 40% fat (I used Coles sour cream)

For the round bake I used 100g of Crusty bread mix and 50g of Ceres buckwheat flour. I have simply run out of my stock of Crusty bread mix and substituted some of the flour by buckwheat flour. It worked well and provided additional colour contrast for the slice.

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cottage cheese filling

  • 450g cottage cheese (European style, can be substituted by formed ricotta cheese, not the soft spread variety), I used my own homemade cottage cheese
  • 20g lemon juice
  • 110g sugar (if you prefer sweet bakes add extra 15-20g sugar)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g light sour cream (I used Coles 20% fat sour cream)
  • 20g corn starch
  • 40g almond meal, sifted (absent in the photo below)
  • 1 tea spoon lemon zest (I used frozen)
  • 1 tea spoon vanilla bean paste (can be substituted by vanilla extract or vanilla sugar)

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Preparation:

pastry

  • mix flour with sugar in a bowl
  • add butter, cut in pieces, and work butter into flour mix until it resembles medium crumbs
  • add sour cream, mix it in, form a ball
  • the dough is easy to work with, it can be used immediately
  • roll the dough on a lightly dusted with flour mix surface (I used 2 sheets of baking paper)
  • transfer rolled dough to a tart tin and press it to the sides, extra dough can be used again
  • to ease the separation of the baked tart from the tin and to simplify the process of transferring the tart to a serving board, I used the sheet of baking paper, cut to the size of baking tin bottom
  • refrigerate prepared dough in a tart baking tin

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cottage cheese filling

  • mix corn flour and almond meal
  • in another bowl add lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and sour cream to cottage cheese
  • mix all the ingredients well
  • in a third bowl beat eggs with sugar until pale and double in size
  • add beaten eggs to cottage cheese soft mixture, 2-3 table spoons at first, mix them in, add the rest of egg mixture
  • mix well with a whisk, or even better beat it, to get the fine texture of the filling
  • add the mix of dry ingredients
  • mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients well
  • the batter will be very runny
  • pour the batter into prepared baking tin
  • the filling will be nearly level with the height of the baking tin

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  • to avoid mess in the oven and to provide the best regime for gentle baking, place baking tin on a large cookie baking tray
  • bake in preheated to 170C fan forced oven for 50-60 minutes
  • the filling will raise during baking, but will return to the level of unbaked batter after cooling down

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  • let the tart stay in the tin for 5 min
  • remove the sides of the tart tin

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  • transfer the tart to a serving board or plate, if not sure wait until the tart reaches room temperature and the structure becomes more solid

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  • dust with icing sugar

Cottage cheese slice does not need any extras to be served, but in special occasions and for dinner parties, fresh berries and with fruit and berry sauces can be useful to create spectacular looking dessert.

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The slice goes well with vanilla whipped cream.

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It will be an understatement to say that we both enjoyed biezpienmaize, and all the memories it have brought about cafe life in Riga.

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10 thoughts on “Gluten Free Biezpienmaize – Traditional Latvian Cottage Cheese Slice

  1. Your baking is always tempting to the eyes and I am sure very satisfying to eat. I can’t seem to get my pastry to look anywhere near the texture of your pastry. Though I must say, I am not a very patient or experienced pastry maker. Your instructions are very clear so maybe I will give pastry one more try. Joanne Tapiolas

    1. Joanne, it is the easiest pastry I made so far, it gets together and can be spread or rolled without any difficulties, both with crusty bread mix and with buckwheat flour version. Cottage cheese or ricotta layer filling can be used made from any other recipe, even as cheesecake. Some make this filling simply with cottage cheese and eggs, may be with a bit of starch. It can baked as individual tartlets as well. Funny how the memory works, I still remember the taste.

    1. You can use any of your own recipes for a shortcrust, as the flour mix I used is only available in Australia and New Zealand. It was the easiest dough I worked with, so I will try it with buckwheat flour alone, to see how it holds together without thickeners and gums, coming from flour mix. The idea behind sour cream was simple practicality, to have a portion of the dough just enough for one bake, which would demand half of an egg.

      1. I made a short crust for a cheesecake last month with some egg white and liked the flavor but wasn’t crazy about the texture. Will try the sour cream. I used a mix of flours, didn’t write it down though and can’t remember the ratios I used!

      2. I am just in the process of trying the dough with buckwheat flour, it is the only gluten free flour which can be used for shortcrust to be good enough to roll without any gums in it. Another hour and I will let you know how it worked.

      3. So I have made the dough with buckwheat flour, deliberately very plain
        150g flour
        60g sugar (I use more sugar when I make biscuits)
        70g unsalted butter
        40g high fat 40% sour cream

        I did not add any extra flavours to see the basic taste of baked pastry. The dough came together beautifully, it needed some work, but as a result is extremely pliable, cut offs can be used 3-4 times, no need for refrigeration, but might benefit from it, I did not research that.
        I got 22 5 cm very thin round biscuits and 12 tartlet shells, baked in mini pie tray, rolled and cut as 6 cm circles. Needed 15 min baking in 170C preheated fan oven. It will be my new favourite shortcrust, especially when making the dough as a small portion for tarts.
        Buckwheat shortcrust, the same as other recipe with egg, has more flavour and better hard crumbly texture, compared to commercial flour mixes. Starches from flour mixes make pastry more soft and buttery.

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