Do you enjoy research?  I find the process fascinating – particularly when you have limited, to zero!, established understanding on a subject.

With an end goal in mind, you firstly try to read as broadly as you can to understand the subject.  You file little nuggets of detail away as you read.  Those details seem random at first, but as you continue you start to connect the dots.  Then, with again no (or limited!) knowledge on the subject, you try to assess the usefulness of the information you have found.

I typically find myself “looping” here quite a bit (more reading and then more assessing), mostly when I am unsatisfied with what I have dug up.  There is some instant elimination of information or enthusiastic ticking for future use along the way.

This has essentially been the process for me to delve into ‘Finnish dessert’ month.

Starting from a very limited knowledge base, I attempted to come up with an authentic list of Finnish desserts.  This was particularly challenging given Finnish cuisine is not the most popular globally.  Finding references in English were few and fair in between – compared with more popular cuisines such as French, Italian and Spanish.

But determination is a wonderful thing.  And even though the research process took longer than originally anticipated, I managed to create a short list of ideas.

The first dessert that made the list was the Karelian Cheese Torte, or more commonly known in Finnish as Rahkatorttu.

I am familiar with the Karelian area of Finland.  Mr Melanger’s father grew up in the city of Lappeenranta, which is situated in South Karelia between the southern banks of Saimmaa lake and the border with Russia.

In the food stakes, the Karelian Rice Pastry was one of first Finnish items I baked trying to familiarise myself with the unique food of this area.  This Karelian Cheese Torte is the second – and given the significance of the area, hence being first on the list for the month!

{ Rahkatorttu :: Karelian Cheese Torte }

I came across quite a number of recipes in my research.  Some included raisins, some were baked with fruit.  Some fillings incorporated cream or butter.  Some fillings were focused heavily just on the cheese.  The cheese also varied.  Some used cream cheese, some cottage cheese, some curd/quark.  But knowing the word “rahka” in Finnish is “quark”, I figured that would be the best way to go.  (Also, it was about time I finally baked with quark after all the inspiration I have received from Deeba at Passionate about Baking!)

This version is my variation on the Rahkatorttu.  Plain, simple yet flavourful – particularly when served with a healthy dollop of cloudberry jam!

If you know of the Rahkatorttu, I would love to hear about the technique you use.

* Ingredients *
2 cups of plain all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of caster sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, extra cold and cut into small cubes
1 extra large egg
380g Quark
1/4 cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 extra large eggs

* Directions *
Butter a 20cm (8 inch) springform tin.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 180C (350F).  In a food processor quickly mix the flour, baking powder and sugar together.  Add the butter and pulse until you achieve the consistency of chunky breadcrumbs.  Finally, add the egg to bind.  The pastry should be fairly crumbly.  Gently pat the pastry into the prepared tin distributing evenly in sections.  Set the pastry aside and prepare the filling.  In a large bowl, whisk together the quark and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice and eggs and whisk until well combined.  Pour the filling into the pastry and bake for 40-50 minutes.  After 40 minutes start checking.  You want the centre to be just set and firm-ish to the touch.  Cool, and serve with cloudberry jam, or any fruit of choice.