Cultural Cuisine: Romania's Delicious Papanași



Romanian cuisine is dense, satisfying and loaded with character. Meat heavy and loaded with carbs and savory herbs, the Romanian plate is the definition of comfort food. Their dessert, in this case, Papanași, is no exception.

Papanași is essentially a Romanian spin on a doughnut though it has little in common aside from the shape. Its dough is made up mainly of dense but soft cottage cheese then fried and smothered in smooth sour cream and runny jam. Do I have your attention? The tang of the sour cream with the sweetness of jam makes for a perfect and unforgettable Romanian dessert. The best part? It's actually not *that* hard to make. The trouble lies in finding the right consistency of cheese, sour cream and jam outside Romania. That's why I took the time to distil this recipe, again and again, to be sure it's not only fool-proof but as close to the real thing one as possible.


So! Let's get to it.


Ahem! If you scroll straight to the recipe (I do the same thing) *please* be sure to read the notes. The types of cheese, flour and cream you use are important.



Here are all of the ingredients you need:

sunflower oil (or some sort of oil for frying), cotcottageage cheese, baking soda, all-purpose flour, farm eggs, vanilla, sugar, sour cream (20%), runny jam of your choice. Preferably local, but, ya know. I also recommend adding a tablespoon or two of rum, I think it adds a richer taste but it's absolutely not mandatory.


So! First things first. The cheese. This is by far the most important part of the recipe. Be sure that the cheese you get is dense. Cottage cheese tends to be done different ways in different countries and I haven't quite figured out why. Oftentimes it's runny and for this you want one that isn't. The simplest way to ensure this is to get the lowest percentage fat. That's how it is in Georgia at least. Here you can get cottage cheese up to 15% fat and it is runny as can be. I found that getting 0% made for a dense but sharp (for cottage anyway) cheese.

If you can't get 0%, press the cheese with a strainer to get out any excess moisture. It's 100% okay and works fine.

Empty your cheese into a large mixing bowl and grab your eggs, sugar, vanilla and rum (if you're using. )


Combine your eggs, sugar, vanilla and rum (if using) and mix together with a fork. If you have an immersion blender, that's ideal, though I used a fork every time. You're just trying to mix it into a rough paste the break down the chunks within the cottage cheese.


Add your flour and baking soda and combine. *You want the dough to be managable but still sticky. Try to avoid adding flour like you would for pastries, cookies, pizza etc. it doesn't need to be smooth.

Flour the surface you'll be working on and be sure it's clean (duh). Be sure to coat your hands and have the flour nearby. As you work the dough, you'll need it.


Knead and continue to add flour to maintain a sticky but workable texture. This is important because too much flour makes for a bland doughnut and who wants that :) As long as you keep your hands floured, your good. In the meantime, heat your oil.


Now for the fun part. Break apart the dough ball into 9 balls with the last one being slightly bigger than the rest. The first eight will be the doughnuts and the last will be split to make the ball tops.


Here is another important, but simple key to a good consistency in the dough once fried.

Knead them individually to smooth out any remaining cheese chunks in the dough. Rember, you want the dough workable but still limp so try to only use enough flour to continue working it.

Now, to shape the donughts, take a chunk and roll it into a sausage shape. Then join the two ends together, flatten a bit and shape it to your preference. Like this:

Be sure the oil is ready and get ready to dip! I recommend only doing about two at a time depending on the size of your pan. I was trialling a few different methods, so I only did one per pot. But you should be fine as long as they aren't crowded.

Lift your doughnut and slowly drop into the oil. Cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Tip: to test when the oil is ready, drop in a grain of rice-if it sizzles and raises immediately, it's ready.

Let rest on a kitchen towel to drain any excess oil.

Divide your last ball into 8 pieces and prepare the doughnuts holes between batches.

Presto! You're basically done with all the 'hard' stuff.


Now comes the fun part! I like to have the jam and sour cream left at room temp to keep a smooth consistency. For the most perfect sour cream ever, put your cream in a bowl and heat it while stirring in a water bath until it's a pudding viscosity. You don't have to do this, I just personally like it.

When it comes to the jam, it is completely up to you. I recommend cherry (what I used) or blackberry. I plan to make these again when raspberries are in season here in Tbilisi with some local jam! Typically I'd buy local preserves but there are no berries in season right now...strange right? Dead of winter and no berries? Anyway, grab your favorite runny jam and load'er up.


That's it, you're basically done. Papanași is best-served piping hot and enjoyed year-round.



Here are these two waiting to taste test batches :)


Recipe

Ingredients

• 3 cups of cottage cheese (0% fat or most dense consistency available

• 2 Farm Eggs

• 2 tbsp sugar

• 1 tsp vanilla

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• sunflower (or any suitable oil) for frying

• sour cream (high fat, 20% if possible)

• runny jam of your choice. Recommended cherry or blueberry.



Instructions

• add cottage cheese to a large mixing bowl. If watery or unable to get 0%, drain any excess liquid in a strainer over the sink.

• combine your eggs, sugar, vanilla and rum (if using) and mix together with a fork. If you have an immersion blender, that's ideal, though I used a fork every time. You're just trying to mix it into a rough paste the break down the chunks within the cottage cheese.

• Add your flour adoughnutsnd baking soda and combine. *You want the dough to be managable but still sticky. Try to avoid adding flour in the way you would for pastries, cookies, pizza etc. it doesn't need to be smooth.

• Flour the surface you'll be working on and be sure it's clean (duh). Be sure to coat your hands and have the flour nearby. As you work the dough, you'll need it.

• Knead and continue to add flour to maintain a sticky but workable texture. This is important because too much flour makes for a bland doughnut and who wants that :) As long as you keep your hands floured, your good. In the meantime, heat your oil.

• Now for the fun part. Break apart the dough ball into 9 balls with the last one being slightly bigger than the rest. The first eight will be the doughnuts and the last will be split to make the ball tops.

•Here is another important, but simple key to a good consistency in the dough once fried. Knead them individually to smooth out any remaining cheese chunks in the dough. Rember, you want the dough workable but still limp so try to only use enough flour to continue working it.

• Now, to shape the donughts, take a chunk and roll it into a sausage shape. Then join the two ends together, flatten a bit and shape it to your preference.

• Be sure the oil is ready and get ready to dip! I recommend only doing about two at a time depending on the size of your pan. I was trialling a few different methods, so I only did one per pot. But you should be fine as long as they aren't crowded.

Lift your doughnut and slowly drop into the oil. Cook for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Tip: to test when the oil is ready, drop in a grain of rice-if it sizzles and raises immediately, it's ready.

• Let rest on a kitchen towel to drain any excess oil.

Divide your last ball into 8 pieces and prepare the doughnuts holes between batches.

• Now top with softened sour cream and runny jam. enjoy!