Cheesecakes are a national dish of Poland and one form or another exists in every Central and Eastern European cuisine.
The cheese typically used is dry curd cheese (twaróg), not cream cheese as in the United States (although New York-style cheesecake is creeping into the mix). This results in a sometimes grainy texture similar to ricotta cheese that does not melt on the tongue but is delicious in its own right. A creamy version of twaróg cheese is starting to be used in Poland, as well as U.S.-style cream cheese known simply as Philadelphia.
If you can't find dry curd cheese (also known as farmer's cheese in some parts) and you want to go the extra mile, try making your own dry curd cheese. It's unbelievably easy.
Otherwise, ricotta cheese or drained small curd cottage cheese can be substituted, but the taste won't be authentic. Try experimenting with these Polish cheesecake recipes.
01 of 04
Traditional Polish Cheesecake (Sernik) Recipe
This recipe for traditional Polish cheesecake or sernik (SEHRR-neek) has a sweet pastry crust and a quark or farmer's cheese filling, known as twaróg (TVAH-rroog). It is one of the most common desserts in Polish restaurants and at home.
02 of 04
Modern Polish Cheesecake (Sernik) Recipe
This recipe is for Polish cheesecake with a cookie crumb crust. The filling is very rich and needs no embellishment but, if you must, fresh fruit and whipped cream never hurt anything!
03 of 04
American-Style Cheesecake (Sernik Philadelphia or Sernik Nowojorski) Recipe
In much of Eastern Europe, cheesecakes are made with dry curd cheese or farmer's cheese. But, over the past 50 years, dry curd cheese is sometimes replaced with cream cheese. The resulting American-style cheesecake is known simply as Philadelphia after the popular store brand of cream cheese.
04 of 04
Polish Gelatin-Topped Cheesecake (Sernik Na Zimno) Recipe
In Poland, in addition to traditional sernik or cheesecake, no-bake cheesecakes and those that are baked but have a fruited gelatin layer on top are very popular where they are known as sernik na zimno (literally, cold cheesecake). The fruit and gelatin flavors can be varied to suit your taste (strawberries and strawberry gelatin are common).