Russian Cheesecake Buns / Vatrushka /Ватрушка

Vatrushka

These sweet cheese filled buns are a Russian classic. They’re a perfect treat to pair with tea or coffee. The dough is lightly sweet, buttery, and yeasted, with a sweet farmer’s cheese filling. Farmer’s cheese, or tvorog/творо́г as it is called in Russian, is similar to the American cottage cheese but it is dry instead of creamy and has a smaller curd. It is very commonly used in cooking and baking in Eastern European countries, where the cuisines often overlap country lines in their similarities.

Farmer’s cheese is available in the US but it can be hard to find because not all grocery stores carry it. There is an American dairy brand called Friendship that sells farmer’s cheese. This same brand is commonly known for its cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, and buttermilk.

Another option is looking for an Eastern European grocery store near you. I was able to find my farmer’s cheese at a local Polish grocery store. If you are unsuccessful in finding it, however, you can substitute it with American cottage cheese, but you will need to let it drain in a colander for a couple of hours to allow the cream to drain off. Rinsing it might also be helpful, but make sure it is pretty dry before you use it in the recipe. American cottage cheese won’t give you a completely authentic vatrushka, but it will be pretty close.

A plain sweet cheese filling is the original version of the dessert, but there are also some common editions to make different varieties of vatrushka, such as raisins, cranberries (lingonberries), chopped apples, berries, a swirl of jam, etc. Get creative, but the ones I listed are the most traditional. Savory versions of this treat can also be made. Simply leave out the sugar from the filling and mix in herbs, onions, spinach, shredded cheese, bacon/cured meat, etc.

Vatrushka / Ватрушка / Russian Cheesecake Buns

Recipe by Bake Across Europe Cuisine: RussianDifficulty: Intermediate
Servings

16

servings
Prep time

2

hours 

30

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

These sweet cheese filled buns are a Russian classic. The dough is lightly sweet, buttery, and yeasted, with a sweet farmer’s cheese filling.

Ingredients

  • 240 ml lukewarm whole milk (1 cup)

  • 100 grams granulated sugar (1/2 cup)

  • 14 grams active dry yeast (1.5 tbsp)

  • 340 grams unsalted butter, melted + slightly cooled (1.5 cups)

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks

  • 625 grams all-purpose flour (5 1/3 cups)

  • egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water)

  • Filling
  • 500 grams farmer’s cheese (16 oz) *see notes for substitutions

  • 4 tbsp sour cream

  • 100 grams granulated sugar (1/2 cup)

  • 2 tbsp cornstarch or flour

  • 1 tsp vanilla or 1 packet vanilla sugar

  • 1 egg yolk

  • zest of half a lemon

  • any add-ins such as raisins, berries, chopped apples, a swirl of jam, etc.

Directions

  • First begin by making the dough. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, and yeast. Let the yeast bloom for 5 minutes.
  • Whisk into the same bowl the butter, salt, eggs, and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth and fully combined.
  • Next whisk in the flour 120 grams (1 cup) at a time. You’ll begin with a whisk and then switch to a spatula or wooden spoon as the mixture thickens. Towards the end, you may find it easiest to mix in the remaining flour with your hands.
  • Once all of the flour has been added, transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, or until a small piece of dough passes the windowpane test. Transfer the dough to a clean, large bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 90 minutes depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
  • While the dough rises, make the filling. Combine all of the filling ingredients together in a medium to large bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat all of the ingredients together until smooth. You can either leave the filling as is, or separate evenly amongst two or three bowls and mix in different flavors, such as raisins, berries, chopped apples, etc. Another idea is to add a swirl of jam when assembling the buns. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • Once the dough is doubled in size, punch it down and place it on your work surface. Divide into sixteen evenly sized portions (easiest way to do this is with a scale). Then form each portion into a ball (see video for shaping tutorial). Place each ball onto a parchment lined baking sheet, spaced at least 3 inches apart (7.5 centimeters). I used 3 baking sheets for all sixteen buns. Once on the baking sheets, flatten the balls into disks, then cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 30-60 minutes depending of the temperature of your kitchen.
  • Once the balls have risen. use the bottom of a drinking glass to make a large indentation in the center of each bun (see video for demonstration). Spoon a couple of tablespoons of filling into the center of each bun, then brush the dough with egg wash.
  • Bake in a 350F/180C preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving them warm. приятного аппетита/priyatnogo appetita!

Notes

  • Vatrushka can also be made as a savory treat too. Simply eliminate the sugar from the filling and mix in your choice of herbs, onions, spinach, grated cheese, bacon/cured meats, etc.
  • Farmer’s cheese is available in the US but it can be hard to find because not all grocery stores carry it. There is an American dairy brand called Friendship that sells farmer’s cheese. Another option is looking for an Eastern European grocery store near you. If you are unsuccessful in finding it, however, you can substitute it with American cottage cheese, but you will need to let it drain in a colander for a couple of hours to allow the cream to drain off. Rinsing it might also be helpful, but make sure it is pretty dry before you use it in the recipe. American cottage cheese won’t give you a completely authentic vatrushka, but it will be pretty close.

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