Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tvorog & Syrniki

Tvorog is one of the most interesting and, in my opinion, delicious Russian dairy products. It is literally "curd cheese," and is often translated as "cottage cheese," but it is very different from American cottage cheese. As you can see in the picture on the left, it looks like curds of cheese but can also be pressed together in a more solid block that slightly resembles cream cheese. It is slightly chewy but generally soft and a little sweet. It comes in several different versions. The one in the front of this picture is "skim," while the one in the back is "rich" (whole-milk). You can also buy it with raisins, apricots, and other dried fruits mixed in.

You can do any number of things with tvorog, from eating it straight or with sugar to putting it inside bliny (crepe-style pancakes) to baking it into cakes. You can also make "syrniki," which are patties of tvorog that are fried and usually topped with sour cream and jam or honey. I have tried these several times, having purchased them in premade from from the grocery store and reheated them, but today I decided to try to make my own.

I have two Russian cuisince cookbooks -- one in English that is aimed at foreigners and one in Russian aimed at Russians. I tried the recipe in the Russian version and have listed it below with recommendations. The syrniki turned out well, and I highly recommend the recipe.

Makes 6 medium-sized patties

200 grams (about a cup) tvorog
1 cup flour
1 to 1.5 TBSP sugar
1 egg
Salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
Oil for frying
Mix tvorog, flour, sugar, egg (beaten), and salt in a bowl. Form small balls with the dough by rolling it in your hands. Then smash these balls so that they form flat patties. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Put two patties into the skillet at a time and fry on each side. When golden, remove and keep warm until all are prepared. Top with sour cream and honey or jam.

When I made mine, I added a little too much flour, and they tasted slightly too doughy, so I recommend starting with 3/4 cup of flour and working your way up to a full cup, possibly adding more if necessary. I also recommend not skimping on the salt. For me, this addition really makes or breaks the overall flavor.

There are some reicpes that call mixing in grated carrots, apples, and raisins, which would also be delicious.

If you are in the States, you can often find tvorog for sale at Russian and European grocery stores, and I hear you can make it yourself, but I don't have an exact recipe. I'll work on finding one and try it when I get back to the U.S. The biggest challenge in the U.S. is that most milk is pasteurized, which makes it hard to make your own curd cheese.


  1. I found a bottle of kefir at a grocery store called Publix here in the states. I mixed about half of it with a quart of buttermilk and heated it on low for a couple hours.. then spooned it into a coffee filter and let it drain over the sink..It's really GREAT Tvorog!!!!!! I'm about to try this syrniki recipe using the tvorog I've made..

  2. Hi Katherine, I make tvorig a couple different ways. If I am using it for baking then I just use plain yogurt. I simple heat the yogurt in a metal pot in a 250 degree oven for a couple hours. Let it cool and hang in cheese cloth overnight. This type is more similar to creamcheese and it great for syrniki. Another way I do it is to use whole milk and buttermilk. First heat 1 gal milk in a pot again 250 degree oven and then add half a gallon of butter milk. It depends on your milk when the curd starts to separate from the whey. I don't know where you live but surprisingly walmart has good quality milk for tvorig but Giant food stores did not. I have found that while raw milk does make a nicer tvorig, you can still have a decent one with pasteurized milk. My family has forgotten what actual cheesecake made with cream cheese tastes like.