Ah, the Polish and their amazing food.
Visiting Warsaw is always a pleasure. I just love their food. Too much. It’s very hard to be keto in Poland, and I will always sample something different when I’m there… it’s my travel allowance 😎 Although I absolutely adore their beef tartar, I think that’s about the only 100% keto food I’ve had there…
Well, there’s kielbasa. And bigos. And fuczki. And grilled Redykołka cheese. OK, I’m mistaken. Poland is a keto paradise!
Coming back with a suitcase full of groceries, and having tried the local cuisine, now it’s time to try and ketofy my favorites. I’ll leave pierogi for a next opportunity. Let’s start with the Polish cheesecake: Sernik.
Sernik cheesecake is sold everywhere in slices, huge slices, and they are so cheap. And delicious! They come plain, or with varied toppings, like fruit jelly or chocolate ganache. They often have dried fruit filling, such as raisins, and are sometimes made with a shortcrust base, and sometimes without. Sernik might even have double shortcrust layers, one at the bottom and one at the top!
I kept the keto cheesecake simple, but not because I’m lazy. I just thought it would be perfectly fine plain. I also despise raisins and believe everything touched by them is tainted forever.
This sernik recipe was made without a shortcrust base, without topping, without dried fruit, and without sugar. Yes, I put cheese in it! And flavored it warmly with fresh bergamot zest, grounded cloves and nutmeg. Oh, the heavenly smell coming from the oven…
What are the ingredients for our keto Polish cheesecake?
- One tube of twaróg, the amazingly versatile Polish farmer’s cheese (we’ll talk more about it, and possible substitutions)
- Eggs and unsalted butter
- A little bit of whey protein and coconut flour, to give structure
- Powdered erythritol stevia blend, or another keto baking sweetener of your choice
- And the spices: You can vary this to your heart content, but I loved the mix of bergamot zest, vanilla and orange extracts, and ground cloves and nutmeg.
I looked through a few Polish food blog recipes, and mixed up some ideas to create this keto version. Sernik cheesecake was pretty easy to ketofy. Cheesecakes generally are, as they don’t usually take much flour anyway.
Traditional Polish recipes for sernik tradycyjny take potato starch, such as Ania’s gorgeous sernik. The potato starch binds and lightens up the cheesecake. It’s a terrific ingredient to use in baking, shame it’s not at all keto. Other recipes add wheat flour instead, and some use vanilla instant pudding powder. I increased the amount of eggs for binding, beat up the whites for fluffing it up, and added a tiny bit of coconut flour and whey protein for some structure. It worked great!
What’s twaróg, the Polish farmer’s cheese?
Twaróg is a fresh, crumbly textured Polish cheese made of cow’s milk. It’s soft, but it can sliced. Its delicate flavor is slightly acidic and slightly sweet at the same time.
Twaróg is very versatile and used in many different dishes in Polish cuisine. The amazing pierogi dumplings (my keto nemeses) are made with an array of sweet or savory fillings, but the most famous one, pierogi ruskie, is made with potato, onion and twaróg.
Is quark the same as Polish farmer’s cheese?
Quark and twaróg are both fresh, white curd style cheeses. But quark has a stronger, tangier taste, and it’s lower in fat than twaróg. It’s also softer, more like an spreadable type of cheese. Quark too is used to make a famous cheesecake, the German Käsekuchen.
I personally prefer the more delicate flavor and texture of a twaróg made sernik. So although they are similar, they are definitely not the same.
Where can I find twaróg?
You can find twaróg literally everywhere in Poland. In other countries, there’s a great chance you’ll find it in eastern European groceries (although Poland is in central Europe, they use similar ingredients in their cuisine). Larger supermarkets with a well stocked international aisle may carry it, as well. If you absolutely cannot find twaróg, or Polish farmer’s cheese, you have two options:
- Substitute it for ricotta or quark. These are also fresh, crumbly textured cheeses, and will behave similarly. The flavor is not going to be exactly the same, though. Ricotta is much milder than twaróg, while quark has a stronger taste.
- If you are feeling adventurous and can’t get your hands on real Polish farmer’s cheese, why not try and make it yourself? Here’s an incredibly easy recipe for homemade twaróg by Lois from The Polish Housewife.
How to make keto Polish cheesecake, step by step
Separate the eggs while cold (it’s easier), and keep the whites in the fridge until its time to beat them. Leave the yolks out to get them to room temperature, together with the cheese and the butter. (Yes, you want the whites be be beaten cold for a stable, finer foam but the yolks at room temp, so they don’t curdle the creamed butter).
Butter a 7″x3″ pan, and line the bottom of the pan with a disc of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper too.
Use the paddle attachment of the stand mixer (or whisks if using a hand mixer) to beat the butter on medium speed until soft and pale, then slowly add the sweetener, while creaming them together until light and fluffy (1). Use a spatula to scrape the sides and bring the mixture to the center as needed.
Add the egg yolks one by one, alternating with the whey and coconut flour (2), while the mixer is running. Add half of the cheese, mix until combined, then the second half (3), and continue beating on medium speed.
When the cheese is homogeneous in the mixture – hopefully no lumps in sight (4) – add all the spices and extracts, including the bergamot zest. Beat for another minute or so, on higher speed.
Now, if you are lucky enough to have 2 bowls for your standing mixer, you won’t need to do like me and transfer the cheese mixture to a bigger bowl, wash and dry the mixer bowl very well, and use it to beat those whites left in the fridge until stiff peaks form (5).
Add half of the stiff egg whites to the top of the cheese mixture, and using a large whisk (I remove the whisk from the mixer and use it by hand), gently incorporate the whites into the cheese mixture, in circular movements starting from the top, and gradually going deeper (6). When the cheese mixture is lightened by the first half of the whites, add the second half and gently fold them in with a spatula (7).
This keto batter is really thick and creamy, and it will hold the air from the stiff whites. This will bring lightness to the heavy cheese, and help the cheesecake grow. Pour the batter into the battered pan, and use the spatula to make the surface level (8).
How to tell when the cheesecake is done?
Bake the keto cheesecake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes – until the top is golden and the edges are slightly browned.
Polish cheesecake isn’t supposed to be underbaked like an American cheesecake. When checking for doneness, you can give it a couple of taps to the side of the pan. The center of the cake should very slightly jiggle. Not in a wobbly way – that would need more oven time.
After turning off the oven, open the door slightly and leave the sernik inside to cool slowly. Unmold after it reaches room temperature. Don’t forget to peel off the parchment paper.
Can I freeze Sernik?
This keto Polish cheesecake keeps in the fridge covered in cling wrap for 3 days, and you can freeze the pre-cut slices, while still fresh, wrapped in cling wrap or inside an airtight container. Let them unfreeze on the counter to eat whenever you please.
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- 500 grams twaróg (Polish farmer's cheese), or quark cheese, or cottage cheese
- 4 eggs (separated)
- 115 grams unsalted buter
- 15 grams unflavored whey protein (or vanilla flavored)
- 11 grams coconut flour
- 80 grams powdered keto baking sweetener (I used erythritol stevia blend)
- Zest from one small mandarin orange (bergamot)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/16 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Have the cheese and butter brought to room temperature before you start.
- Separate the eggs, and keep the whites in the fridge until its time to beat them. Keep the yolks out, so they are not cold when mixing into the butter.
- Butter a 7" x 3" pan, and line the bottom of the pan with a disc of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, too.
- Use the paddle attachment of the stand mixer (or whisks if using a hand mixer) to beat the butter on medium speed until soft and pale.
- Slowly add the erythritol to the butter, creaming them together until light and fluffy. Use a spatula to scrape the sides and bring the mixture to the center as needed.
- Add the egg yolks one by one, alternating with the whey and coconut flour, while the mixer is running. Add the cheese, half at a time, and continue beating on medium speed.
- When the cheese mixture is lump free, add all the spices and extracts, including the bergamot zest. Beat for another minute or so, on higher speed.
- Retrieve the egg whites from the fridge, and beat them to stiff peaks.
- Add half of the stiff egg whites to the top of the cheese mixture. Using a large whisk, gently incorporate the whites into the cheese mixture, in circular movements starting from the top, gradually going deeper.
- Add the remaining egg whites and gently fold them in with a spatula. The mixture should be really thick and creamy.
- Pour the batter into the buttered pan, and use the spatula to make the surface level.
- Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes - until the top is golden and the edges are slightly browned. The center should not be wobbly like an American style cheesecake, but near set - just a slight jiggle when tapped.
- Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and leave it inside to slowly cool it down. Unmold after it reaches room temperature.
US Cups approximate conversion: Use 1/2 cup of butter, 1/2 cup of powdered erythritol stevia blend, 2 tablespoons of whey protein and 1 tablespoon of coconut flour. Other ingredients as indicated.
This cheesecake is not as sweet as American cheesecakes are. It is slightly sweet, with a delicate mix of tart (from the Polish farmer's cheese) and warmth from the spices. If you prefer a sweeter cheesecake, just add more sweetener, 50% more should be enough.
Powdered erythritol combines better with butter for creaming (as using icing sugar instead of granulated). If you don't have powdered erythritol, it's easy to make it yourself: just add the granulated sweetener to a (very dry) blender jar and pulse it for a few seconds. Wait for the powder to settle before opening the jar 😉
The cheesecake will grow a lot in the oven, and it might crack a bit (the potato starch used in the traditional recipes helps prevent cracking). After cooling down, it will flatten somewhat, so the cracks won't be as noticeable. If this happens and they bother you, you can sprinkle powdered sweetener on top.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 225Total Fat: 16.5gSaturated Fat: 0.7gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 31.6mgCarbohydrates: 2.4gNet Carbohydrates: 2.2gFiber: 0.2gSugar: 0.2gProtein: 16.7g
Nutrition information is provided as a guideline only. Different brands of ingredients may have different nutrition facts. If tracking macros, remake the calculations using the nutrition facts from the labels of the ingredients you selected. Net carbs calculated exclude carbs from insoluble fiber and the sugar alcohol erythritol.