Try our keto & low-carb version of sernik: the most loved Polish dessert! The Polish cheesecake is made with creamy twaróg, Polish farmer’s cheese, and it has a delicate taste and heavenly aroma!
I just love Polish food! Too much. It’s hard to eat keto in Poland, and I will always sample something different when I visit… 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! If you can resist their sweet window shops… full of Polish cheesecake in every flavor imaginable, plus more…
Sernik Polish tradition and flavors
Although traditionally present on every Polish table for Easter and Christmas celebrations, sernik cheesecake is so loved that it’s just eaten year round! Sernik is sold in Poland everywhere, in irresistible huge slices!
Sernik slices come plain, or with varied toppings, like fruit jelly or chocolate ganache. The Polish cheesecake often have dried fruit filling, such as raisins, and is made with or without a shortcrust base. Sernik might even have double crust layers, one at the bottom and one at the top!
Even though there’s so many different varieties of sernik, I kept this keto Polish cheesecake recipe simple, but not because I’m lazy. I just think it’s perfectly fine plain. And crustless cheesecakes appeal to my practical nature 😁 I also despise the most traditional added ingredient, raisins, and believe everything touched by them is tainted forever.
This keto 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 cheesecake aroma coming from the oven…
Ingredients for keto sernik
- One tube of twaróg, the amazingly versatile Polish farmer’s cheese (I’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.
After *ahem* taste-testing a number of Polish cheesecakes, and doing my research looking through a few Polish food blog recipes, I mixed up some ideas to create this keto version. Sernik cheesecake was pretty easy to ketofy. As cheesecakes generally are, as they don’t usually take flour anyway. Except for this one, of course…
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 Polish cheesecake recipes ask for wheat flour instead of potato starch, and some crafty ones add vanilla instant pudding powder. For this keto sernik version, 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 and twaróg the same?
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 to 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. You can even buy this Polish farmers cheese online! But if you absolutely cannot get your hands on some twaróg, 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 a great recipe for homemade twaróg by Lois from The Polish Housewife.
- You can also get this special curd cheese starter culture and follow the easy instructions on the pack to make your own Polish farmers cheese!
How to make keto Polish cheesecake
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.
Beat the butter on medium speed, using the paddle attachment of the stand mixer (or whisks if using a hand mixer) 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 – with minimal to 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 buttered pan, and use the spatula to make the surface level (8).
Bake the keto cheesecake in a pre-heated oven at 170 °C (340 °F) for about 1 hour, up to 1 hour 15 minutes – until the top is golden and the edges are just 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. But 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.
Storage and freezing
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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