Latvian cheesecake (biezpienmaize)

Biezpienmaize, literally cottage cheese bread, is my favourite cake in the world. My fondest cake memories are from the high school, when my friends and I would enjoy breaks between classes in the school cafeteria, sitting down for a sizable piece of biezpienmaize and a cup of peppermint tea. It was also great as a mid-morning snack, just enough to tide me over until lunch and spare me the embarrassment of rumbling stomach.

Essentially biezpienmaize is a baked cheesecake, however, yeast dough for the base and cottage cheese for the topping gives it more homely and down to earth feel. Usually it would contain sultanas and would be served cut in rectangles; available at every bakery and supermarket.

This recipe has been tested several times, using various types of bases and toppings. Personally, I prefer crusty base, rather than the yeast dough base, but I have provided recipes for both. For the best results, use the driest and smallest grain cottage cheese you can find (ricotta just does not taste right, trust me, I tried).

Latvian cheesecake (biezpienmaize)

Total Time: 1 hour

Latvian cheesecake (biezpienmaize)

Ingredients

    For a "bread" base
  • 1 quantity of yeast dough
  • For a crusty base
  • 250g butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Filling
  • 1kg cottage cheese
  • 150g sugar
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • rind from 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons potato/corn starch
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sultanas

Instructions

    Crusty base
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Line 30 x 40cm baking tray with baking paper
  3. In a food processor, chop butter, sugar, flour and baking powder until well combined and fine crumbs are formed.
  4. Place 3/4 of the crumbs evenly in the pan and firm them down to create a solid base.
  5. Place in the fridge until required.
  6. Bread base
  7. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
  8. Roll the dough to the size of the baking tray.
  9. Lightly grease the tray and place the dough in the tray, making sure the dough does not overhang the edges.
  10. Filling
  11. Place the sultanas in a hot water to soak for 5 minutes. Drain well and place on a paper towel to dry until required.
  12. Place the cottage cheese, sugar, sour cream and lemon rind in a food processor and process for 15 seconds.
  13. Separate the egg whites from the yolks.
  14. Add the yolks to the food processor and process for 10 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir through the starch and sultanas.
  15. Whisk the egg whites with electric mixer until firm. Fold the egg whites through the cottage cheese mixture.
  16. Pour the mixture on top of the prepared base. If using the crusty base, sprinkle the remainder of the crumbs on top of the filling.
  17. Bake in the oven for 40 - 45 minutes or until the filling is firm and golden brown.
  18. Remove the tray from the oven, let it cool down and cut in even sized rectangular pieces.
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14 Comments

  1. Indra
    July 15, 2014

    Hey, any recommendation for the best cottage cheese to use – ie: brand name?

    Reply
    1. Liva
      July 16, 2014

      Dairy Farmers cottage cheese tastes and works well (just drain any excess liquid). In Perth Mundella is the best.

      Reply
  2. Indra
    July 21, 2014

    Made this yeaterday …I didn’t drain the cottage cheese so the final texture was not as firm as it should have been but still tastes great. Future attempts I would also NOT use baking paper as the base doesn’t/didn’t cook properly and try Farmers Cottage Cheese (dry cottage cheese). Thanks for the recipe.

    Reply
  3. Irena
    October 25, 2014

    I prefer to make my own cottage cheese from buttermilk and milk and use it for biezpienmaizites and other bakes with cottage cheese. You can make it as dry as you want for baking and softer version to have it with sour cream. I agree, ricotta bakes never taste as good as cottage cheese ones. I am glad to find Latvian cooking blog in Australia

    Reply
  4. Rita
    April 25, 2015

    My Latvian Mum is almost 95 years old (next month), She doesn’t cook anymore but she was the best cook when I was growing up and all my friends loved her homemade Latvian cooking. I just thought I would mention that my Mum always used farmers cheese for her Latvian cheesecake. It was the best too.

    Reply
    1. Indra
      April 28, 2015

      Definitely use Farmers Cheese….hard to find but well worth it. Does anyone have a recipe for this “cake” with apple? When I was in Riga last year, I bought an apple version and it was very yummy…. thanks

      Reply
  5. Liva
    April 29, 2015

    Hard to come by farmers cheese in Australia, should try to make my own :) For the apple cake – try the plum cake recipe from the website; I will post a version for apple cake soon.

    Reply
    1. Indra
      April 29, 2015

      The plum cake won’t work. The cake I had in Riga was definitely the cheesecake but with apple through it / on top…I just may have to experiment.
      I know of only one shop in Canberra that sells Farmers Cheese – agree, not easy to find

      Reply
  6. Linda
    May 5, 2015

    Hi, I am going to try this recipe today using my options in Cyprus. As we have many russian shops here, I can get cottage cheese, the only thing about it is the price. Cyrpriots have Anari cheese which is rather alike- a soft cheese. It’s not crumbly or dry enough though so I’m probably going to spend a bit for this recipe :) Since it’s for a special event to introduce with Latvian cooking. Next time for a home experiment I’ll use anari.
    How much cake does one get out of this recipe? :)
    TY
    Linda

    Reply
  7. Latvian Eats
    May 5, 2015

    This would make a 30 x 40 cm tray, so the tray is smaller than the standard oven tray. I usually cut the cake in 2.5 x 2.5 cm (inch by inch) cubes, so everyone gets a taste.
    You can substitute cottage cheese with ricotta, but it loses that very specific biezpienmaize flavour.

    Reply
  8. Linda
    May 7, 2015

    Hello again!
    The cake turned out to be very sheet, which was okay for this event to share with more people but for my next time I’ll choose a smaller pan to make the cake thicker as I like to have a bitefuls. Umm as for the recipe itself, I found I had to put more flour for the crusty base then the reipce suggests and even when I had put 2 cups and was already munching it down I wished I put even more than that, so that there is no extra butter coming out of the dough. The taste was very buttery. Also 6 eggs ir probably way too much for my taste. I’d go with 4 or even just 3 for an experiment (for a 1 kg of cottage cheese).
    The bottom line is, I had a very international crowd and my cake was told to be very diff from what they’ve tried before so I call it a success. :) One of the best Latvian desserts for sure. I miss LV pricing though :D 3 eur/ kg or 8-10 eur/kg for a cottage cheese…

    Reply
  9. Moon
    August 28, 2016

    Is 180 degree in Celsius or Fahrenheit?

    Reply
    1. Liva
      August 28, 2016

      It is in Celsius

      Reply
  10. Cathy
    September 28, 2017

    My grandmother from Riga made almost this exact thing except she used the yeast dough as a pie crust (might have done it differently in Europe), and instead of putting raisins in it, she topped it with cinnamon and sugar and nuts. In the U.S., I used farmers cheese to make it. They don’t have that here in Israel, but they do have lots of Russian grocery stores, and I used Tvorog Cheese instead. It tasted right, but was not really small grain.

    Reply

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