Why It Works
- Small-curd, full-fat cottage cheese provides the best texture and flavor.
- Lemon zest and juice temper the richness of the filling.
- The cream cheese pie dough comes together quickly in a food processor and is pressed right into the pie plate—no rolling required.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger champion of cottage cheese than yours truly. The bad wrap this dairy aisle staple has gotten over the years as a texturally unappealing, slimy, antiquated diet food ensures that most folks shun it at diners and wouldn't dare dream of putting it in a dessert. My memories of cottage cheese, though, are rather delightful: dressed up with homegrown tomatoes and Italian dressing in the summertime, or serving as the tangy addition to my grandmother's congealed "orange salad" on the Thanksgiving table. Say what you will, but cottage cheese is a real workhorse of classic Middle American cuisine.
Since those who share my sentiment are few and far between, it's time to breathe new life into this black sheep of the dairy family. The German classic recipe for cottage cheese pie elevates the once lowly ingredient to an almost cheesecake-like status, with a homey, heirloom taste that is pleasing for even the most diehard cottage cheese detractors.
This pie recipe seems to be a staple of grandmothers across the Midwest, though its real origin as Hungarian, Czech, Croatian, or German is the stuff of culinary lore. While I typically prefer a large curd cottage cheese, it's important that the pie is made with small curd so that the consistency and texture of the filling is even and smooth. Selecting the appropriate milk fat is key—going full fat is best, but in a pinch 2% can work.
Some recipes call for letting the cottage cheese drain prior to baking to keep excess liquid from the pie. However, I found that it made the pie less creamy and reduced the custard-like quality of the dessert. If you decide to drain, add back an extra 1/4 cup of cream to balance out the reduced liquid.
The real beauty of this recipe is its ease and versatility: It's simple to whip up, and can be eaten as a celebratory dessert, a breakfast snack, or a teatime treat. There are also as many variations and additions to the recipe as there are people who swear by it: raisins added in prior to baking, a whipped sour cream topping, blueberries and raspberries scattered as a fruity treat. The topping that can't be missed, though, is a healthy sprinkle of nutmeg, which adds an extra dimension to the rich pie.
While this version uses a cream cheese pastry crust, a graham cracker crust is another standby favorite and easily enhances the aromatic flavors throughout the pie.
For the Crust:
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces cream cheese (chilled, cubed)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter (chilled, cubed)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
For the Filling:
2 medium eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup (about 7 ounces) white sugar
2 cups cottage cheese (preferably full-fat)
1/2 teaspoon zest and 2 teaspoons fresh juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Crust: Pulse flour, pinch of salt, and baking powder in a food processor until combined, about 10 short pulses. Add cream cheese and pulse until coarsely incorporated, about 8 short pulses. Add butter cubes and pulse until dough forms pea-sized balls, about 8 short pulses. Add cream, vanilla, and vinegar and continue to pulse until dough pulls away from sides, 8 to 12 short pulses. Transfer dough to a large sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a 1/4-inch thick disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days. Remove from refrigerator and press into a 9-inch pie plate, using fingertips to form an even layer.
To Assemble: Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Whisk together eggs, flour, and sugar using an electric handheld mixture until smooth. Fold in cottage cheese, lemon zest and juice, heavy cream, and vanilla extract. Pour into prepared pie shell. Bake until set in the middle, about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 18g||23%|
|Saturated Fat 11g||53%|
|Total Carbohydrate 40g||14%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||2%|
|Total Sugars 22g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||2%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|