Q: What do you get when you cross a Russian doughnut with a Timbit? A: Ponchiki!
I had never heard of these dense, cheesy fritters before yesterday, but they seemed appropriately Russian-Canadian-snackable to serve up while planted on the couch glued to hockey or snowboarding or luge. We’ve already started to call them Those Little Russian Doughnuts.
They’re made with farmers’ cheese, a dry, crumbly cheese that looks like ricotta would had it been pressed a little more. Ricotta would work just as well – I added some sour cream to the farmers’ cheese to moisten it a bit. Some recipes I came across called for raisins in the dough – I used currants, which are more easily dispersed and seem like an ingredient my grandmother would have used. Not that she was Russian – they went into her butter tarts. But someone’s Russian grandma must have used them. Perhaps when I’m a grandma I’ll make Russian ponchiki. And Ukranian peroghy and Belgian beef carbonnade, and Danish Æbleskiver.
The dough is dense and cheesy – I had more than a cup of farmers’ cheese left, and so went ahead and used it – most recipes called for the spoonfuls of relatively wet batter to be rolled in flour before being lowered into the the hot oil, but mine wasn’t sticky enough to need it – it could be rolled into neat balls by hand without making much mess. Either way.
Once nicely deep golden, set them on a double thickness of paper towel and douse in icing sugar.
Get yourself a fresh cuppa coffee and eat warm.
Russian Ponchiki Doughnuts
1 cup farmers’ cheese or ricotta
2-3 Tbsp. sour cream (if the cheese is very dry)
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup raisins or currants (optional)
extra flour, for rolling
canola or other mild vegetable oil, for cooking
icing sugar or cinnamon sugar, for dusting
In a medium bowl, stir together the cheese, sour cream, sugar and egg. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir until you have a thick batter. If you like, stir in some raisins or currants.
Put some flour in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Scoop medium spoonfuls of batter and roll in flour to coat. Heat a couple inches of oil over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking – a crust of bread should sizzle if you dip it in. Gently lower a few ponchiki at a time into the oil – don’t crowd the pot – and cook until golden on the bottom. Flip and cook for a few minutes on the other side, until deep golden. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.
Dust with icing sugar or cinnamon sugar while still warm. Makes lots.