Christmas Eve is the one day a year when my family embraces Swedish customs. When I was young, Grandma Lois would make a light dinner of salmon loaf with dill gravy (an American stand-in for Lutefish, the traditional dried codfish served in Sweden). She would try to force-feed me pickled herring from the relish tray. And for dessert we would have ostakaka, a Swedish cheesecake or curd-cake, topped with whipped cream and lingonberries.
I’ve been making ostakaka for years now, and I’m always amazed at how easy it is. I’m sure I’m not using the recipe from the “Old World,” because all of the older recipes involve curdling your own milk using rennet tablets. Grandma’s recipe just calls for a pint of cottage cheese.
The cheese is then mixed with cream, sugar and eggs, then baked in a water-bath. The result is a cross between cheesecake and custard, but the texture is truly unique. When I was young I thought it was made with rice!
Grandma Lois’ Recipe
Beat: 1 egg and 4 egg whites slightly
Add: 1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 pint small curd whole milk cottage cheese
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Pour mixture into a non-greased square (8×8 inch) glass baking dish. Set this dish inside a larger roasting pan or baking dish and place in the oven. Then, fill the larger pan with hot water until it reaches about halfway up the square pan. Bake until set, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm or cold, topped with whipping cream and lingonberries.