Sweet Cheese Pies. Easy Desserts from Mom’s Recipe Book

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Sweet Pockets

Plate of cheese pies

Cheesecakes are widely present in international cuisine. The ones I’ll talk about today are a traditional Moldavian recipe, from Northern Romania. Mom made them countless times when I was a kid. Since I discovered how easy they are to bake, I gave these pies many a try as well.

The Romanians have called these pies “poale’n brâu” for centuries. That translates literary to “the bottom of the skirt raised to the waistband”. Why? Perhaps many years ago, women would wear their skirts as improvised bags to carry whatever they would forage in the forest or a small bunch of twigs for the fire. Ever so practical!

When you make the pies, you do have to stretch the corners and cover the cheese filling as in an envelope, or a pocket; perhaps that is visually similar to pulling the rim of the skirt and tug it under the waistband.

Historically, the great pharaoh Ramesses II, known as Ramesses the Great for his military prowess, seemed to have been addicted to this dessert. So much so that he took some with him in the afterlife. The archaeologists have discovered traces of pies filled with honey in his burial place in the Valley of the Kings. (By the way, the great pharaoh did depart in style, his funerary temple – not tomb! – measures 820 sqm/8800 sq. ft. and included a library with thousands of papyri; in case you wanted some non-cheese pies related facts!) 

Next in the chronological line of civilisations, the Greeks carried on making pies they filled with fruits.

The affluent Romans, great lovers of lavish banquets, would fill the pies with meats or cheese.

In Medieval Europe, the pies were the favourite dessert of pilgrims and royal heads equally. The latter would have them filled with peacock meat because they could afford it!

The sweet folded pies made it to the Americas at the same time with the great adventurers who remained in history as the discoverers of the New World (that turned out not to be India, which they were looking for). In fact, the said world had been there for quite a while and was doing just fine. 

That is until some intrepid Europeans sponsored by potent kings and queens eager to grab more riches stumbled upon and accidentally “discovered“ it. The rest is history, the gift of smallpox and cholera the Europeans bestowed upon the unvaccinated prehistoric civilisations of America set the New World on the road to becoming what it is today.

The filling for the pies adapted to whatever was available on the continent (forest fruit or specific fruit).

To this day, the English fill the pies with meats, mostly. In 2018 a large bakery chain that makes pasties at industrial scale and sells them in many shops around the country was the first to announce a billion-pound profit. 

Our pie went a long way from a pharaoh’s table to making someone a billionaire.

I just can’t help a little history dig! Now, the recipe:

Cheese pockets

Sweet Cheese Pies

5 from 13 votes
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 15 mins
Resting time 45 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine International, Romanian
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Two large bowls
  • Small bowl
  • Rolling Pin
  • Baking tray/parchment
  • Large spoon

Ingredients
  

  • 700 g plain flour (2 ½ cups)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 400 ml milk (1 ½ cup)
  • 10 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • lemon zest
  • a pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 500 g cheese – homemade or similar to cottage cheese (not salty!) (2 pots)
  • 3 egg yolks (save the whites for later use)
  • a handful of raisins
  • orange zest
  • rum oil essence
  • 1 tbsp semolina (optional/if needed)

Instructions
 

  • Making the dough is similar to ciabatta bread; the main difference is that for the pies, we use milk and sugar. Also, the rising time is a lot shorter for this dough.
  • Mildly heat the milk and melt the coconut oil. Mix the wet ingredients and, while still warm, pour the mix over the dried yeast combined with sugar.
  • Allow a few minutes to activate the yeast, then sieve the flour over and box it until you obtain a firm but easy to manipulate dough. Let it rise for about three-quarters of an hour (or until it doubles in quantity).
  • Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Place the cheese in a large bowl (the cheese has to be dry; remove any excess liquid before use). Add the egg yolks, sugar, raisins, orange zest and rum essence. Mix well until you obtain an even composition.
  • If you believe it is too soft, add the semolina (increase the quantity if necessary; it will absorb the excess humidity.) The filling has to be balanced, not too soft, but not too hard either.
  • Preheat the oven(180°/356°F/gas mark 4) and place a parchment sheet in the baking tray.
    dough and cheese filling
  • Using a roller pin, spread half of the dough on the flowered worktop. Cut the dough sheet in squares of about 10-15 cm/5-6 inches. With a spoon, place a dollop of the cheese filling in the middle of each square. 
  • Gently pull out each corner of the dough and fold it to the middle until you cover the entire filling. I always make sure to pinch the edges softly and glue them together so that the cheese does not spread out in the oven. Also, compress the middle of the pie to help distribute the cheese evenly inside the pocket.
    Cheese pockets
  • Beat the egg whites with a little bit of sugar. Use a brush to splodge the top of each pie. The purpose of this step is to create a shiny and sweet film.  
  • Alternatively, use only the eggwhites for coating and sprinkle powder sugar when the pies are ready to obtain a snow effect. 
    egg whites shiny film
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes – or until the pies turn golden.
  • Allow to cool before serving.

Notes

From these quantities, I obtained eight large pies and a small one.
Keyword Cheese pie, Cheese pockets, Cheesecake

Make yourself a nice cup of coffee to have with a pie; you deserve it after all this work!

Enjoy!

sweet cheese pies

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Vagabond Around the World

Working as a journalist during university was pretty exciting. But landing a cruise ship job barely a year in my new graduate career was something else! Overnight, I moved from an already exhilarating job to an even better one. One that would allow me to wake up every morning in a different country. What more can a twenty-something wish for? The fact that I was fluent in a few languages helped. It made it easier to obtain the position I was seeking at the Shore Excursions department. Apart from dispatching tours in the morning and selling tickets in the evening, I would spend nearly every day on different trips. I did this a few years, spending half a year onboard and about two months at home. I enjoyed it immensely. I met fascinating people from all over the Globe and collected memories to last me a lifetime. Not to mention that I received a salary for seeing all those magnificent places the Earth has to offer! In an ideal world, everybody should live as they want. For me, that would translate into travel, then travel some more and keep travelling!

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37 Responses

  1. I love that you provided the history also! This looks so yummy!

  2. 5 stars
    They look delicious! The history is so interesting!

  3. Remonia says:

    These pies look absolutely mouth-watering. Thanks for sharing the history behind the pies I always like to know the history or story behind a dish or pastry. It makes me appreciate the particular food more.

  4. Angie says:

    5 stars
    This looks so good! I will have to try this

  5. Christine says:

    These look so good! I can’t wait to try them!

  6. Lindsay says:

    5 stars
    This delicious recipe looks like a crowd pleaser for the holidays! I look forward to trying to make a keto version! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Julia says:

    5 stars
    These look so cute! And reminds me of the time i was a kid!

  8. Cassie says:

    5 stars
    I loved learning about the history of pies because I had no knowledge of it prior to reading your post! Not to mention, these look amazing. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Jimmy Clare says:

    these look amazing and I want to try them so bad

  10. Geeky Daddy says:

    Wow! I was impressed by all the research you did! I never would have thought this dessert went all the way back to the days of Ramessess II!

  11. Ghanashyam K says:

    I have never tried cheese pies before. We have a snack that looks very similar in India, but it is spicy as hell. Never expected this to be a dessert but sounds lovely. I will definitely be making this soon. Kudos!

  12. 5 stars
    These look like such a treat!

    Nathalia | NathaliaFit – Fitness & Wellness Blog
    http://www.nathaliafit.com

  13. Kalu says:

    This sounds delicious. Thank you for sharing.

  14. 5 stars
    My grandma used to make them every Sunday when we visited. I love them! I’m not sure why I never tried to make them myself, but you gave me a wonderful idea

  15. Amanda says:

    These look so good! I’m convinced everything is better with cheese! Can’t wait to make these!

  16. E says:

    These look very tasty good recipe

  17. This looks amazing! I am not a “baker” but putting this on my short list for an adventurous day.

  18. Cristina says:

    I am a Romanian and i can say this is very tasty.. my mom made me something like this monthly….

  19. 5 stars
    I love anything European, especially pastries! Some people in my country (Madagascar) still use their skirts to carry stuff lol, so your article brought back a fun memory to me.
    This recipe looks so good. I can’t wait to try it!

    • I remember pictures of famous nineteenth-century Romanian painters showing country girls carrying bundles of wheat on the fields. The skirts were a lot longer than today, which probably is the case in your country. Imagine going today to some supermarket in London with no bags and wearing a mini skirt! LOL

  20. jeannie says:

    5 stars
    love that little trivia of where this came from, such a delightful treat. Thank you for bringing me everywhere with your blogs.

  21. 5 stars
    I love cheesecake, and you’ve introduced me to a new way of preparing it! These cheese pockets look decadent and delicious. Thank you for the recipe and the informative article describing the history behind it.

  22. Emily Flint says:

    5 stars
    It was fun learning all about these treats and they sound delicious! I’ve never tried something like this before but I’m excited to give it a go!

  23. Melinda says:

    I love hearing the history behind a dish. Could I use a ricotta for this recipe?

  24. 5 stars
    I absolutely love the way you bring history into your recipes! These cheese pockets look and sound absolutely addictive.

  25. I enjoyed this article so much! Can’t wait to try out this new recipe!!! thanks for sharing.

  26. Karletta says:

    Not only do I love this recipe, I love how you bring in the meaning attached to the recipe … your own childhood meaning and the history of cultural ties.

  27. 5 stars
    Thank you for sharing the history of these cheese pockets! I enjoyed learning about how they came to be. 🙂 I’m sure the orange zest and rum oil will be a delicious combination. And I love that the dough is yeasted because often hand pies use pastry dough. Thanks for the recipe!

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