Say Cheese: Liptauer
Early in the life of this cheese blog, a reader made a query about Liptauer cheese. I had never heard of it, but from its description — a savory cheese spread spiked with Hungarian paprika and caraway seeds, two of my favorite spices — I knew I wanted to learn more.
My small, usually helpful collection of cheese reference books had nothing about it, but online I found some good basic information. The cheese spread is named after the region of Lipto or Liptov, which once belonged to the Kingdom of Hungary and is now part of northern Slovakia.
"Lipto" also refers to a type of soft, unripened sheep’s-milk cheese produced in that area and used as a base for the spread. Apparently, it is similar to cream cheese, although a little more sour. Recipes for Liptauer cheese call for using a combination of cream cheese and sour cream, or cream cheese and cottage cheese or quark as a substitute. Most recipes also call for combining the cheese with softened butter.
I started with quark for my version, but found that it was a little too loose and caused the butter to break up, even when I tried to work the quark in gradually. I ended up using half quark and half cream cheese for my spread, which gave it the necessary tang but also kept it together. A mix of cream cheese and sour cream or even just plain cream cheese also works well.
The other essential ingredients in Liptauer cheese are onion, anchovies and mustard. Some variations call for adding chopped cornichons or capers. In the end, not being able to decide between one and the other (the more piquant the better, I say) I added both to my version and was really happy with the way it turned out.
According to EasternEuropeanFood.about.com, Liptauer is typically served with dark rye bread, radishes, hard-cooked eggs, green onions and green bell peppers. You also can turn it into a dip for vegetables by adding additional sour cream to loosen it a bit.
If you’re looking for something a little different to set out before the big meal on Thursday, consider the accompanying recipe for Liptauer. Its mix of assertive flavors really gets the appetite going.
-- Domenica Marchetti is the author of "Big Night In," named one of the 25 best books of 2009 by the editors of Food & Wine magazine.
8 to 10 appetizer servings
MAKE AHEAD: The cheese needs to firm up for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature (may substitute 4 ounces quark plus 4 ounces cream cheese)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon smooth Dijon-style mustard, such as Grey Poupon
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, pounded lightly to release their aroma
2 anchovy fillets, mashed
2 tablespoons grated onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped cornichons (sour baby gherkins), plus 3 whole cornichons for garnish
1 teaspoon finely chopped capers
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 small pickled red cherry pepper or peppadew pepper, for garnish
Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed until smooth, then add the mustard, paprika, caraway seeds and anchovies; beat until blended. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to work in the onion, cornichons, capers and a generous grinding of black pepper, mixing until everything is well blended. Taste and add salt, if desired.
Have ready a 2-cup bowl and a large sheet of plastic wrap. Line the bowl with the wrap, pressing it against the bottom and sides. Be sure there is enough overhang to cover the cheese once you have filled the bowl. Scoop the cheese mixture into the bowl and smooth out the top with a spatula. Rap the bowl on your countertop to even out the cheese. Fold the overhang of wrap over the cheese and press it lightly with your fingers so it adheres.
Refrigerate the cheese for at least 2 hours, or until firm. To serve, unfold the plastic, place a round serving plate over the bowl and invert to unmold the cheese onto the plate, taking care to center it.
Cut the 3 whole cornichons in half lengthwise and arrange them in a decorative pattern atop the mound of cheese. Place the red cherry pepper in the center of the mound.
Serve with rye crackers or toasts.
Per serving (based on 10): 165 calories, 2 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 17 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 118 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar
The Food Section
November 24, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Recipes , Say Cheese | Tags: Domenica Marchetti, Liptauer, recipes
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