The end of Lent calls for a little dairy indulgence. This Greek style cheesecake called a 'myzithropita' (μυζηθρόπιτα) is the perfect way to indulge after abstaing from dairy and eggs for over 40 days. Best of all, it contains very little added sugar and is not overly sweet - so it doesn't leave you feeling too guilty if you happen to have a second slice!
Myzithra (μυζήθρα) is a Greek cheese which comes in two forms: fresh and soft, and aged and sharp. The aged version is most often used for grating and adding to simple pasta dishes. This recipe calls for fresh, soft unsalted myzithra - which is very similar to a good full fat ricotta. If you can't find fresh myzithra - you can make it yourself, or mix a little ricotta with fresh cream or mascarpone, which will give you a similar tasting and textured cheese. I use a traditional myzithra that is made from a mix of sheep and goat milk, which is buttery and fragrant.
This recipe also calls for one of my favourite a Greek ingredients, Petimezi (πετιμέζι) also called epsima (έψημα) in Cyprus. It is a grapemust syrup, that has been used as a sweetener (along with honey) since Ancient Greece. It is made by cooking down grape must until it becomes dark and syrupy. It bring sweetness, but I love it's slightly bitter and earthy undertones. You can purchase petimezi from most Greek deli's and grocers. You can find a list of them in Sydney and Melbourne here. The muscatel grapes, soaked in the petimezi and Metaxa brandy syrup bring a lovely autumn warmth to this dessert.
Myzithropita with petimezi syrup (Γλυκιά μυζηθρόπιτα)
125g biscuits (I used Papadoppoulos Petit Beurre), ground
50g unsalted butter, melted
500g fresh sheep/goat myzithra or ricotta cheese
1/2 cup powdered pure icing sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon zest
1 tablespoon of orange zest
1 tablespoon of cornflour
1 teaspoon of ground cinammon
1/2 cup of heavy cream or mascarpone
1/2 cup flaked almonds
For the syrup:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup petimezi
1/4 cup brandy
Dried muscatel grapes
1. Preheat oven to 140C and grease a 20cm round springform tin. Line the base and sides with baking paper.
2. Make the crust: process the biscuits in a food processor until finely ground (so they resemble sand) and add the melted butter - pulse to combine. Then press the mixture into the base of the prepared tin and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Make the filling: Put the cheese through a food mill, with the setting on very fine into a bowl of an electric mixer. Add the sifted icing sugar, cinnamon and cornflour, beat well to combine. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the zest. Then add the cream/mascarpone and fold through. Pour and spread the filing onto the chilled crust and sprinkle with the almonds.
4. Bake the cheesecake for around 1 hour until the filling starts to brown slightly and is set, but still a tiny bit wobbly in the centre. Turn oven off and leave to cool completely in the oven, with the door ajar.
5. To make the syrup: in a small saucepan, combine the petimezi, water and Metaxa brandy. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the muscatel and allow to cool. Place the muscatels ontop of the cake and then pour over the syrup and serve. You may wish to sprinkle a little extra cinnamon over the top of each slice.