This Shanezhki (Шанежки) Russian Cheese Pastry recipe is a mouthful to pronounce, but so delicious to eat! A sweet yeast dough topped with a slightly tart tvorog and strawberries reminds me of eating fresh baked goods at my babushka's house.
What are Shanezhki?
Shanezhki are yeast dough bakery product, usually made with potato or Tvorog Cheese. It's very similar to a Vatrushka, but not usually as sweet. Vatrushki usually have more cheese filling inside and indentation, compared to Shanezhki which are smeared with the cheese filling on top. Shanezhki can also be much bigger than Vatrushki.
This recipe is kind of a hybrid of my own invention of a Shanezhka/Vatrushka topped with fruit. They aren't usually topped with fruit, but as it's strawberry season, it goes perfectly with the Tvorog cheese.
The yeasty sweet bread is made from a Russian style of brioche dough called sdobnoe (сдобное). It's the basis of many Russian baked goods like Vatrushki, Kulich, and sweet blueberry Piroshki. I use a bread maker to make this yeast dough recipe, it saves so much time and is so easy! Throw all the ingredients in and 90 minutes later, I have an easy yeast dough ready to bake. If you want the traditional way of making sweet dough, check out this video below.
What is Tvorog Cheese?
Russians love eating and making Tvorog, which is a fresh cheese that is very easy to make. If you are lucky enough to live near a store that sells it, then buy it, but it's much cheaper to make. It's also known as Quark or Farmers Cheese. Some people substitute Ricotta for Tvorog, or call it a Cottage Cheese, but neither of those are correct.
When the strawberries come out of the oven, they will look a bit dehydrated and dull. I brush sugar syrup right away on the strawberries, to help rehydrate them and give them a bit of a nicer shine before serving. To make the sugar syrup, take 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 tablespoon of boiling water and mix until the sugar is dissolved and allow to cool before using.
This recipe makes 2 large Shanezhki style strawberry pastry pies, which can be sliced and served with tea. Usually I will make one for company, and eat the second one the following day! One of my favorite desserts during strawberry season. Hard to explain, easy to make, Shanezhki Russian Cheese Pastry Sweet Bread topped with strawberries. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
Sweet Dough Ingredients
- 1 cup milk lukewarm
- 2 medium eggs
- 7 tablespoons sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon sour cream room temp
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3⅓ cups of flour
- 2 teaspoons yeast - slightly less than a ¼ oz. bread machine yeast packet
Cheese Filling ingredients
- 1 lb /450g Tvorog, Farmer's Cheese or quark
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 2 small eggs can use 1 large egg
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 punnet strawberries sliced
- egg wash
- sugar syrup
- Place sweet dough ingredients in the order listed up into your bread machine and select the dough program. It will take around 90 minutes to complete the cycle.
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
- To make the smooth tvorog cheese filling, you need to prepare the tvorog cheese. Homemade tvorog can be quite grainy and the cheese mixture must be smooth. Store-bought tvorog cheese or quark tends to be smooth, and might not need this step. Place tvorog into a metal sieve and using the back of a spoon, push through the sieve making tvorog a smooth consistency. You could also use a food processor or blender to mix all ingredients together, skipping the metal sieve. Mix together the tvorog, vanilla bean paste, egg, sugar and sour cream.
- When the sweet dough is ready, place on a floured surface and gently knead. Cut the dough evenly in half. Place both dough pieces on parchment paper on a baking tray. I use 2 trays. Using your hands, stretch and pat the dough into a round 30cm diameter round shape. Place the half of the tvorog cheese mixture on each of the round dough pastries, leaving a small border. Randomly cover the tvorog mixture with sliced strawberries.
- Put in a warm place and allow to rise for about 15 minutes. Brush the edges with an egg wash.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. To make sugar syrup, place 1 tablespoon of sugar with 1 tablespoon hot water and mix until dissolved. Using a pastry brush, cover the baked strawberries with the sugar syrup for a nicer looking finish. Serve warm or at room temperature.