Sweet Cheese Pie, Branzoaice or Poale-n Brau: Romanian sweet cheese pie recipe with cottage cheese and raisins.
What are Branzoaice?
Like the Moldavian Yeast Pastries – Mucenici and the Romanian Cheese Pie, these Branzoaice or Romanian Sweet Cheese Pies are a staple in the Moldavian or Moldovan cuisine. They are utterly anchored in the Moldavian food tradition, but so good that just about anybody in Romania knows them.
The names of these cheese pies are rather strange: Branzoaice, roughly translated Cheesies or Poale-n Brau, roughly translated – Laps in the girdle. While the name Cheesies is rather obvious, I could not understand why the second name.
It originates in a habit that peasant women in Moldova had of stuffing the corners of their aprons in the girdle to make sure that it wouldn't get in the way while they washed or worked in the house. I suppose this kind of folding and stuffing the apron was somewhat similar to the way of folding the pastries. So now you know and I do too. 🙂
What do you need?
The common yeast dough ingredients:
- Flour, yeast, sugar, milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and salt.
- You can use either a cube (42 g/ 1.5 oz) of fresh yeast or 30 g/ 1 oz/ 2 tablespoons active dry yeast.
For the filling, you will need cottage cheese, raisins, semolina, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt.
- Originally, the pastries were made with branza de burduf, a typical Romanian cheese which is rather salty and has a very strong taste. The cheese was sweetened with raisins and sugar.
- Modern versions of these pies are made with the Romanian branza de vaci. This kind of cheese is mild, making the pies more delicate in taste and texture.
- I chose cottage cheese as the main ingredient for the pastries because I find that to be quite similar to the Romanian intended cheese.
How to make Romanian sweet cheese pie?
Place the cottage cheese in a fine-mesh sieve and let drain for several hours.
- Working with yeast is not difficult, especially if you have a food processor, which can knead the dough for you. Making yeast dough without the food processor is easy as well, but it requires a bit more physical work on your side and a bit more dedication.
- Sift the flour in a large bowl or in the bowl of the food processor. Crumble the fresh yeast on top or sprinkle the active dry yeast. Add a little milk and sugar and let get frothy for about 15 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and knead well.
- Let rise, covered, in a warm place for about 1 hour.
- If the kitchen is not warm enough, I place the bowl in the oven and turn on the oven lights, just the lights and NOT the oven.
- Mix the drained cheese with the rest of the ingredients (except the egg needed for brushing).
Savory alternative: fill the pastries with crumbled feta cheese. Add a little salt and pepper and some chopped dill, if you like.
Form the pies:
- Roll the dough into a large rectangle about 3-4 mm/0.11-0.15 inches thick.
- Divide it into 16 smaller squares. Divide the filling between the squares, about 1-2 teaspoons into each square.
- Brush lightly the edges of the pies around the filling.
- Take two opposite corners of the pastry and press them well together, in the middle, with your fingers.
- Take the other two opposite corners and press them well with your fingers as well. Press along the lines that are formed as well, to close the pockets. They should look more or less like an envelope.
- Press the corners of the pastry very thoroughly together to make sure that the pies are properly sealed. Otherwise, they will open during the baking process and although they will taste just as delicious if opened, they will not look so pretty anymore.
- Brush the pastries with the beaten egg all over and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until deeply golden brown.
More Romanian pastries:
Mucenici - yeast pastries with walnuts and honey
Cremeschnitte - Puff pastry filled with vanilla custard
Cozonac - Romanian sweet bread
Romanian Lemon Cake - Alba ca Zapada or Snow White
Romanian Sweet Cheese Pies – Branzoaice
- Yeast dough:
- 450 g/ 15.9 oz/ 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 42 g/ 1.5 g fresh yeast OR 30 g/ 1 oz/ 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 200 ml/ 6.7 fl.oz/ scant 1 cup lukewarm milk
- 4 tablespoons sugar divided
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 500 g/ 17.6 oz/ 2 ¼ cups cottage cheese
- 1 egg
- 150 g/ 5.3 oz/ ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- a pinch of salt
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz/ ½ cup raisins
- 65 g/ 2.4 oz/ ⅓ cup semolina
- 1 small egg for brushing
- icing sugar
- Start by draining the cottage cheese in a fine-mesh sieve thoroughly, for about 3 hours.
- Sieve the flour in a large bowl or in the bowl of your food processor. Make some space in the middle, crumble the fresh yeast or sprinkle the active dry yeast in there, add 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm milk, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let rest for about 15-20 minutes until quite frothy.
- Add the rest of the lukewarm milk, 2 eggs, the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and the salt. Mix well and add the vegetable oil.
- Knead well with the food processor until the dough is elastic and doesn't stick anymore, but keep in mind that the dough should be soft. If you knead the dough by hand, you might have to add a little bit of extra flour when kneading, but don't overdo it, the dough should remain soft.
- Form a ball and let it rise in an oiled bowl for 1 hour, covered with a clean kitchen cloth and in a warm place. I usually place the bowl in the oven and turn the oven light on. Just the oven light, not the oven itself! The dough should have more than doubled its size by the end of one hour.
- Place the drained cottage cheese into a bowl. Add the lightly beaten egg, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, raisins, and semolina and mix well.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/ 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the baking tray with baking paper.
- Roll the dough into a large rectangle about 3-4 mm/0.11-0.15 inches thick. Divide it into 16 smaller squares. Divide the filling between the squares, about 1-2 teaspoons into each square.
- Beat the egg needed for brushing the pies in a small bowl. Lightly brush the free edges of the pies around the filling.
- Take two opposite corners of the pastry and press them well together, in the middle, with your fingers. Take the other two opposite corners and press them well with your fingers as well. Press along the lines that are formed as well, so that the pastries are closed. Make sure that the pockets are really well sealed so that they will not open in the oven.
- Brush the pastries with the beaten egg all over and bake them for about 15-20 minutes or until deeply golden brown.
- Let cool slightly, dust with icing sugar, and enjoy warm or cooled.
Great story ( again 🙂 ). And very attempting combination. our cottage cheese savoury as well, so I believe I will get right tast.e ? 🙂
Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop says
I love learning about the tradition behind these recipes! The look is very impressive and they sound delicious.
They look so cute! I love fresh cheese/cottage cheese in both sweet and savoury dishes. The name sounds at first quite strange indeed, but some traditional dishes often have weird names. Thank you for the explanation!
Dear Adina - These are absolutely delicious looking cheese pies. I can almost taste them!!! Having just returned from the lovely country of Romania, I now know that you are known for your baking and spectacular pastries!!! So many delicious breads and pastries we saw (and sampled)! Truly delicious -- and I would love to try my hand at these. Loved your beautiful country and look forward to returning again some day. XOXO
I am so glad you enjoyed Romania, Allie. And I hope you try these pastries, they are soooo good!!! 🙂
Evi @ greenevi says
LOVE THESE! Hahaha, every time I see your Romanian recipes I have to realise that Hungarian and Romanian cuisine are basically the exact same thing. It's so cool! We had these babies a lot when I was small and oh gosh, I loved them so much! I even enjoyed the raisins in the filling despite the fact that normally I hated them 😉
No wonder, we are neighbors and there are so many Hungarians living in Romania. My grandmother's repertoire was full of Hungarian inspired dishes. 🙂
what delicious pastries, adina! i don't often think of cheese as a dessert food, but i'd love these after any meal!
Hello~ just wondering if i could make these using store bought puff pastry ? thank you in advance
Hi Alex. Puff pastry and yeast dough are very different, so if you use puff pastry your pies will be quite different. However I don't think different is bad, your pies will be something else, but I cannot imagine that they will not have a good taste, puff pastry is delicious after all. Make sure to drain the cheese well and pay attention to the pastry's packet instructions to see how long the pastry should be baked. Let me know how that works.
Inge Kohl says
I forget how I came across your blog, but I do enjoy it a lot. I am originally from Germany (Leimen) but have lived in California since 1977.
My parents lived in Yogoslavia before I was born and came back to Germany in 1957. My grandmother and mother cooked and baked a lot of things from that area. I love to try all kinds of different things as well, but often go back to those old recipes.
I really like that you give measurements in grams as well. Even though my grandmother didn't seem to weigh much when she was baking, it works better than measuring with cups.
Hi Inge, thank you for your comment, I was happy to read it. My grandmother never weigh anything herself, but I could not do it, not when baking anyway. And metric is what I am used to and I find it better than cups as well. Preciser and sooo much cleaner. My kitchen is always a mess after making a cup recipe, flour and sugar on all surfaces and on the floor and lots of cup cleaning and drying in between, as I only have one set of weighing cups.... ?
Gainuta Rotaru says
The Poale in brau name is not because the farmer did this to stay clean it’s rather the technique in which you fold the dough to make the form of the Pastry . You fold the corners in the middle
I am Norwegian,living with a romanian barbat in Spain. His sister sent us some of these and they are delicious! I am so happy that i came across your blog, because like in Germany, we can not get a hold of the cheese here. I love papanași and i am gonna try to make both these and the boiled papanași. I have made cozonac often and that too is just so good!
Hi Jane. So nice to read your comment. I hope you like the papanasi, we all love them!
You should sell these. I'll place an order for 2 batches right now. 🙂
Dana J. says
Adina tu unde locuiești? Te întreb doar pentru ca eu chiar nu as folosi cottage cheese ce este pe aici pe la mine. E cam sarata și parca nu știu cum.... Când am avut acces la lapte nepasteurizat am făcut eu brânza de vaca sau farmer’s cheese cum văd ca e prin zona asta. Când am locuit in Detroit area am găsit la magazinele poloneze cel mai des brânza dulce de multe feluri, mai grasa, mai puțin grasa. Acum unde locuiesc nu am acces la asta și o perioada a fost ok ca aveam precum am spus lapte nepasteurizat. Am făcut branzoaice cu ricotta de câteva ori și recunosc ca e dificil pentru ca e cam apoasa și după ce am stors-o de zăr. Se întărește ea la gătit de la ou și așa doar ca e mai dificil de umplut pachețelul de aluat fără sa cam curgă din el. De aia te întrebam unde ești ca poate îmi dai tu un pont cu brânza. Deci eu folosesc ricotta cu mult succes in alte aplicații și am folosit-o și la branzoaice trandafir pentru ca e mai ușor sa o ții pe loc sa zic așa. ? Branzoaicelw tale arată absolut delicios!!!!
Ceau Dana. Eu locuiesc in Germania. Cottage cheese aici nu e foarte sarata, cred ca are un pic de sare in ea, dar nu suficient incat sa ii simti gustul, e cam bland. Cumpar si eu des in magazinele rusesti si poloneze - twarog - ca e mai fina si mai apropiata de branza noastra. Ricotta nu folosesc des pentru ca nu imi place in mod deosebit. Dar cu cottage normala nu am avut niciodata probleme. I had people reporting that they've successfully used cream cheese, but I've never tried that.
Dana J says
Oh, ok. Mulțumesc. Cred ca de aia tu poți folosi cottage cheese și eu nu. Este diferită cred ca in Europa.... Cream cheese... nu... chiar nu văd la branzoaice. Stii, la noi cottage cheese este foarte populară și sunt multe firme diferite, fiecare cu stilul lor și majoritatea sunt regionale. De aia te-am întrebat unde locuiești. Mersi mult oricum! ?
I made these following the recipe exactly, The dough turned out fine. But I question the amount of filling your recipe makes. This makes 16 rolls. Each one is supposed to take 2 teaspoons of filling. That is 32 teaspoons. Yet the filling recipe starts out with 2+ cups of cottage cheese and adds more ingredients to that. 2 cups is 96 teaspoons! Where does all this extra filling go?