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Malai, Romanian Cornmeal Ricotta Breakfast Pudding

April 07, 2021
Photo: Justin CovingtonPhoto: Justin Covington

Afew years ago, while researching my latest book, King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, my husband, Allan, and I were visiting friends in their home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. On Sunday morning, the hostess told me that she wanted to cook a ricotta-cheese cornmeal dish for brunch. Taking out a tattered recipe from her mother, the late Millie Schwartz Lutter, she proceeded to make it for us: malai, meaning cornmeal in Romanian.

Featured in: A Dish That’s Perfect for Shavuot—or Breakfast Any Time

Great for: Shavuot

From King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World


  • 8tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 3large eggs, divided
  • cup sugar, divided
  • ½cup milk
  • ½cup cornmeal
  • ½cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Dash salt
  • 2teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½lbs whole milk ricotta or farmers cheese
  • Fresh berries or cherries, to serve
Yield: 6 servings


  • Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8-inch round gratin bowl or similar baking pan with some of the butter.

  • Step 2

    Melt the remaining butter and cool slightly. Put the butter, 1 of the eggs, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the milk into a medium bowl and mix well. Gradually fold in the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder and mix well.

  • Step 3

    Mix together the ricotta or farmer cheese with the 2 remaining eggs and the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in another bowl.

  • Step 4

    Spoon half the cornmeal mixture on the bottom of the pan, then pour on all the cheese mixture and finish by spooning and spreading the remaining cornmeal mixture on top.

  • Step 5

    Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until golden and set. Serve warm with fresh berries or cherries.