New York – While traditional Shabbos and Yom Tov meals are replete with chicken, roasts, turkey, chopped liver and other fleishic delights, Shavuos is the only major Jewish holiday where it is customary to serve dairy foods. Numerous reasons exist for this annual dairy-fest and while the milchic offerings may vary by family and by nationality, the one food that seems to be synonymous with Shavuos for Jews of all cultures is cheesecake.
Whether cream cheese, farmer cheese or ricotta cheese based, cheesecake is hard to resist and as kosher cooking has become more upscale and adventurous, our cheesecakes seem to be following suit.
In honor of the upcoming Shavuos holiday, several of the most prominent names in the Jewish food world agreed to share both their recipes and their thoughts on everyone’s favorite delicacy with VIN News, including Susie Fishbein, author of the Kosher by Design cookbook series, Jamie Geller, author of the Quick and Kosher cookbook series and co-founder of the Kosher Media Network, Leah Schapira, author of Fresh and Easy Cooking, Tamar Ansh, author of A Taste of Challah and Pesach – Anything’s Possible, Shifra Klein, founder and publisher of gourmet cooking magazine Bitayavon and Nina Safar, creator and administrator of the popular recipe sharing website www.kosherinthekitch.com.
See below recipes: WORD document.
VIN News: What kind of cheesecake do you remember eating when you were growing up?
Susie Fishbein: New York style creamy cheesecake.
Jamie Geller: Store bought cheesecake. We loved cheesecake so we would eat anything we could buy or order in a restaurant because my mother never cooked.
Leah Schapira: My mother has been making the same version of cheesecake as long as I can remember. With lots of siblings growing up, this was our treat every Shabbos morning. Today it’s my kids’ favorite and I have to admit that I don’t make it every week like my mom did.
Tamar Ansh: None really. My mother wasn’t so into cheesecakes. She did have one that was made from some kind of flaky dough and filled with sweet cheese that she made in the summertime.
Shifra Klein: As my father was the owner of the Albany Bake Shop in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, we always had a buffet of cheesecakes from the bakery at our Shavuot table.
Nina Safar: My mom bakes on a regular basis, so coming home from school we were always welcomed by the smell of warm cinnamon buns fresh from the oven, chewy chocolate chip cookies or moist chocolate cake. When a holiday arrived, things would get even sweeter in our house with an array of delicious baked goods. For Shavuot my mom makes a thick rich cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. We kids would have fun adding our favorite toppings such as cherry pie filling, fresh berries or melted chocolate.
VIN: What is your all time favorite cheesecake?
SF: Snickers Cheesecake with a thick layer of chocolate ganache.
JG: In last year’s Shavuos edition of my magazine, Joy of Kosher, we had a candied orange cheesecake which is my all time favorite. I love pairing cheesecake with anything citrusy and this was an orange infused cheesecake that was just amazing. I like my cheesecake a mile high so that you almost need a shovel to dig into it.
LS: It’s so hard to choose. I like cheesecakes with a texture change in the base, such as a crunch-like chocolate chip base or a brownie layer under the cheese. I think it adds a great dimension to the smooth creamy taste of cheesecakes.
TA: I’m not terribly picky — so long as it’s homemade, I’ll try it!
SK: I love cheesecakes that use a combination of cheeses, such as farmer cheese, Israeli cheese or ricotta, because plain cream cheese is just too rich. I also appreciate a thick graham cracker crust that adds great texture and balance to cheese cakes.
NS: New York Style Cheesecake with a fruit topping and chocolate sauce drizzled on top.
VIN: What kind of cheesecake will you be serving this year?
SF: Tiramisu Cheesecake
JG: A light lemon cheesecake featured in the Shavuos issue of Joy of Kosher. You can’t get fat free cholov yisroel dairy products, so instead I have been working with light products which give you the best of both worlds. Given my love of citrus with cheesecake, I think the pairing of lemon and cheesecake gives you something delicious but yet not overly sweet.
LS: My family loves flaky cheese pretzels which are basically a sweet cheese filling on flaky dough. It’s not something I make on a regular basis but it is definitely something I make every year for Shavous and it’s the first thing that everyone polishes off.
TA: My kids only like one type and it is so simple I’m almost embarrassed to name it here, but I will happily share the recipe with you. There is no baking involved.
SK: The 5 Minute Ricotta Cheesecake featured in the late spring issue of Bitayavon. This issue is the Italian issue and ricotta cheesecake is the classic Italian version of cheesecake. We did one basic batter, seven different ways, and for this year’s meal I am making the Pumpkin and Peanut Caramel cheesecake.
NS: This year I will be spending the holiday with my brother and his family and my sister-in-law Shany is an incredible cook. It’s always a real treat eating her food!
VIN: What kind of interesting cheesecake trends you have been noticing lately?
SF: Everything is up for grabs these days. Red Velvet Cheesecake anyone?
JG: I happen to like my cheesecake with fruit but lately people have started throwing in everything but the kitchen sink and I think it is overdone. I would sooner make a plain cheesecake than one of those crazy recipes, where it seems like everyone is trying to outdo everyone else. While those recipes are great in concept, they are just too much.
LS: People are very into decorating cheesecakes these days. I guess it’s hard to come up with new flavors of cheesecake so I think it’s all about the presentation.
TA: Too many of them!
SK: Ricotta cheesecake, which makes a lighter cheesecake with more texture than an all cream cheese cake, is popping up on menus in many restaurants. Also, adding various nontraditional flavors to cheesecakes is very popular which is why the latest issue of Bitayavon features seven different flavors for the same basic batter ranging from acidic (lemon) to coffee to chocolate and even pumpkin. Savory cheesecakes are another interesting cheesecake preparation. While cheesecake is normally associated as a sweet, rich dessert it can be used as an appetizer by omitting the sugar and vanilla and adding savory ingredients such as sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, basil, fresh herbs, roasted garlic, asparagus, spinach etc. The options are limitless.
NS: Don’t be afraid to experiment! Ginger, grapefruit and rhubarb are not the traditional flavors you would expect but taste great as a subtle addition to your cheesecake. If you don’t want to add them directly to the cheesecake, create a syrup that can be lightly drizzled over your dessert. Enjoy every bite of your decadent desserts this holiday!