Cooking Class: Say cheesecake

Easier said than done, baking a good dairy dessert takes time and effort; but the results are richly rewarding.

Cheesecake (photo credit: Daniel Layla)
(photo credit: Daniel Layla)
The days before Shavuot are very busy for one of Israel’s best pastry chefs, Ben Ami Bertini-Shavit, owner of Ben Ami bakeries, who dishes up new creations every year. But we managed to get a few of his trusted cheesecake recipes, adapted so you can bake them at home.
Baking a cheesecake is not an easy task for beginner bakers, and the following recipes require quite a few steps. But if you follow the directions to the letter, the results will be well worth the effort.
BAKED CHEESECAKE WITH CHOCOLATE GANACHE TOPPING Ingredients for a round 26-cm. baking pan
For the pastry shell ✔ 50 gr. cold butter, cubed ✔ 3 egg yolks ✔ 1⁄4 cup (50 gr.) sugar ✔ 1 tsp. baking powder ✔ 11⁄4 cups (175 gr.) flour For the cheese filling ✔ 5 eggs, separated ✔ 11⁄2 cups (300 gr.) sugar ✔ 1 sachet vanilla sugar ✔ 750 gr. 9% fat white cheese ✔ 4 Tbsp. (40 gr.) cornstarch ✔ 4 Tbsp. (40 gr.) vanilla instant pudding powder
For the ganache topping ✔ 1⁄4 cup cream (60 ml.) ✔ 75 gr. bitter chocolate
Heat the oven to 180º. Place butter, egg yolks, sugar and baking powder in a food processor. Using the metal blade, whizz in short pulses until mixture is smooth. Add flour and combine with 3-4 pulses. Stop when pastry begins to form. Remove from food processor and form a ball. If the pastry is too wet, add a little flour. If it is too dry, add up to 1 Tbsp. water. Flatten the pastry in the bottom of the baking pan and bake 12 minutes, until it begins to color.
Turn heat down to 160º.
In a mixer bowl, beat together egg whites and 1 cup sugar until foam is stiff. Mix the egg yolks in with the rest of the sugar, vanilla sugar, cheese, cornstarch and pudding powder. Gently fold 1⁄3 of the stiff egg whites into the cheese mixture. Mix, then pour the cheese mixture into the foam and fold until combined.
Pour the mixture into the baked pastry shell, smooth top and bake for 35 minutes, until golden on top and almost firm. Turn the heat off but leave the cake to cool in the oven for about three hours. The cake stays a little wobbly. The cake rises during baking and drops a little when cooled.
Remove from oven when completely cooled and place in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours until very cold.
Heat cream in pot until almost boiling. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Mix until chocolate melts.
Remove cake from refrigerator and, with moist palms, smooth the top of the cake so there are no cracks. Pour topping on the cake and let stabilize in the refrigerator for 1 hour. The cake keeps in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and can also be frozen.
This rich, impressive torte is perfect not only for Shavuot.
Start with two 26-cm. torte bases. These can be purchased ready-made at most supermarkets or baked according to your favorite recipe. The cake has two layers – a cheese filling and a topping made of dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate cream.
Ganache ✔ 200 ml. cream ✔ 240 gr. chocolate
Heat cream until almost boiling. Remove from heat and melt chocolate, stirring until smooth.
White chocolate cream ✔ 400 ml. cream ✔ 260 gr. white chocolate
Heat cream until almost boiling. Remove from heat and melt chocolate, stirring until smooth. Chill both overnight.
Cheese filling ✔ 300 ml. cream ✔ 3/4 cup (75 gr.) sugar ✔ 300 gr. white 9% cheese ✔ 20 gr. instant vanilla pudding powder ✔ 1 Tbsp. brandy
Mix all ingredients. Place one cake base in a 26-cm. round springform pan. Spread 50 gr. of the ganache in an even layer and then 1⁄2 of the cheese mixture on top. Place the second cake base and spread another 50 gr. of the ganache on it.
Whip 3/4 of the chilled white chocolate cream. Mix the whipped chocolate with the rest of the cheese mixture and pour on top of the dark chocolate layer. Place the cake pan in the freezer.
To finish the cake: The next day, decorate the cake with stripes of remaining dark and white chocolate ganaches.
GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES For a 27 x 33-cm. baking pan
We all love cheesecake, but those who cannot (or should not) eat gluten should not be left out. Here is a recipe for a rich four-layer chocolate-cheesecake that everyone will love.
Pastry base ✔ 1⁄2 cup (100 gr.) sugar ✔ 100 gr. cold butter, cubed ✔ 2 egg yolks ✔ 250 gr. potato flour ✔ 30 gr. walnuts, ground ✔ 1 tsp. baking powder

Crumb layer ✔ 140 gr. (1 cup) potato flour ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. baking powder ✔ 50 gr. (1⁄4 cup) sugar ✔ 25 gr. (2 Tbsp.) brown sugar ✔ 25 gr. cold butter, cubed ✔ 1 egg yolk Brownie layer ✔ 200 gr. butter ✔ 1 cup (200 gr. sugar) ✔ 200 gr. bitter chocolate ✔ 4 eggs ✔ 1 tsp. vanilla extract ✔ 3⁄4 cup potato flour ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. (2 gr.) baking powder ✔ Pinch salt
Cheese-white chocolate layer ✔ 1⁄4 cup (60 ml.) milk ✔ 150 gr. white chocolate ✔ 375 gr. white 9% cheese ✔ 1⁄3 cup (65 gr.) sugar ✔ 3 eggs ✔ 2 heaping Tbsp. (25 gr.) potato flour
Heat the oven to 180º.
To prepare pastry: In a mixer using the kneading attachment, mix butter, yolks and sugar until creamy. Add potato flour and baking powder and mix only until smooth. Add ground nuts and mix briefly.
With your hands, spread the pastry on the bottom of a lined baking pan. Stab the pastry with a fork. Bake about 10 minutes, until pastry begins to turn golden. Remove from oven and set aside.
To prepare crumb pastry: Mix all the ingredients together in a food processor, using the metal blade, until smooth. Spread thinly in a lined baking sheet and bake 15 minutes at 180º until pastry begins to color. Remove from oven and turn heat down to 160º. This can be done simultaneously with baking the pastry base. When cool, crumble and set aside.
To prepare chocolate brownie layer: Place butter and sugar in a small pot and melt over low heat. Remove from heat and add chocolate. Stir well until chocolate is melted and mixture smooth. Pour into a large bowl and add eggs and vanilla. Beat until smooth, then add flour, baking powder and salt and continue mixing until mixture is smooth and shiny. Spread chocolate brownie layer over the baked pastry, cover with plastic foil and place in the freezer until the cheese mixture is ready.
To prepare cheese layer: Boil milk in a small pot. Remove from heat, add white chocolate and mix until it melts. Place cheese, sugar and eggs in a bowl and beat together. Add white chocolate mixture and stir. Mix in the potato flour until smooth.
Take the cake out of the freezer and gently spread the white mixture over the chocolate layer. Bake 30 minutes in a 160º oven. Take the cake out but do not switch oven off.
Immediately after taking the cake out, spread the crumbs evenly over the cheese layer and return into the oven for 20 minutes more.
Cool the cake and place in the refrigerator for two hours to make cutting easier.
Cut into squares and keep refrigerated in an airtight container until serving.