Pascale’s Kitchen: Shavuot delicacies

Three diary recipes ahead of the Shavuot holiday.

 Banista (Balkan cheese pie) (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Banista (Balkan cheese pie)
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

Now that we are just days away from Shavuot, I’ve decided to bring you three of my favorite dairy recipes. 

The first one is for a cheese and pesto pastry that my family has nicknamed “pull-apart pastry.” It’s made of many squares of filo pastry that are lined up one next to another horizontally in the pan in such a way that you don’t even need a knife to separate them. You can just pull one of the squares, and it separates easily from the rest.

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Sometimes I like to sprinkle a bit of sugar, cinnamon or chocolate between the sections, but in honor of Shavuot the recipe below is a savory version made with pesto and cheese. 

The second recipe is Banitsa, a cheese pie that comes from Balkan cuisine. It’s also made with filo pastry and cheeses. It’s crispy and brown on the outside but remains soft and fluffy inside. Each bite is a taste of heaven. It is often made with spinach or beets greens, but in the recipe below I left these ingredients out. 

The third recipe is for chocolate Basque cheesecake because Shavuot would just not be\ complete without cheesecake. This recipe is a little tricky, since the cake often expands during baking, and then falls in as it cools down. In general, though, it is quite similar to preparing yeast cakes. The key is to let it rise really high, then let it cool down at a lower temperature. This helps the cake form a hard layer on the top. Then it cools off completely in the fridge. 

 Cheese and pesto pastry (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Cheese and pesto pastry (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

If this seems a bit complicated, don’t worry, since the recipe I’ve included here for the chocolate Basque cheesecake, which has become an Internet sensation, does not require you to alter your oven temperature. 

This cake was first made 30 years ago in a small restaurant in San Sebastian, in Spain’s Basque region. You don’t need to beat the egg whites, fold in anything or cook something in a bain-marie. Nothing complicated like that. The batter is poured into a pan that is lined with baking paper, which goes up the sides of the pan. This will prevent the batter from spilling over the side when it rises during the baking process. Don’t worry if the paper burns a little – that’s normal. The process is somewhat similar to preparing creme brulee. 

The key is to bake the cake at an extremely high temperature for a relatively short amount of time, with the cake placed on the oven’s lowest rack. Take the cake out of the oven before the inside has finished baking; it will continue to set outside of the oven. Leave the cake in the fridge for six to seven hours before serving. 

IN HONOR of Shavuot, Jacobs Dairy Farm in Moshav Kfar Haroeh will be holding its annual culinary festival, where all sorts of treats and gifts are on offer as the perfect addition to the holiday table. There will be boutique cheeses made from cow and goat milk, challot, sourdough bread, pastries, quiches, cakes, ice cream, wine, olive oil, and many delicious spreads. 

Dates: May 22-24, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and May 25, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Makes 2 loaf pans or 1 large round pan.

  • ½ kg. flour, sifted
  • 25 gr. fresh yeast or 1 Tbsp. dry yeast
  • ½ cup white or demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 gr. butter or margarine, melted
  • 1-1½ cups milk, at room temperature, or water
  • 1 tsp. salt


  • 1 jar of pesto, store-bought or fresh
  • 1 cup cheese, grated (pecorino, mozzarella or other cheese)
  • ½ cup pistachios, roasted and ground

To prepare the dough: Add the flour, yeast and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix for a minute or two, then while mixing, gradually add the lemon zest, eggs and butter. Gradually and alternately, add the milk or water and the salt. Mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight or at least 12 hours. 

Flour your work surface, then roll out the dough into a large rectangle that is ½ cm. thick. Spread a layer of pesto on the dough, then sprinkle the cheese and pistachios on top. Cut the dough into 8 or 10 strips that are 6-8 cm. thick. Carefully place 4 or 5 of the strips on top of each other. Do the same with the rest of the strips. 

Cut the strips into squares, then arrange them in a loaf pan that has been greased, so that each one is touching the one next to it, with the cut side facing up. Cover and let the dough rise for another hour. 

Brush with beaten egg and bake in an oven that has been preheated to 180° for 35-40 minutes until it turns golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry and clean. 

Level of difficulty: MediumTime: 40-50 minutes, not including time to let dough riseStatus: Dairy


Use a round pan, or a 25 cm. x 26 cm. pan. 

  • 1 package of filo pastry
  • 50 gr. butter, melted
  • ½ cup milk
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 container of sweet cream
  • 250 gr. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 250 gr. kashkaval cheese, grated
  • 100 gr. Parmesan cheese, grated


  • Nigella or black sesame seeds (optional)

Mix the eggs with the cream and milk, then season with salt. In a separate bowl, mix the cheeses together. 

Grease your pan with the melted butter, then place a layer of filo pastry on the bottom of the pan, letting the dough fall over the edges of the pan. Brush the pastry with melted butter, then place another layer of filo pastry on top and brush with more butter. Place a total of 4 or 5 layers of filo pastry, crumpling them a little. 

Pour half of the egg mixture on top of the filo pastry, then add half of the cheese mixture. Add a few more crumpled layers of filo pastry, then add the rest of the egg mixture and the cheese mixture. 

Cover with one more filo pastry sheet, and brush it with butter. Fold the rest of the pastry inside the pan. Crumple the rest of the pastry and place it on top of the pie in whatever design you desire. Brush with more butter. If you want, you can sprinkle nigella or black sesame seeds on top. 

Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 200° for 35-40 minutes. 

Level of difficulty: Easy-mediumTime: 1 hourStatus: Dairy 

 Chocolate Basque cheesecake (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Chocolate Basque cheesecake (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)


The smaller the pan you use, the higher the cake will be. You can add pieces of cookies on the bottom of the pan, use a flaky pie crust, or not use a bottom at all. 

Use a 22 cm. or 24 cm. round springform pan. 

  • 250 gr. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 container (250 ml.) sweet whipping cream 38% fat
  • 600 gr. cream cheese, at least 30% fat
  • ¾ cup sugar (or if you want it to be extra sweet, 1¼ cups)
  • 2-3 drops of quality vanilla
  • 5 large eggs
  • 30 gr. cornflour or wheat flour, sifted
  • 1 Tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted


  • ¼-½ cup cocoa powder, sifted

Grease your pan and then line it with baking paper, leaving the paper to rise above the level of the pan (the cake will expand considerably and then will sink down a bit when it cools). 

Add the chocolate to a medium glass bowl and melt in the microwave a few seconds at a time until it is smooth. Then, pour the cream into a pan and heat just until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat. While mixing vigorously, add the melted chocolate a little at a time. Mix well until smooth. Let cool slightly. 

Use an electric mixer fitted with a beater attachment to mix the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla until it is smooth. Add the eggs one at a time while mixing, until well mixed. Add the chocolate mixture, the cornflour or wheat flour, and the cocoa powder. Mix until smooth. Pour into the pan and flatten gently. Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 220° for 35-40 minutes, until the top becomes brown and a little burnt. 

Remove the pan from the oven very carefully, since the inside of the cake has not firmed up yet. Let the cake cool down. Once it has reached room temperature, place it in the fridge. 

Level of difficulty: EasyTime: 1 hourStatus: Dairy 

Cheeses provided by Jacobs Farm, Moshav Kfar Haroeh.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.