Learn how to avoid pitfalls in baking the holiday’s staple dessert.
By NERIA BARR
A beloved dessert around the world, in Israel cheesecake is the queen of Shavuot. Whereas in the past there were only two kinds of cheesecakes offered in most bakeries – baked and gelatin-based – in recent years the holiday favorites are offered in a plethora of flavors.While some may think it a modern-day dessert, cheesecake actually dates back thousands of years. It is thought to have originated in ancient Greece, where it was made from goat’s milk and honey and served to athletes. The simple ingredients of flour, wheat, honey and cheese were formed into a cake and baked – a far cry from the more complicated recipes available today.From Greece, the recipes traveled to Rome and the rest of the world, where it was developed into very different recipes. Each region of the world has its own take on the best way to make the dessert. Italians use ricotta cheese, Greeks may still use feta, Germans prefer cottage cheese, while the Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites.In spite all the elaborate gourmet recipes used by chefs today, the beloved basic baked cheesecake is still everyone’s favorite.But many refrain from trying to bake it at home, fearing the cake may “fall,” crack or just not be as good as store-bought cakes.Pastry chef Ofer Gal from the bakery chain Boutique Central (www.boutiquecentral.co.il) gave us a few tips that will help the home baker achieve good results.Before you start: The recipe calls for cream cheese and you prefer low-fat cheeses? Don’t worry, says Gal; use what you like. “You may substitute, for instance, a 1% cheese for 9% cheese,” he says.Remove the butter, eggs and cheese from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you start, so they reach room temperature.Use a spring form baking dish.Don’t forget to grease the pan. Use oil spray and dust with flour.Baking tips: For the cake to reach maximum height, start the baking at a high 200° oven for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 155° for the rest of the baking time.Place a deep dish or baking sheet filled with boiling water in the oven to keep the air in the oven humid while baking.About 15 minutes after beginning of baking, insert a knife and run it along the sides of the pan. This will allow the cake to rise more evenly and prevent cracks.A cheesecake is done when the sides are baked but the center is still wobbly.Do not insert a toothpick into the middle because this may cause the cake to crack.After baking: To stabilize the cake and prevent it from falling, let the cheesecake cool to room temperature. Refrigerate it only when it is completely cooled.BAKED CHEESECAKE Makes two 22-cm. cakes This is perhaps the most popular of all cheesecakes – baked on a base of cookie crumbs. The base may be changed, using different cookie recipe or storebought crumbs; and the cheese fat content may be reduced using 5% cheese instead of 9%. If you prefer the cake less sweet, reduce the amount of sugar. Do try it at home.Recipe and photo courtesy of Lehem Yayin bakery in Yehud.For the crumble base ✔ 200 gr. flour ✔ 200 gr. butter ✔ 150 gr. sugar For the cake ✔ 1 kilo 9% white cheese ✔ 800 gr. sour cream ✔ 30 gr. cornstarch (approx. 3 Tbsp.) ✔ ½ beaten egg ✔ 400 gr. sugar ✔ ½ vanilla stick, seeds only For the topping ✔ 300 gr. sour cream ✔ 30 gr. sugar (approx. 3 level Tbsp.) Prepare crumble 12 hours ahead. In a mixer bowl with a kneading arm, place all the ingredients and knead at low speed until smooth. Stop as soon as the mixture is homogeneous. Spread the batter in a lined baking sheet and bake at 170° for 30 minutes. Let cool and grind in a food processor. You may skip this stage by using ready-made cookie crumble.In a large bowl, mix together cheese, sour cream, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add egg and cornstarch and continue mixing.Place the crumble in the bottom of a round ring form and pour half of the cheese mass on top. Do the same with the second baking form.Bake the cakes in a preheated 150° oven for 60 to 90 minutes until cake is stable on the sides and still wobbly in the center.Remove from oven and let cool.Mix sour cream and sugar and glaze the cakes. Keep refrigerated until serving.LOTUS AND BERRIES CHEESECAKE Round 24-26 cm. spring form A variation on the baked cheesecake, in this one Lotus cookies are used for the crumbs base, and fruit jelly glazing, poured over berries, adds festivity.Recipe and photo courtesy of Lotus For the base ✔ 1 package Lotus cookies ✔ 100 gr. butter, melted ✔ 50 gr. white chocolate, grated finely For the cake ✔ 1 container (250 ml.) cream ✔ 1½ cups powdered sugar ✔ 1 kg. white cream cheese (two 500-gr.containers) ✔ 1 package (80 gr.) vanilla instant pudding powder For the topping ✔ ½ package (45 gr.) strawberry gelatin ✔ 1 cup boiling water ✔ 1 cup berries (fresh or frozen) Line the base of the spring form with parchment paper.Grind the cookies in a food processor until crumbly. Add the melted butter and chocolate and mix. Transfer to the spring form, spread in an even layer and push down tight. Keep in the freezer until ready to fill.To prepare cake filling: Whip together cream and powdered sugar until a soft foam forms. Add cheese and pudding mix and continue beating until foam is stable.Remove cake base from the freezer and pour the cheese mixture on top. Using a spatula, even the surface of the cake. Refrigerate for 2 hours.To make the topping: Prepare gelatin with boiling water according to the instructions on the package and cool.Arrange the berries (defrosted) on the cake. Pour cooled gelatin evenly on the cake and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.PEACH AND MASCARPONE TART Makes one 22-cm. tart Make pie pastry and fill it with cheese – another popular way to enjoy cheese and fruit. This rustic peach tart can also be made with other summer fruit.Recipe and photo courtesy of Lehem Yayin bakery and café,in Yehud.For the dough ✔ 200 gr. cold butter ✔ 33 gr. sugar ✔ 4 gr. salt ✔ 50 ml. water ✔ 1 medium egg ✔ 270 gr. flour For the filling ✔ 4 peaches ✔ 1 cup mascarpone cheese ✔ ¼ cup sugar ✔ ½ cup cream ✔ 1 medium egg ✔ Juice of ½ lemon ✔ 1 tsp. vanilla extract ✔ 3 Tbsp. water ✔ ¼ cup sliced almonds To prepare the dough: In a mixer bowl with a kneading arm, mix butter, salt and sugar until texture resembles sand. Reduce speed and gradually add water and egg. Mix until incorporated. Don’t over-mix. Remove dough from the bowl and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours.Remove from refrigerator and roll out to about 5 mm. thick. Make sure the dough is about 3 to 5 cm. larger than the pie dish.Transfer dough to the baking dish and leave 3 to 5 cm. dough hanging over the sides.To prepare the filling: Cut peaches into quarters and cook in a small pot with 2 Tbsp. sugar, lemon juice and water. When cooked, strain and let the peaches cool.Mix together the mascarpone cheese, ¼ cup sugar, sour cream, egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Gently fold in the cooled peaches.Pour the filling into the dough shell and spread evenly. Fold the dough edges over the filling and sprinkle with sliced almonds.Bake in a preheated 180° oven for 30 minutes. Serve when cooled.FROZEN CHEESECAKE Makes one 24-cm. round cake Courtesy of Landwer’s Bakery chain and pastry chef Estella.For the base ✔ 150 gr. butter ✔ 150 gr. powdered sugar ✔ 180 gr. flour For the filling ✔ 750 gr. white cheese (5% or 9%) ✔ 150 gr. sugar ✔ 4 Tbsp. vanilla instant pudding mix ✔ Zest of 1 lemon ✔ 380 gr. (1½ container) cream ✔ 12 gr. gelatin ✔ ⅓ cup water To make the base: Mix all the ingredients in a food processor bowl with a metal blade.Flatten half of the pastry in a 24-cm.baking ring and bake 15 to 20 minutes in a preheated 160° oven.Sprinkle the rest on a lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 160°.To prepare the filling: Dissolve gelatin in some hot water.In a separate bowl, mix together cheese, sugar, pudding mix and lemon zest.Gradually add the melted gelatin – first add a little of the cheese mixture into the gelatin, mix well and then add the gelatin into the bowl and mix well.Whip the cream into soft foam and fold into the cheese mass.Line the cake ring with a plastic cake lining to ensure easy and clean extraction later.Pour the cheese filling onto the baked base and let cool for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the baked crumbles on top and freeze.Remove from the freezer 30 minutes before serving.GOAT CHEESECAKE Makes 10 individual cakes Not the first choice of cheese for a cake, goat cream cheese can be used much like any other cream cheese. Make sure it’s at room temperature and beat it in the mixer bowl for a very long time until it becomes creamy and soft.Recipe and photo courtesy of Gedera 26 restaurant in Tel Aviv.✔ 4 Fromez goat cheese rolls ✔ 2 eggs ✔ 2 egg yolks ✔ 450 gr. sugar ✔ ¼ tsp. salt ✔ 2 containers 15% sour cream ✔ Zest of 1 lemon ✔ Zest of 1 orange Remove cheese from the refrigerator about 5 hours before baking or until it reaches room temperature.Heat oven to 150°.Boil 2 liters of water.In a mixer bowl, mix cheese at low speed until it becomes creamy and very soft. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks and sugar. Add the creamed cheese, mix and add the sour cream and two zests. Mix gently until smooth and thick.Pour into 10 individual oven-proof dishes or 2 loaf baking pans.Pour boiling water into a deep baking sheet and gently place the cake dishes in the water. Bake in a preheated 150° oven for 1 hour. Raise heat to 170° and bake 1 more hour. Let cool overnight. Serve with fruit.GLUTEN-FREE LOW-FAT CHEESE MOUSSE Ofer Gal of Boutique Central offers this cheese dessert that allows those refraining from gluten to enjoy the holiday’s favorite.The chocolate-roulade base and orange zest offer rich flavors in spite of the low-fat cheese.You will need a 21-cm. ring and a 24- cm. base, as well as clear siding to fit the 21-cm. ring.✔ 1 kg. 0% fat white cheese ✔ 500 ml. 15% cream ✔ 300 gr. sugar ✔ Zest of 1 orange ✔ 7 gr. gelatin ✔ A few drops of high-quality vanilla extract For the chocolate roulade ✔ 2 eggs ✔ 50 gr. sugar ✔ 50 gr. cornstarch ✔ 5 gr. dark cocoa ✔ 50 gr. dark chocolate chips For the topping ✔ 4 oranges ✔ 50 gr. sugar ✔100 gr. slivered almonds ✔5 gr. gelatin To prepare the base: Mix the cornstarch and cocoa together. In another bowl, whisk the eggs until fluffy. Gradually add the sugar. Fold the cocoa mixture into the eggs and spread the mass on a lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and bake at a preheated 210° oven for 9 minutes until roulade sets. Let the roulade cool. Using the baking ring, cut a round for the base.Whip the cream as much as you can, gradually adding the sugar. Transfer the cheese to the bowl, add the orange zest and vanilla extract. Melt the gelatin in a little water, according to the package instructions, and immediately mix with the cheese. Fold the whipped cream into the cheese.Place the ring on a cake base or a tray.Line the sides with clear lining. If the lining is too long, cut it to size.Place the roulade round at the base of the ring. Pour the cheese and cream mixture on the base and even the surface with a spatula. Chill the cake for at least 4 hours.Squeeze the juice of 4 oranges. In a small pot, cook the juice with sugar until reduced to half the volume. Remove from heat.Melt the gelatin in water according to instructions and mix with the juice. Pour the cooled juice on the cake.In a dry skillet over medium heat, roast the slivered almonds, rotating the skillet, until golden and fragrant.Sprinkle the toasted almonds on the edges of the cake just before serving.
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