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Wouldn’t be Shavuot without Cheesecake

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 7, 2011

Cheesecake

Son is at his yeshiva high school for Shavuot and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make a cheesecake for just the two of us. After all, I had no trouble passing up lasagna! But it doesn’t seem like Shavuot without a cheesecake and cheesecake is so simple to make. Shavuot (the name literally means “weeks”) celebrates the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is observed on the 50th day after Passover, after counting the period of the omer, which is 49 days (you count a “week” of “weeks,” i.e., 7×7 days).

A lot of customs are associated with Shavuot:

  • Learning the entire night. Many communities and synagogues set up schedules of lecturers for the entire night, followed by morning prayers and a light breakfast.
  • Reading the Book of Ruth¬†at the morning service
  • Decorating the synagogue with greenery
  • Eating at least one dairy meal (hence, the cheesecake). Blintzes and lasagna are also popular

For explanations about the customs, meaning, family activities, and recipes, see the Aish haTorah page (in English). They have a recipe for a Snickers cheesecake. I kid you not. Too sweet for me but if that’s your thing, go for it. I don’t have a very strong sweet tooth, so I prefer a simple cheesecake that tastes of cheese and cream, not nuts and chocolate.

Simplest Cheesecake

500 grams cream cheese
200 grams sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Start with the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 300 F/150 C.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add the sugar gradually, beating thoroughly. Add the eggs individually, beating after each egg so that it is incorporated. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the mixture is thick. If you are using high-fat dairy products, you will get a rich, thick batter. If you are using low-fat, you will get a wimpy-looking milkshake.

Pour the batter into a buttered 9″ springform pan or baking pan (I used a quiche pan because my springform pan started leaking too badly to seal with foil, I tossed it out, and haven’t replaced it yet). Bake for 1 hour or until the cake is just set in the middle (bang the oven gently to see how much the cake ripples) and the sides start to pull away. Let the cake cool in the oven with the door ajar. (This helps prevent the cake from cracking.) When cool, cover loosely with foil and refrigerate.

Serves 10.

You may notice that I did not specify what kind of cream cheese or sour cream. There are so many different types available, with high and low fat content, and you probably know what kind you will buy. All I can say is that the smooth, rich texture and creamy taste come from fat, so if you make your cheesecake with diet products, you’re not going to get the same results. Cheesecake is not a health food, but you probably don’t eat it very often unless you’re one of my coworkers (dry, tasteless cheesecake is one of the standard desserts in the dairy cafeteria). Try to use real vanilla, rather than a synthetic extract.

Chag sameach!

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