For Shavuot splash out with the perfect cheesecake. These 5 tips show you how.
Shavuot is a wonderful time of year. This special holiday celebrates the giving of the Torah, so dairy foods are traditional for festive yom tov meals because the rules for meat-eating were established only after the giving of the Torah. Many of us use Shavuot as the one time a year to experiment with decadent dairy dessert recipes, most notably the fabulous, rich and unique cheesecake.
Cheesecake recipes can be simple or complex, but as long as they’re not overbaked, they are uniformly delicious. We at CKCA prefer a simple-to-prepare cheesecake with very few ingredients, and we will share our Oreo® Experience cheesecake at the end of this article.
For Unforgettable Shavuot Cheesecake Remember the Eggs but Watch the Fat
The following 5 tips will help you make this year’s Shavuot cheesecake unforgettable:
1. Cheesecake is not cake, it’s custard!
The biggest mistake people make about cheesecake is assuming it’s a cake and should be baked as such, until dry and firm. Rather, cheesecake is a baked custard, an egg and sugar concoction, which happens to contain a smooth cheese, such as cream cheese, ricotta, cottage or farmer’s, to give it a unique and decadent depth of flavor. These cheeses only firm up after they have been chilled, so it is better to gently bake cheesecake at a low temperature, and leave it to cool completely before trying to cut or serve it.
2. The more eggs and fat in the recipe, the more you need a water bath to ensure even baking.
Baking cheesecakes with a shallow pan of water surrounding them is a classic French approach that ensures that the custard bakes slowly and evenly. If the egg volume in the recipe outweighs the cheese, it’s best to use the water bath so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs at the outer corners of your cheesecake.
3. Minimize cheesecake cracks and imperfections with a gelatin product.
Until recently, kosher-keeping consumers had to simply live with the cracks and sunken middles associated with cheesecakes, but no more! With the introduction to the kosher market of real, kosher gelatin, commercially known as Kolatin®, your cheesecake will be photo-ready and perfect from the moment it comes out of the oven to until it is served. Just dissolve a packet of unflavored gelatin with a small amount of warm water, and add it to the eggs before beating them.
4. Mix cheesecake batter only until incorporated.
While well-beaten eggs are an important part of any custard, don’t mix your cheesecake batter too much beyond creating a smooth product, especially if your recipe contains flour. Since you are creating a delicate product, there’s no purpose to developing the gluten, and mixing the eggs too much with the other ingredients will only serve to bind and toughen up the cake’s chemical composition. As is often the case, less is more.
5. Watch the fat.
We don’t like to be the bad guy who is going to reduce the butter content of your favorite cheesecake that you make only once a year, but it’s important to try (at least) to keep control of the fat and calorie content of your cheesecake, to prevent one slice from packing a 2,000 calorie punch, an entire day’s worth of calories!
Often, there are unnecessary calories present in recipes for crust, so you can often reduce by half the melted butter or oil in those, or replace it with apple juice or unsweetened applesauce. In my Oreo® Experience Cheesecake, for example, I simply did not add melted butter to my ground Oreos, patted them into a pan, and then poured in my cheesecake batter without first baking the crust. The weight and moisture of the cheesecake batter more than helped build a crispy, crumbly crust, and no one missed the butter.
Choose Light Cream Cheese for a Moist and Fluffy Cheesecake
Neufchâtel cheese, which is also marketed as the low-fat version of cream cheese, works just as well if not better than full-fat cheese in most cheesecake recipes. It contains 33 percent less fat and more moisture than regular cream cheese, which makes for a slightly airier cheesecake, which I like. For thicker, sink-your-teeth-in New York-style cheesecakes, you may want to stick with full fat cream cheese. American farmer’s cheese is also a Neufchâtel-style cheese.
One can also be creative with cheesecake toppings to reduce the overall calorie count. As Shavuot is a great time of year for fresh berries, a plain low-fat cheesecake topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries can be amazingly decadent.
Got any cheesecake tips? Leave us a comment!