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Cheesecake – The Taste of Shavuot

Posted by Roberta Levine on May 24, 2017

Holidays, especially Jewish Holidays, are not the best time to enforce a weight loss diet.

Take Shavuot, which this year begins in a couple of days – on the eve of Saturday, June 9. For reasons that some attribute to parsing of Jewish law and others, to a tradition that evolved amongst Eastern European Jews, cheese and one of its sweetest uses, cheesecake, is a Shavuot treat.

And so, a good excuse to offer one of my very favorite recipes for cheesecake and hope that somehow the abundant calories don’t count during the holiday.

HAZELNUT CHEESECAKE

From The ‘New’ New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne with Pierre Franey

“It is fascinating to discover the extent to which on ingredient can alter, even glorify, the nature of a dish. Some years ago we came into possession of a cheesecake recipe that seemed to be the essence of all great cheesecakes. It was delicate, rich and subtly flavored. Moreover, it was ultimately refined in texture. Sometime later we purchased a pound of toasted hazelnuts. These we ground and blended into the cake’s batter. The result is to our minds a paradigm of cheesecakes.” — The Authors

1 1/2 cups shelled, toasted, hulled hazelnuts, or blanched, toasted almonds
Butter
1/3 cup graham-cracker crumbs, approximately
2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Because of the importance of oven temperature, the nuts must be toasted well in advance of proceeding with the recipe. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the nuts on a baking sheet or in a skillet and bake stirring them often so that they brown evenly. When nicely browned, remove them and let cool. Note: If the hazelnuts are not hulled, toast as above and the hulls will loosen so you can remove them. I put them in a clean dish towel and rub off the hulls.

2. When ready to make the cheesecake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

3. Place the nuts in the container of an electric blender or food processor and blend. If you want a crunchy texture, blend them until coarse-fine. If you want a smooth texture, blend them until they are almost pastelike.

4. Butter the inside of a metal cake pan 8 inches wide and 3 inches deep. Do not use a springform pan.

5. Sprinkle the inside with graham-cracker crumbs and shake the crumbs around the bottom and sides until coated. Shake out the excess crumbs and set the pan aside.

6. Place the cream cheese, cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Start beating at low speed and, as the ingredients blend, increase the speed to high. Continue beating until thoroughly blended and smooth. Add the nuts and continue beating until thoroughly blended.

7. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan and shake gently to level the mixture.

8. Set the pan inside a slightly wider pan and pour boiling water into the large pan to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Do not let the edge of the cheesecake pan touch the other larger pan. Set the pans thus arranged inside the oven and bake for 2 hours. At the end of that time, turn off the oven heat and let the cake sit in the oven for 1 hour longer.

9. Lift the cake out of its water bath and place it on a rack. Let the cake stand for at least 2 hours.

10. Place a round cake plate over the cake and carefully turn both upside down to unmold the cake. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature.

Note: The consistency of this cake is softer than most cheesecakes.

Makes 12 or more servings

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