Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ethnic Flavor: A Shavuot Treat

For those of you not fortunate enough to be Chosen, Shavuot is the holiday celebrating blintzes, fruit baskets, picnics and cakes in the shape of the Ten Commandments- or so I always believed. Actually, it celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, and we follow this awesome event to its logical conclusion and eat dairy products. Of course.

Which is basically Sarah's way of saying that she has no idea why the correlation between Shavuot and dairy exists, but in a culture as meat-obsessed at Judaism's, this can be a welcome relief. It is also a fine yearly excuse to consume the world's richest dessert, cheesecake!

Sarah has been experimenting with cheesecake a lot this year, including a lemon cheesecake for her friend Warren's birthday, a chocolate marbled cheesecake for Rebecca's Derekh Torah class, and little baby cheesecakes in ramekins. This was the greatest adventure yet, because it featured many interesting and different aspects, such as a sweet cookie crust (rather than graham cracker), raspberry jam (to which Rebecca added some fresh chopped raspberries), cottage cheese instead of some of the cream cheese (which made it a little bit lighter), and spices such as nutmeg (which Rebecca's husband was really obsessed with, to the point that he called it a "Nutmeg Raspberry Cheesecake," which is very far from the truth).

The recipe we used was Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte, from pg. 240 of Dorie Greenspan's Baking from My Home to Yours- a choice of cookbook which will shock loyal readers. Don't worry, we have some variety coming up.

The cheesecake was a not-so-light delight- it was still cheesecake, but it was not as dense and rich as a normal cheesecake. The main issue that we had was with the crust, which puffed up a lot in the oven due to our using a small amount of orzo in place of proper pie weights. (Ghetto cooking- it can happen anywhere.) It wasn't a big deal but it made the cake hard to cut because the crust ended up being very thick. The jam added a very nice, subtle compliment, and though it looked like it had seeped into the crust before we baked the cheesecake, you couldn't taste it afterwards. The batter is very runny, so don't be worried if it seems more liquid than usual. The finished product also wasn't as white as it looked in the book, because of the spices, but that did not detract from its taste at all! It was Torah-iffic! haw haw haw.

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