If you have met me in person then you know that, surprisingly, I am not overweight. When developing dessert recipes I live on salads, and I am uniquely talented at stopping at one bite. That works well for all desserts — except for cheesecakes. They sit in the fridge, call my name and I cannot help but respond.
This year for Passover my husband, my twins and I went to Israel to visit my two older teens there for the semester. Being in Israel for Pesach is like being on a cruise –minus the boat. Each meal blended into the next and there were so many buffet meals where I had to taste everything in the name of research.
The highlight of the hotel stays was cheesecake for breakfast. After my yogurt, fruit and honey straight from a honeycomb, a second course of salads and fresh ricotta, I went to sample each hotel’s cheesecakes, and there were always several to explore. Some were warm, some cold, a few had crusts, and others had crumb toppings. There was always one with a layer of chocolate in some fashion, and often one that was soufflé-like that you scooped up with a spoon. A few disappointing ones were watery or contained gelatin which in my opinion ruined the texture of the cheese. It was quite the cheesecake tour.
Israeli cheesecakes are very different from American ones. American cheesecakes are very dense affairs made primarily of cream cheese and are extremely filling. In Israel cheesecakes are made with Israeli gevina levana (9 % fat white cheese), which is creamier and less pasty than American cream cheese, and produces a lighter cheesecake. The benefit of an Israeli cheesecake is that you can eat more of it. Although my kosher stores in Maryland stock gevina levana, I did not want to use out of fear that many bakers would not be able to find it. Instead, I used ricotta cheese to make a lighter cheesecake that was more Israeli-style than American. Ultimately the result is more Italian, albeit Israeli-inspired. Ricotta is the healthiest cheese you can eat and I skipped the crust to make it super easy too. Served as shown, it makes a special breakfast treat during Shavuot.
The chocolate cheesecake is entirely American and is absolutely sinful. The bitterness of the chocolate balances the sweetened cheese and the result is a luscious, creamy cheesecake that you will not be able to resist. I would save it for your festive meals. I had to get mine into the freezer quickly to stop taking bites. While it is waiting for me to indulge during Shavuot, it is already quietly calling my name.
I started working on ricotta cheesecakes last summer and gave up after several tries. I hated the grainy texture of every one I made. Recently, after several new unsuccessful attempts to achieve the ricotta cheesecake that I imagined in my mind, I had a conversation with the head baker at my local kosher bakery about the science of cheesecakes. He suggested gently blending in the ricotta last to avoid adding too much air to the mixture, and it made all the difference. I finally enjoyed the tasty and creamy ricotta cheesecake I knew was possible. recipe –>
This cake is very rich and you can probably serve 16 servings out of it. For a gluten-free option, use gluten-free cookies for the bottom. Recipe –>