It’s that time of year again, when butter, cream cheese, farmer’s cheese and ricotta all converge in creamy yumminess on our holiday tables. Yes, that’s right, ladies and gents. Next week is Shavuot and that means one thing – cheesecake, glorious cheesecake.
Well, actually, Shavuot means more than cheesecake. It means blintzes, noodle casserole, and maybe a savory spanakopita. Just kidding! Of course there’s the wonderful tradition of late-night or all-night learning, a tradition being upheld by many synagogues across the Denver area. And there’s reading the Book of Ruth, hearing the Ten Commandments and reaccepting the Torah. It’s truly a spiritual holiday.
But cheesecake is a real highlight, mostly because it’s such a decadent food we only allow ourselves to eat once a year. So its meaning and importance inflates throughout the year until that day finally arrives — Shavuot!
So here they are, our two favorite cheesecake recipes. One is pure indulgence, the classic, chock full of fat, Junior’s version. The other is a Sicilian cheesecake, which opts for the (slightly) less-fattening ricotta cheese, but still retains a lovely creaminess that will you have going back for more. This cheesecake calls for a mix of ricotta and cream cheese; if you’re looking for a cake that’s purely ricotta, Tehilla Goldberg shares Tavern on the Green’s recipe in her column this week.
- 20 oz whole milk ricotta
- 1 8 oz full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 C granulated white sugar
- 1 T cornstarch
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- Zest of 1 lemon or orange
- 1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Beat the cream cheese until smooth and free of lumps. Add the ricotta and sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in the cornstarch. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the lemon zest, vanilla extract, and salt and beat until incorporated.
Pour in the filling into a springform pan. Place the pan in a large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about halfway up the sides of your springform pan.
Bake for about one hour to one hour 15 minutes, or until the top of the cheesecake has nicely browned and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken. Remove the pan from the water bath and cool on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, about 6-8 hours or overnight.
Junior's Classic Cheesecake
- 4 8 oz packages regular cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 C granulated sugar
- 1/4 C cornstarch
- 1 T vanilla extract
- 1 T lemon juice
- 1 t lemon zest
- 2 extra large eggs
- 1/2 C sour cream
Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter a 9-inch springform pan.
Place one 8 oz. package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Then beat in the remaining 3 packages of cream cheese.
Increase the mixer speed to high and beat in the remaining sugar, then add the vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating the batter well after adding each one. Blend in the sour cream. Mix the filling so that it is completely blended – but be careful not to over mix.
Spoon the batter into the buttered springform pan. Place the springform pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes about 1" up the sides of the pan. Bake the cheesecake for 60-70 minutes, until the center is only slightly wobbly.
Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. Refrigerate until chilled, preferably overnight.
Note that both of these recipes exclude the traditional crushed biscuit crush. We prefer the purist approach, accompanied only by some fresh cherries or other seasonal fruit.