In my last post I discussed my tour through six different cheesecake recipes and the merits of each. After tasting them all, and taking input from some lucky friends, I have honed in on my ideal cheesecake recipe, combining the best qualities of all the recipes I tried. It is a hybrid between the dense, New York cheesecake, and the fluffy, Israeli cheesecake. It contains lemon zest. It has a butterscotch topping and a cookie crumb (or graham cracker) crust. It was baked in a water bath for perfect texture and beauty. Below are the recipes in both Israeli and American versions, I hope you enjoy!
Shavuot, the holiday of cheesecake…err, I mean, the holiday in which the Israelites receive the Torah, is here! No, but really, it’s all about the cheesecake.
Which makes this a great time to talk about Israeli and American cheesecakes. No, they are not the same. American cheesecake, typically a “New York Style” cheesecake, is based on American cream cheese, which is quite thick, similar to a 30% fat shemenet. New York Style cheesecake also calls for some flour, and is baked in a water bath to achieve the thick, custard-like texture. A New York Style cheesecake is dense and creamy, and a thin sliver is all you need ; )
Israeli cheesecake, on the other hand, tends to be lighter, more airy. This is primarily due to the difference cheeses used. Instead of American style cream cheese, the classic being Philadelphia cream cheese (which is not easy to find in Israel), a combination of lower fat white cheese (gevinah lavanah and shemenet) and sometimes sweetened heavy cream (shemenet metukah) are used.
My last post on Gouda described an imported gouda from Lithuania, imported by Willi Foods. This week I wanted to make some quiche, and my recipe called for cheddar, which is not as common in Israel. So, I decided to use gouda instead, and specifically asked for an Israeli made gouda. My cheese counter had two types, one from Gad and one from Jacob’s Farm. Randomly I chose the gouda from Jacob’s Farm, a dairy near Hadera specializing in high quality cheeses from cow, goat, and sheep.
I am happy to announce that the gouda from Jacob’s Farm was definitely tastier and more pungent than the cheaper, imported version. The cheese was made from cow’s milk, with 28% fat, and had a nice yellow rind. (side note: I haven’t been able to convince the ladies at my cheese counter to remove rinds from cheeses in order to grate them for me. So, the only downside of buying higher quality cheeses with rinds is that if you want it grated, you have to do it yourself at home, or find a better cheese lady.) This dairy also sells gouda cheeses flavored with cumin or herbs, and a special 6 month aged gouda. By the way, the quiche came out great. If you’re interested in trying it, here is my recipe. Enjoy!
What I love about this quiche is its adaptability: you can use the same basic recipe with whatever combination of cooked vegetables you have on hand. It is fairly easy to make and has the perfect consistency. This recipe calls for gouda cheese, but you can also use cheddar, swiss, or whatever you like.
Tvorog is a Russian cheese with a consistency somewhere in between American style cream cheese and farmer’s cheese. It may also be called Russian cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese, or quark. I bought some by weight from my favorite cheese counter during Passover because it looked like the perfect spread for matzah, and it was! The tvorog I tried was from Parili dairy with 5% fat from cow’s milk. There was another tvorog from Moshava dairy with 9% fat, and both dairies sold a variety with golden raisins mixed in. The flavor of tvorog is very mild and fresh, and for this reason it lends itself well to sweet or savory recipes, such as pancakes, pastries or pierogies. I suspect that it could also be a good substitute for cream cheese in recipes.
Halloumi is a white, chewy, salty cheese originally from Cyprus. It can be made from goat, sheep, or cow’s milk, but these days it is usually made from cow’s milk. I think my favorite thing about halloumi is that it makes a funny sweeky noise when you chew it! What’s also neat is that you can grill it. It has a very high melting point so you can cut it into cubes or slices and grill it over a hot pan or grill. It will give a nice crunchy exterior and creamy interior. It’s kind of like eating a hot mozzarella stick without the breading : )
I recommend this salad to serve as a base for your grilled halloumi, along with a glass of refreshing white wine.
I just found this article from a few years ago in Haaretz. Its a good, brief overview of the most common Israeli cheeses.
In the Israeli winter there is nothing like hot Sachlav (pronounced Sock-lahv) to warm you up. Sachlav is a thick milk based drink seasoned with sugar and rosewater and topped with coconut, pistachios, walnuts, cinnamon, or whatever else you enjoy. Sachlav actually translates to orchid, because in the old days sachlav was flavored and thickened with the starch from the orchid bulb. Since orchid bulbs are so expensive, these days, corn flour is used to thicken the drink.
Mallabi is basically a cold, thicker, pudding version of sachlav and is so pleasant when the weather gets warm. It is made with milk, heavy cream, corn starch, sugar, and rosewater. It is usually topped with a sweet raspberry or rosewater syrup, followed by the traditional sachlav toppings like coconut, nuts, and cinnamon.
You can buy mixes or premade sachlav and mallabi in Israeli grocery stores, but it’s very easy to make at home from scratch. This is especially useful if you want to replicate the sachlav/mallabi experience outside of the Middle East. I recommend these recipes for sachlav and mallabi.
For more on the history of sachlav, see here.