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.
Gouda (pronounced Gow-dah in Hebrew) is a creamy, yellow, somewhat strongly flavored cheese. It reminds me of cheddar, but not as sharp and a little saltier. Gouda is traditionally a Dutch cheese and is named after the city of Gouda in the Netherlands, where it was historically traded.
I bought my Gouda from my usual place, the cheese counter at my local Yochananuf. The label said “Say Cheese” and seemed to be branded “וילי פוד” or Willie Foods. I actually had to do quite a bit of sleuthing to discover the origin of this cheese! It turns out that Willie Foods is an importer and this cheese in particular comes all the way from Lithuania. So, I know I’m towing the line here when it comes to “Israeli cheeses” but at least I learned that it’s not always obvious where a cheese is made. If you want to support Israeli dairies, it’s worth it to ask and make sure! In the future I will try to find an Israeli gouda and report back here on how it compares to this brand.
I used this Gouda in a delicious Macaroni and Cheese Recipe from one of my favorite blogs, The Shiksa in the Kitchen, by Tori Avey. I omitted the raisins and pine nuts because I didn’t have them on hand and in any case wasn’t sure how I felt about raisins in macaroni and cheese. But next time I will try it and see!