Who needs to come up with a catchy headline for a cheesecake blog two days before Shavuot? Clearly I don’t think I do!
Cheesecake has become as synonymous with Shavuot as donuts have with Hanukkah. I find this a little odd seeing as there are so many dairy desserts that are just as delicious, if not more, waiting in the culinary Jewish wings, wishing they were the automatic Shavuot meal ender. But it’s the humble cheesecake that’s slipped into the top spot, so that’s what we do.
My husband isn’t a big cheesecake fan, so I only make cheesecake on Shavuot. And don’t tell anyone, but I am not crazy about cheesecake either. I’m always on the lookout for the perfect cheesecake, and rarely find it. I don’t enjoy them when they’re too sweet, as baked cheesecakes often are. But then if they’re not sweet enough, they often taste chalky. So with my fussiness about cheesecake, I find that the non-baked version suits me and family far better.
This is a recipe I’ve been making for years for a no-bake cheesecake that’s made with…gelatin. Now I may have just lost a whole lot of you, but please don’t go! Gelatin is not as scary as it seems.
I use the Kosher pure gelatin that comes in sachets (28g boxes in Israel). I dissolve it in water on the lowest flame on the stove. It’s as simple as dissolving sugar in water – you keep stirring until all the granules are dissolved, which takes about 3-5 minutes. Once that’s done, you let the mixture cool a little and add it to whatever needs jellifying! It’s really that simple. Note: Gelatin works really effectively. When you first pour it into your mixture, you will barely notice it’s there – it won’t start setting immediately. But don’t worry, it will. Have patience.
Once this cake is set, you can top it with a variety of toppings, for example, you can spread cherry pie pilling over the top. I sometimes drain a can of apricot halves, and when the cake has been in the fridge for about half an hour, I arrange them on the top of the cake, pushing them into the semi-set cheese mixture. You can do the same with any fresh or canned fruit you like – try it with fresh strawberries or kiwi, or both.
I love this cake because it’s light, uses 9% cheese, and is just the right amount of sweet for me. It’s also a nice cold dessert for those warm late spring Shavuot days.
NO-BAKE CHEESE CAKE
About 170g (6 oz) Petit Beurre cookies crushed
100g (3½ oz) melted butter
(Optional) ½ cup walnuts or pecans finely crushed
150g (5 oz) softened butter
1 cup sugar
500g (1 lb) 9% smooth white cheese (Ski in Israel)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
14g (½oz) Kosher pure gelatin (this is one sachet out of a two sachet package)
¾ cup cold water
How to do it
1. Mix the cookies and melted butter together well until all the crumbs are coated. If you are adding nuts, reduce the cookie amount accordingly. Press onto the bottom of a 26cm (10 inch) springform pan. Tip: to get an even surface, use the back of a one-cup measure to press the crumbs down and all the way to the sides. Place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
2. Pour the water into a small saucepan. Add the gelatin and stir. Place on a very low flame. Keep stirring until all the granules are dissolved, which takes about 3-4 minutes. Set the mixture aside while you make the rest of the filling.
3. In a mixer, add the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and rind. Beat well until combined. Stop the mixer now and again to scrape the bottom of the bowl – this mixture tends to stick to the bottom, so you need to avoid this by scraping with a spatula once or twice.
4. Add the cheese to the butter mixture and mix until well combined and creamy.
5. Slowly pour the gelatin into the mixture while beating slowly. When it’s all combined, pour into the cooled cookie base, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. You can add any topping of your choice.