Passover is here, and I wanted to make something special to bring to Dan’s family. I brainstormed all week and even asked him what I could bring, and here’s the response I got: “Nothing, because whatever you bake, we won’t be able to bring.”
Challenge accepted. More brainstorming ensued, and then my friend suggested cheesecake. Why didn’t I think of that? Cheesecake is really special to me because it’s something that brings back fond memories for me. My family loves cheesecake. We eat it a lot and always had it for dessert when I was growing up. Problem was that dad always brought home store-bought cheesecake, which is fine, but I always knew there were better options out there.
So when I started to learn how to bake, cheesecake was the second thing on the list (behind blueberry muffins). It wasn’t a pretty journey, though. Most of my cheesecake recipes came out burnt, cracked, curdley and dry, but I finally got the ratios right when I was in college, and I have been making it religiously ever since. It’s a frequent request from my mom and brother—it’s their favorite.
So when this quest started, I felt pretty confident. Now I’m no expert when it comes to Kosher, but I felt like I knew enough. Spoiler alert: It is more complex than I thought. As I was making my infamous cheesecake, replacing the graham cracker crust with a spectacular nut crust that I came up with, I was researching every ingredient as I was placing it into the mixer… until I came across vanilla extract. When I pulled it out of the cupboard, I thought… “This should be good.” And boy was I wrong. This was the start of the whirlwind of confusion, frustration and utter despair. (Hello, I’m Nhu. And I am melodramatic.)
After thorough research and getting a ton of nothing, I consulted one of my best friends, and she just happens to be Jew-ish. We stumbled upon a lot of gray area. Vanilla extract might be okay… but it might be not. There’s no telling! While the vanilla extract used had a Kosher stamp on it, we aren’t not sure if it’s “Kosher for Passover.” Alas, Dan consulted his resources, and it seems to be fine. Internet, thanks for nothing! But if you do plan on using this recipe for a future Passover meal, just now that there are KFP, aka “Kosher for Passover,” approved vanilla extracts out there. Just do a Google search.
Depending on how strict you are with your rules, you could nix the vanilla extract. It’s not essential to the recipe, but I do like the essence of it. Use at your own risk, or find a KFP-approved brand.
Note #1: This makes a ton of crust, so make sure you’re using a springform pan or a large pie dish. If you’re using those aluminum ones, you can cut the crust recipe in half.
Note #2: The crust uses a mixture of nuts. Use what you have on hand. You’ll need 3 cups total.
Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 50 minutes Serves: 16
What You’ll Need
For the crust
- 3 cups of nuts, I used almonds, pecans and cashews, blitzed in a food processor until you reach a consistency of coarse meal
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted + extra for buttering pan
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
For the cheesecake
- 32 oz. Philadelphia Cream Cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 8 oz. sour cream
- zest 1 lemon + juice 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract — USE AT YOUR OWN RISK, or find a KFP-approved brand
How You’ll Do It
For the crust
- Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- In a medium bowl, mix the coarse nut meal, butter and sugar, and stir until everything is evenly combined.
- Take a 9-inch springform pan or pie dish and butter generously.
- Pour all the crust mixture into the pan, and use the back of a large metal spoon to form an even crust. You should bring the crust halfway up the pan.
- Place the crust in the oven, and bake for 10 min.
- Let it cool.
For the cheesecake
- While the crust is cooling, make sure to leave the oven on.
- In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer or a handy dandy whisk), put in the room-temperature cream cheese and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.
- Scrap the sides of the bowl, and then add in the granulated sugar. Beat on medium speed until everything has been evenly incorporated and the mixture is fluffy. You may need to scrap down the sides to make sure everything is smooth.
- Add in the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl: sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract (remember: KFP approved), and beat on medium until you have a nice smooth cheesecake batter.
- Pour the cheesecake batter into the cooled springform pan, making sure the top is nice and even. Use a metal spoon or rubber spatula to give it a nice swirl.
- In a baking sheet (make sure it has raised sides), add about 1/2 inch of water. Place an aluminum sheet on top of the water and place the springform pan on top. The water should not be leaking over the sides. (The aluminum is to ensure no water gets into the springform pan.)
- Place the cheesecake in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the top of the cheesecake is golden and bounces back at the touch.
- This is an important step! Once the cheesecake is finished cooking, you want to turn the oven off and crack the oven door—about 1 to 3 inches open—and let the cheesecake cool in the oven for at least an hour. This ensures a crackless cheesecake.
- Once the cheesecake is fully cooled, transfer it out the oven onto your desired serving dish or cake stand. Release the springform pan, and remove it.
- Cover the cheesecake in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
- You can garnish with a candied lemon, and then serve, cut and enjoy!