We are counting the days until Shavuos (lit: weeks).
Yes. Shavuos is the holiday that we literally count the days toward its arrival. We count 49 days (seven weeks) from Pesach (Passover) to Shavuos, blessing the sefira (counting) every evening from the second night of Pesach until Shavuos begins.
From a culinary perspective, many of us count the days until we can enjoy the delicious dairy foods that have become associated with Shavuos. We are commanded to eat dairy foods at our festive meals (Countdown to Shavuos: Floral Inspirations and Dairy Recipes) on Shavuos and cheesecake has become one of the iconic desserts associated with Shavuos.
Shavuos commemorates the receiving of the Torah by the Jewish nation. It also is the time that the wheat is harvested and the bikurim (first fruits) were brought to the Holy Temple in a lavish ceremony (Bekurim: First Fruits from Hollister). So, this year’s cheesecake is decorated with fruits, so symbolic of the bikurim ceremony.
I have kept the preparation simple and have incorporated greek yogurt and light cream cheese into the recipe to make for a healthier cheescake. The flavor and texture is still impeccably delicious.
Just like last year’s mini cheesecake recipe, this recipe does not require a springform pan or a water bath for baking. It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature just before preparation. Preparation takes a few minutes and the baking is simple. It can be prepared as one round or rectangular cheesecake or in 12-16 mini ramekins.
2 pounds light or regular cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
8 ounce container of plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups cookies or graham crackers, crushed
4 tablespoons butter
It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature before baking to prevent cracking, although I have made this recipe effectively with ingredients right out of the refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Prepare cake pan or ramekins by generously spraying with cooking spray and/ or lining with parchment paper .
In food processor fitted with an S-blade, crush cookies and add butter, pulsing until mixture is fully incorporated. You can also place cookies in a zipper bag and crush using a mallet or rolling pin, adding butter to the bag and kneading gently. Gently press cookie-butter mixture into pan or ramekins.
Beat cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a food processor or with a mixer, just until smooth and creamy. You can also use a whisk to incorporate and beat all these ingredients. You will have to scrape sides of bowl to incorporate everything well until combined, smooth and creamy.
Pour mixture into pans or ramekins, filling 2/3 of the way to the top. I find it easiest to pour the mixture from a glass measuring cup with a spout..
Bake mini ramekins for 15 minutes, 3-4″ ramekins for about 18-20 minutes and larger pan for 30 minutes. Turn oven off and leave in oven to another hour.
Remove from the oven and cool completely. Chill the ramekin cheesecakes for at least 2 hours and the larger cheesecake for at least 4 hours. Gently remove cheesecake(s) from pan(s).
Garnish with fruit, berries, edible leaves and flowers. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving.