Halvah Swirl Cheesecake brings together the two traditional streams of Jewish cooking—the Eastern European Ashkenazi emphasis on the cheesecake with the Mediterranean influence of the Sephardic suffusion in nuts and honey in the form of halvah. It’s “Old World” (cheese) and “New World” (chocolate and vanilla). It’s Asia (sesame seeds in the halvah) and Europe (cheese). It’s dark (chocolate) and light (vanilla). While I honor each ingredient on its own, the whole thing comes together, smashingly, in a sensationally, almost ridiculously rich, way. I keep thinking of it as a bit of what it would be like if you made a really high-end version of Nutella but substituted sesame for hazelnuts, and then swirled it into an already great vanilla cheesecake, all baked onto a very 19th-century American chocolate brownie crust.
Amy Emberling, managing partner at the Bakehouse, is the brain behind the beauty of the halvah swirl cheesecake; the creative culinary conductor for this project. What inspired her?
“I’m more and more interested in Sephardic Jewish cooking and the mixing of Ashkenazi and Sephardic so I’ve been playing around with combining the two. This cake is one example of how that can work. The mixing of the vanilla cheesecake and the chocolate is to create the marbled nature of many halvahs. The halvah itself is from Hebel & Co. We wanted something new for Rosh Hashanah, so this cake was born.”
It will only take you a bite or two to appreciate all the hard work that went into it. Be sure to serve it at room temperature so you can get the full flavor and fine fluffy texture of the cheesecake at its best. I’m imagining throwing a handful of toasted sesame seeds on the plate before I serve. Or maybe a bit of date syrup. Or bits of shaved chocolate. You can imagine it any way you like, of course. If you’re starting to think about Rosh Hashanah, this would be a perfect dessert—a delicious salute to the diversity of the world and a much-needed wish for a sweet, rich year to come.
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- Get the recipe and make it yourself!