Ari’s Pick: Halvah Swirl Cheesecake from the Bakehouse

Surely you know someone who's earned this type of indulgence. Perhaps it's you.

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.”

halva swirl cheesecakeIt 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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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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