I love cheesecakes. It is one of my favorite desserts. There are so many variations to the cheesecake theme that I don’t have to worry about running out of ideas for blog posts. My cheesecake recipe this week makes a delightful little dessert which is incredibly easy to mix up. Plus, it is rather unique — as there is no sugar in the bottom layer. At first I thought I was reading a misprint of the ingredients. But, I followed the instructions exactly and everybody loved the resulting cheesecake. Sometimes “sweet” isn’t always the best thing. I added a blueberry swirl topping and sauce made with fresh blueberries from this year’s crop. I hope you will try making this recipe, too, and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Love and Knishes Cookbook
The recipe for this little cheesecake comes from an old, classic cookbook called “Love and Knishes” — “an irrepressible guide to Jewish cooking.” It was given to me by my mother-in-law when we were first married and has been sitting on my bookshelf for all these years. The cookbook written by Sara Kasdan (1911 – 1999) of Louisville and was published Vanguard Press in 1956. Vanguard Press is no longer in business and Sara Kasdan has passed away. So, I am pretty sure that I’m okay to reprint this recipe. There appears to be very little information about Sara Kashan on the internet. I did find one article in Taste.com which interviewed Sara’s daughters and reviewed the cookbook. The reviewer concluded that Sara lived a fairly typical life of a suburban housewife and did not author many other books. She gave lectures on the cookbook at synagogues around the country, otherwise Sara helped her husband run his business.
This cookbook, however, has become a staple in Jewish homes and is still treasured by my 98-year-old mother-in-law. It is full of humor, subtle quips and lots and lots of traditional Jewish recipes. What other cookbook would have an entire chapter on noodle recipes entitled “Oddles of Noodles” or spend two pages explaining what tzimmes are. (I still don’t know.) It is my “go to” source whenever I what to recipe for a particular Jewish dish, especially for one of the traditional Jewish holidays.
You will never find an easier cheesecake recipe that this one. It is so simple to mix up. Absolutely no fuss. The “Blueberry Sauce” is a little more complicated, but that can be made ahead of time. Here are the ingredients for the filling. The bottom layer is cream cheese and eggs. Wow, two ingredients. The top layer is sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Wow, three ingredients. It is a tiny cheesecake and uses only 1-1/2 blocks (12 oz) cream cheese as opposed to traditional cheesecakes which call for 3 blocks of cream cheese (or 24 oz).
To make the recipe, first prepare the crust. Combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs and press into the bottom of a 8″ springform pan. And you don’t pre-bake the crust! I used purchased graham cracker crumbs (1-1/2 cup) which saves a little time and effort.
Mix up the bottom layer of the filling by combining the softened cream cheese and eggs and beating until creamy and smooth using an electric mixer. Pour onto the crust and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. (This cheesecake is so small, no need to put in a water bath to bake.)
Let the cheesecake cool on the counter to room temperature — the instructions state that this is “at lease one hour”. Meanwhile, I hope you have already made the blueberry sauce. If not, make the blueberry sauce now, shown below.
Next, turn the oven up to 375 degrees. Mix up the ingredients for the top layer by hand — sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Pour over the bottom layer. Swirl some of the blueberry sauce onto to the top of the cream cheese layer. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until the sour cream begins to set.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and chill. This makes a show-stopper dessert. Serve with additional blueberry sauce and garnish with fresh blueberries.
One of my incentives for making this recipe was to use some of the fresh blueberries from my garden. So, I made an aromatic sauce with the blueberries. It makes about 2 cups of sauce, so there is plenty to serve along with the cheesecake or to use for other recipes. Here are the ingredients (woops, I omitted the water).
To get the maximum flavor for this sauce, I cooked the blueberries at a very low heat in a little water until they began to pop. Then, I mashed the blueberries and put them through a sieve, discarding the blueberry skins.
I made a “simple syrup” of sugar and water — boiling the sugar syrup to concentrate it. Then I stirred in cornstarch (dissolved in a little cold water), lemon juice and a pinch of salt. I stirred until the sauce boiled and thickened. Last add one tablespoon of butter. Yum, this aromatic sauce can be used with many other dishes such as an ice cream sauce or on pancakes.
Enjoy this small cheesecake recipe this summer from an interesting and nostalgic cookbook. The dessert is a refreshing change from the very, very sweet cheesecakes that are often found on restaurant menus. This one is light and soothing. It is a small cheesecake, but then, who needs large dessert portions these days? The blueberry sauce adds just enough sweet flavor!
Love and Knishes Cheesecake
- 16 graham crackers, finely crushed (1-1/2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs)
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 12 ounces cream cheese
- 2 eggs (large)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 pint (2 cups) sour cream
Method and Steps:
- Mix crushed graham crackers with melted butter; pat into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form.*
- Beat cream cheese and eggs until smooth and well blended.
- Pour into graham-cracker crust.
- Bake for 20 minutes in 350-degree oven.
- Cool completely (at least 1 hour).
- Add sugar and vanilla to sour cream.
- Spread over cooled cheesecake and bake for 5 minutes in 375 degree oven.** NOTE: I added dollops of Blueberry Swirl Sauce to top of sour cream layer and swirled in with a fork prior to baking.
- Cool and refrigerate.
SOURCE: Love and Knishes “An Irrepressible Guide to Jewish Cooking”, 1956. by Sara Kasdan. New York: The Vanguard Press.
*NOTE: I used an 8-inch spring form pan rather than a 9-inch spring form pan.
**I actually baked the cheesecake, after adding the top layer, for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.
Here is the Blueberry Swirl Sauce recipe:
Blueberry Swirl Sauce
- 2 cups fresh blueberries
- 1-3/4 cups water, divided
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- dash salt
- 1 Tbsp butter
Method and Steps:
- Sort blueberries, remove any stems; rinse and drain.
- Add blueberries and 1 cup water to a medium-size sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until blueberries begin to pop, about 10 minutes.
- Remove blueberries from stove, cool to room temperature. Press blueberries through a sieve into a bowl. Press out as much juice and pulp as possible. Reserve blueberry juice and pulp and set aside. Discard blueberry skins.
- To make the simple syrup, add sugar and 1/2 cup water in another medium-size sauce pan. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally until syrup is slightly reduced in volume. Remove from stove.
- Add the blueberry juice and pulp to the simple syrup and stir to combine.
- In a small bowl, add cornstarch and water. Stir to dissolve cornstarch. Add a little of the hot blueberry syrup to the dissolved cornstarch, stirring constantly, to heat the cornstarch. Then pour this back into the saucepan with the blueberry syrup, stirring constantly.
- Return to stove, and turn stove to medium-high heat. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract and dash of salt. Stirring constantly, heat until the blueberry syrup bubbles and thickens.
- Remove from stove, and add butter. Stir until butter is melted.