Make it. Eat it. Love it.
This past week marked the beginning of Rosh Hashanah (meaning literally ‘head of the year’), the Jewish new year. In years past it meant sitting around my mothers dinning room table enjoying a feast (and I mean feast, my mother cooks for an army) with family and friends. Now being half way around the world my husband and I celebrate in our own way and started making some new holiday traditions. Traditions that also include a feast. Obviously. This is the second year we hosted a pot luck Rosh Hashanah dinner with our wonderful friends who over the past year have become like family. Now the holidays are not the same without a house filled with MSIHers eating, drinking and laughing.
Most people know Rosh Hashanah to be the holiday of apples and honey to signify a sweet new year ahead. And, while apples and honey, challah and honey cake are still a main component at the holiday table, so are pomegranates. Pomegranates have great significance in the bible and is particularly important on Rosh Hashanah because legend has it that a pomegranate has exactly 613 seeds (though I never bothered to count them) which is the number of mitzvot (commandments) that Jews are supposed to follow. Consuming pomegranates on Rosh Hashanah is supposed to remind us of the good deeds we should be doing in the year to come.
Israel may be known as the land of milk and honey but it should also be known as the land of pomegranates. Used to decorate temples and adorn priests’ garb, inspired by poets and talked about in length in the bible, piled hight at the shuk, gracing fresh juice stands and hanging from trees in most yards, (I even have my own beautiful pomegranate tree!) pomegranates are truly the fruit of the holy land.
In keeping with tradition, Jews from all parts of the globe will include some element of their Rosh Hashanah feast to a symbolic food. Some will dip apples in honey, others with delight in challah and many will indulge in honey cake for dessert. Since I have my own pomegranate tree, I thought it would have been appropriate to include them in my holiday recipes.
I saw this recipe for mascarpone cheesecake from epicurious and with some tweaks, pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds and my moms sour cream cheesecake topping, I turned out a stunning and most delicious Rosh Hashanah dessert. I know that most baked cheesecakes scare people and since you never know what you will get while baking something here in Beer Sheva, I was worried but decided to go for it. I was feeling lucky.
“Cheesecake looks great but may or may not be cooked on the inside,” I texted to Katherine after taking it out of the oven. I let it chill overnight and as soon as I woke up I anxiously ran downstairs to cut a slice. It. Was. Perfect. So, if I can make a perfect baked cheesecake in Beer Sheva then wherever you are in the world, I am sure you will be able to do it too. And, you should because this cheesecake is seriously one of the best cheesecakes. Ever. I mean, hello, it has mascarpone cheese in it!
Ingredients (adapted from Gourmet Magazine)
8 1/2 ounces lemon wafers, finely ground
10 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
20 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz mascarpone cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
pomegranate seeds from 2 large pomegranates
Preheat oven to 350°F and butter bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.
In a bowl stir together wafer crumbs and butter .
Pat wafer/butter mixture onto the bottom and sides (about an 1 1/2 up) of springform pan.
Place pan on a shallow baking pan and bake until golden, about 7-10 minutes.
Leave oven on.
While crust is cooling, make filling.
In a large bowl beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy.
Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add vanilla, lemon juice, salt and pomegranate molasses and mix until combined.
Pour filling into cooled crust and bake until cake is set and puffed around edge but still wiggles slightly when pan is shaken gently, 25 to 30 minutes.
Leave oven on.
Cool slightly in springform pan on rack.
While cheesecake is cooling make sour cream topping.
In a mixing bowl combine sour cream and powdered sugar.
Spread gently on top of slightly cooled cheesecake.
Return cheesecake to the oven and bake until topping is set, about 15 minutes.
Let cheesecake chill for at least 8 hours.
Before serving sprinkle top of cheesecake with pomegranate seeds.