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Dairy Diaries

For many, it’s exciting to take out and dust off the dairy dishes. For others, baking with cheese and butter is slightly intimidating. But that’s okay. Thankfully, we have the FT staff sharing with us their baking faves and tips to fully take advantage of the rich ingredients at our disposal. Happy baking!

Quick and Easy Banana Muffins

I love banana muffins. Not the healthy-enough-for-breakfast type, but actually cake just in mini form. This recipe is my go-to when I have browning bananas and a sweet tooth.


  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1½ cups mashed bananas (about 4 medium or 3 large ripe bananas)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ⅔ cup packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 cup chopped dairy or pareve chocolate of your choice (optional; I use a mix of dark, milk, and white)

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Spray a 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray or use cupcake liners.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer, mash the bananas. On medium speed, beat or whisk in the melted butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and milk. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, then beat or whisk until combined. If adding chopped chocolate, fold it in now. Batter will be thick.

Spoon the batter into liners, filling them all the way to the top. Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F (220°C), then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (175°C). Bake for an additional 16–18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins need in the oven is about 21–23 minutes, give or take. (For mini muffins, bake for 12–14 minutes total at 350°F/175°C.) Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes in the muffin pan, then transfer to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Muffins stay fresh covered at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

—Michal Frischman, chief of staff, US office

Basic Low-Fat Cheesecake

This is one of my favorite recipes. It’s a super basic, low-fat cheesecake that has negative patchkeh, if that’s even a thing. I’ve made these into cheesecake squares, in muffin tins with an Oreo at the bottom to act as crust, and poured into a traditional graham cracker pie crust — all delicious!

  • 30 oz (850-g) fat-free plain Mehadrin Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 3–5-oz (85–140-g) instant vanilla (or cheesecake) pudding mix
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Beat ingredients together and pour into a parchment-lined 8x8-inch (20x20-cm) pan, or into a reduced-fat graham cracker crust. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until set.

Chill. Serve with berries and whipped cream, or topped with a spoonful of cherry or blueberry pie filling.

Note: A larger pudding box will yield a sweeter cheesecake. A smaller one will be very lightly sweet.

—Sarah Faygie Berkowitz, columnist

Ultimate Cheesecake

Confession: I don’t like cheesecake. I don’t like sweet cheese anything, actually — cheese blintzes, Danishes, even my mother-in-law’s amazing Chanukah cheese latkes that my kids talk about all year; I just don’t enjoy the sweet cheese taste. But my husband does, and the second Shavuos we were married, I decided to try to make a cheesecake.

My friend Chanie Feigenbaum recommended Susie Fishbein’s, so I bought a springform pan and got to work. Yes, you need to grind graham crackers for the crust and beat the cream cheese and eggs, but based on the complexity of recipes I’ve seen, as cheesecakes go, it’s not terribly time-consuming, the directions are easy to follow, and most of the time commitment is that you need your oven set to a low temperature for 4-plus hours.

That first year I made it, one end of the towel caught under the pan as I transferred it from the oven, and I dropped the whole thing. We were left with two-thirds of a lopsided cheesecake, which was more than enough for my husband, but still.

That first attempt got rave reviews, and since then, I make it every Shavuos. It comes out deliciously creamy, and even I, who to this day doesn’t like cheesecake, find myself sneaking a slice or two.

Recipe reprinted from Kosher by Design, by permission of the copyright holders, ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications

  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 5 8-oz (225-g) bars cream cheese, softened for 20 minutes
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1⅓ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ⅛ cup flour
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 200°F (90°C). Spray a 10-inch (26-cm) springform pan with cooking spray very well, especially the bottom.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and brown sugar and press into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Place cream cheeses, eggs, and yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared crust. Bake for 3 hours and 30 minutes (the cookbook says 3 hours and 10 minutes, but I found that wasn’t enough time, it wasn’t fully baked for me). Turn the oven off, open the door a crack, and leave cake in for another hour. Remove from oven and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Susie recommends topping it with caramel sauce or toffee pieces. I like slicing strawberries and lining the top of the cake. I find the acidity cuts the sweetness/richness a little, and the berries add such a nice color.

—Rachel Bachrach, associate editor

Irresistible Cheese Babka

Although cheesecake, with all its variations, is synonymous with Shavuos, ever since I developed this recipe, we make it all year long. It’s that good! Freezing the filling prior to baking prevents it from oozing out. Nobody wants the piece without the filling! Can freeze after baking as well.


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp dry yeast
  • ½ cup + 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar
  • 650 g (1½ lbs) 5% quark cheese
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1–1½ cups sugar
  • 4–6 Tbsp instant vanilla pudding mix or flour (can use half and half)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp vanilla sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

For dough: Mix together all ingredients until a soft dough forms. Alternately, place all dry ingredients in the mixing bowl. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let bubble a little. Add it and the rest of ingredients to bowl. Mix as above. If the dough appears dry, add a bit more oil. Place in a greased bowl and let rise for one hour.

For filling: Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Divide evenly among 4 small, narrow loaf pans and freeze. This can be done the day before.

After the dough has risen, divide it into four parts. Roll each quarter into a large rectangle. Pop out the frozen cheese filling onto the center of the dough and fold over the sides. Carefully turn over and place seam side down in a narrow long loaf pan, easing the dough into shape.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Brush each loaf with glaze.

Mix crunch ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over babkas.

Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

—Brynie Greisman, recipe columnist

Dairy Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

Butter-based cookies are one thing. But chewy chocolate chip butter-based cookies with milk chocolate?? Le’lo milim!! Enjoy these over Shavuos. I adapted the recipe from one I received from Devorah Katz.


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour, divided
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts (or nut/nuts of your choice)
  • 1 bar dairy white chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Mix butter, eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Add half the flour, along with the baking soda and salt. Mix. Add remaining flour. Mix. Stir in nuts and chocolate.

I like to refrigerate the dough for a bit, but you can go crazy and refrigerate half and bake half right away and see the difference.

Drop by tablespoonful on a baking sheet and bake for 10–12 minutes. Let cool.

These freeze really well. I don’t love baking them from raw frozen dough, but honestly, I never really have any left to test that theory out.

—Chaia Frishman, columnist


Shavuos is my favorite chag because I believe butter is better. I go crazy using butter, creams, and milk in my desserts! Here’s a simple recipe for pavlova with a delightful topping, for those who want something lighter.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch, sifted
  • 1 16-oz (450-g) container heavy cream
  • 6 strawberries, sliced
  • 2 kiwis, peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 250°F (120°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

Add sugar, vinegar, and sifted cornstarch; beat until a soft and glossy meringue forms.

Pour the meringue mixture onto prepared parchment paper, shaping it into a large circle.

Bake for 112 hours, or until crisp on the outside.

Turn off oven and allow the meringue to cool inside the oven.

Prepare the topping: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Spread cream over the top of the cooled meringue shell. Decorate with sliced fruit.

—Naomi Nachman, columnist

Milk Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Years ago, I had a neighbor who would send these cookies for mishloach manos each year. We used to wait for them impatiently and then polish them off down to the last crumb. Of course, I asked her to share the recipe with me, and I’ve included it in my Shavuos lineup ever since!


  • 4 sticks (2 cups) butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups flour
  • 5 cups ground oats (I run rolled oats through my food processor)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 32 oz (910 g/about 5⅔ cups) brown and white chocolate chunks
  • 3 cups chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Cream together butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until well combined.

Add flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, continuing to beat until well blended. Mix in chocolate chunks and nuts on low speed.

Form dough into 1-inch (212-cm) balls and place 2 inches (5 cm) apart on a lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes; remove from oven and cool on wire racks.

—Chavi Feldman, recipe columnist

Cream Puffs

These are really delicious, impressive, and fairly easy to make! Drizzle with chocolate or top with sliced strawberries before serving.

  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 small eggs
  • ⅛ tsp vanilla extract
  • dairy whipped cream

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Place water, butter, and salt in a small pot. Heat the pot and stir thoroughly. Heat for 5 minutes or until just simmering.

Sift 1 cup of flour gradually into the pot and stir well. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix well.

Drop batter by the tablespoon onto a nonstick baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow the cream puffs to cool completely. Fill with whipped cream or with a no-bake cheesecake filling (best right before serving).

—Sarina Laghaei, ad design

Simple Cheesecake with Toppings

I usually try one new cheesecake each year, plus my typical cheesecake in a graham cracker crust. I double the recipe, which gives me enough for three crusts, and do different toppings, such as Lotus crumbs, chocolate marble, lemon, cappuccino, or sour cream.

  • 8 oz (225-g) soft white cheese (such as Tnuva)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 8 oz (225-g) farmer cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and blend with an immersion blender (to make the farmer cheese creamier). Pour into a graham cracker crust and bake for 45 minutes.

These freeze well.

—Faigy Grossman, recipe columnist

Quick and Easy Cheesecake

Here’s my favorite quick and easy cheesecake, which I make every Shavuos. The recipe is from my friend Blima’s mother. I grew up eating it in the bungalow colony!

  • 1 9-inch (23-cm) graham cracker crust
  • 1 lb (450 g) farmer cheese
  • 5 Tbsp sour cream
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk (can be omitted)
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Combine farmer cheese, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes to soften. Mix well with a fork, then add eggs and lemon juice. Mix and fold in flour. Pour into graham cracker crust. Bake for 45 minutes in a toaster oven or 30–40 minutes in a regular oven. Enjoy!

—Goldie Fogel, office manager

No-Fail Cheese Balls

This isn’t quite baking because it’s mix-and-freeze, but it’s one of our never-fail Shavuos treats. I got the recipe at a pre-Shavuos workshop by caterer Devora Hartstein, and the best part, for all those Anglos-in-Israel among us, is that all the ingredients are typical Israeli products — no scouring the aisles for J&J unwhipped or coffee-flavored Greek yogurt!

  • 6 oz (170 g) tea biscuits or cookies, crushed into fine crumbs
  • 9 oz (250 g) quark cheese (gevinah levanah)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla sugar

Combine all ingredients. Roll into bite-size balls and freeze. Once frozen, you can drizzle or dip into melted chocolate.

—Rochel Samet, writer

Pareve Cheesecake

I make this cheesecake every year for those of us who are lactose intolerant. It tastes almost like the real thing and gives us our cheesecake fix even when we can’t enjoy the real deal!

Recipe from Table for Two by Rivka Parizad, reprinted by permission of the copyright holders, Israel Bookshop Publications

  • 1 8-oz (225-g) container pareve cream cheese (I use Tofutti)
  • ½ cup pareve whipping cream (or pareve milk, for a lower fat version)
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla sugar
  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  • 10 oz (280 g) blueberry or cherry pie filling

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the pareve cream cheese and whipping cream. Add the eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla sugar and mix well.

Pour into the graham cracker pie crust and bake for 1 hour. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with blueberry or cherry pie filling immediately before serving.

—Chaya Baila Lieber, copy editor


(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 843)

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