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Food

Baklava-Topped Cheesecake to Enjoy during Cheesefare

February 12, 2023

During the final week before Great Lent, those getting ready for the strict fasting can still consume fish, eggs, and dairy products like milk, cheese, and butter. Cheesefare Sunday, is the final Sunday before Clean Monday, Kathara Deftera, and the last day for enjoying dairy products. Cheesefare Sunday, is also called the Sunday of Forgiveness and focuses on the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, an event that shows us how far we have fallen in sin and separated ourselves from God, as noted on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese website. The article points out that “at the onset of Great Lent and a period of intense fasting, this Sunday reminds us of our need for God’s forgiveness and guides our hearts, minds, and spiritual efforts on returning to Him in repentance.”

Each region of Greece has wonderful traditional recipes enjoyed during this time of the year. Among the classic recipes are, of course, tyropites made with the delicious cheeses available in as many varieties as there are Greek cheeses and used in both sweet and savory recipes. Also among the traditional recipes enjoyed during Cheesefare are galatopites or milk pies, rice pudding, pies with trahana fillings, and loukoumades filled with mezithra. Cheesecake is another Greek favorite going back to ancient times.

 

Baklava-Topped Cheesecake

 

3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature

4 eggs, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup whole milk or sour cream, at room temperature

2 (9-inch) store-bought graham cracker crusts or

Homemade graham cracker crust, recipe follows

For the baklava topping:

2 tablespoons melted butter

3 sheets phyllo dough

1/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds, pistachios, and walnuts

2 tablespoons Greek honey

 

Set out the cream cheese, eggs, and milk or sour cream for about half an hour to one hour to bring them to room temperature. Cut the cream cheese into smaller pieces and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar until foamy. Add the cream cheese one piece at a time and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract, cornstarch and milk or sour cream and continue beating until smooth. Pour into two graham cracker crusts or prepared 9 or 10-inch springform pan. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven for 45 minutes over a water bath (place a large baking pan on the lower rack of your oven and fill with boiling water, bake the cheesecake on the rack above it for even baking) until lightly golden brown around the edge and set in the middle. Allow to cool completely on wire racks before topping the cheesecake.

For the baklava topping, tear the phyllo dough into one-inch pieces. Place the phyllo pieces in a bowl and add the melted butter, then stir until all the pieces are coated. Spread the coated phyllo pieces in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire racks and then sprinkle the baked phyllo pieces and the chopped nuts on top of the baked and cooled cheesecake. Drizzle with the honey and serve.

Cheesecake. (Photo by Aliona Gumeniuk, via Unsplash)

Graham Cracker Crust

 

1 1/2 cups graham crackers crumbs

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

 

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and the sugar. Add the melted butter and stir until well-combined. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9 or 10-inch springform and up the sides using a measuring cup to press the crumbs evenly. You can use your hands to press the crust into place but a measuring cup gives a more even result. Fill with the cheesecake filling and bake according to the recipe.

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