Zingerman's Halvah Swirl Cheesecake

Zingerman's Halvah Swirl Cheesecake

Zingerman's Halvah Swirl Cheesecake

How can you ever improve on cheesecake? Our friends at Zingerman’s Bakehouse, a beloved institution in Ann Arbor, Michigan, have found a way. Their special Rosh Hashanah cheesecake features swirls of vanilla tahini and chocolate fillings, plus chunks of sesame halvah. While not overly sweet, the cheesecake is rich and wonderfully indulgent. Our thanks to the folks at Zingerman’s for sharing the recipe with us.

Prep
45 mins
Bake
1 hr 30 mins to 2 hrs
Total
6 hrs 30 mins
Yield
one 9” cheesecake
Zingerman's Halvah Swirl Cheesecake - select to zoom
Zingerman's Halvah Swirl Cheesecake - select to zoom
Zingerman's Halvah Swirl Cheesecake - select to zoom

Instructions

  1. To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Cut the brownies into 1” cubes and toast them in the preheated oven until dry, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. (Reserve the rest of the brownies from the batch for another use, or freeze for longer storage.)

  2. Pulse the cooled brownies in a food processor until they’re fine crumbs. You should have about 2 cups (256g). Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

  3. Over low heat or in the microwave, melt the butter and chocolate together.

  4. Pour the melted butter and chocolate over the brownie crumbs and mix until combined.

  5. Press the crumbs into the bottom and about 1” up the sides of an ungreased 9” springform pan.

  6. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil and place it into a larger pan with sides about 3” high. This will be the water bath in which the cheesecake bakes, and the foil will prevent water from leaking through the springform into the cheesecake.

  7. To make the vanilla tahini filling: In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese at low speed until smooth. If using farmer cheese, smooth the curds by pulsing in a food processor before adding to the cream cheese and beating until smooth.

  8. Whisk together the sugar and flour, then add to the cheese mixture and stir until evenly combined.

  9. Add the eggs, yolks, cream, and vanilla to the cheese mixture, stiring until smooth. Stop and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl occasionally.

  10. Add the tahini and continue mixing until smooth. Scrape the bowl well. Set the mixture aside.

  11. To make the chocolate filling: In a large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese at low speed until smooth. Again, if using farmer cheese, smooth the curds by pulsing in a food processor before adding to the cream cheese and beating until smooth.

  12. Add the sugar and mix until thoroughly combined.

  13. Stir in the yolks and vanilla. Stop and scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

  14. In a microwave-safe bowl or small saucepan, combine the cream and chocolate and heat until the chocolate melts, stirring until smooth.

  15. Add the melted chocolate to the cheese mixture and mix until smooth. Scrape the bowl well. Set the mixture aside.

  16. To assemble the cheesecake: Arrange the chunks of halvah evenly over the bottom crust.

  17. Transfer the fillings to the pan. Start by adding about half the vanilla tahini filling, then about half the chocolate filling, followed by about two-thirds of the remaining vanilla filling, then the remainder of the chocolate filling. Dollop the last of the vanilla filling on top. Gently swirl the fillings together using a butter knife or wooden skewer.

  18. To bake the cheesecake: Carefully place the prepared cheesecake into a preheated 300°F oven. Fill the water bath pan slowly with hot water until it’s about halfway up the outside of the springform pan.

  19. Bake the cheesecake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the surface is set and the cake jiggles slightly, with no wave-like movement under the surface. The cheesecake is completely baked when a tester inserted into the center comes out moist but not coated in batter; the internal temperature should read 175°F.

  20. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to rest for 20 minutes in the oven, still in the water bath.

  21. Remove the cake from the oven and run a warm, dry offset spatula around the edge, between the cake and the pan. This will help prevent cracks.

  22. Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes at room temperature before covering and placing in the refrigerator. Once the cheesecake is fully cooled, it may be carefully removed from the springform pan. Serve chilled.

  23. Storage information: Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Tips from our Bakers

  • Feel free to use chocolate cookie crumbs in place of brownie crumbs. In a food processor, pulse 24 vanilla-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (269g), e.g., Oreos, with 1/4 cup (28g) confectioners’ sugar. Add 4 tablespoons (57g) melted butter, pulsing briefly until evenly crumbly. Press the crust into the springform pan and continue with the recipe.

  • Farmer cheese, sold in a block, is usually found near the cottage cheese or cream cheese in your supermarket’s dairy section. If you have trouble finding it, simply swap in additional cream cheese when preparing the vanilla tahini and chocolate fillings. Bake as directed.