Grandma Adela's cheesecake and the old "Lavee" oven in which she used to bake it. Sarit Eisen
Grandma Adela's cheesecake and the old "Lavee" oven in which she used to bake it. Sarit Eisen
Recipe

Grandma Adela’s Cheesecake

This is not just any cheesecake - it is topped with slightly burnt meringue. It symbolizes the home that Grandma Adela built after the Holocaust

My grandmother, Adela Meltzer (nee Miller), was born in 1922 in Warsaw, Poland, to parents Yitzhak and Gita, and sister to her brother Chaim. When the Nazis entered Poland, the family lived together in the ghetto, until her parents were murdered. The children, Adela and Chaim, were sent to the camps – Adela was sent to the Majdanek camp, where she was forced to work under difficult conditions. Her magic hands knew how to knit carefully, and these saved her from death. Her brother, Chaim, was sent to the Lublin camp, his life ended there as well.

Adela immigrated to Israel and started a small family. She married Yeshayahu Meltzer, also a Holocaust survivor, and they had two children: Moshe and Gita-Rachel (Tova). Adela kept silent for a long time and did not tell anyone about the horrors she had gone through. She lived with heavy emotional distress, but maintained a warm home with plenty of love which she gave through food.

My late Grandma Adela and her small family: Grandma Adela’s cheesecake. Sarit Eisen
My late Grandma Adela and her small family: Grandma Adela’s cheesecake. Sarit Eisen

Adela was a teenager during the Holocaust, and learned how to cook mainly from her neighbors and friends. One of the family’s favorite dishes was their cheesecake – which consists of a layer of crust, a cheese filling and a crown of meringue, in which the sugar caramelizes and looks like royal golden drops.

Adela passed her love for the kitchen on to her daughter, Tova; my mother, who passed this love on to me and which I passed on to my daughters. She left a legacy of love for the kitchen and hands that create flavors. I uploaded this recipe, of a baked cheesecake with meringue, as a memorial in her honor on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The recipe written in my mother’s hand: Grandma Adela’s cheesecake. Sarit Eisen
The recipe written in my mother’s hand: Grandma Adela’s cheesecake. Sarit Eisen
Grandma Adela's Cheesecake. Sarit Eisen
Grandma Adela’s Cheesecake. Sarit Eisen

Ingredients for Cheesecake topped with meringue

For the crust:

  • 1½ cups white flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 3.5 oz (100 grams) butter cold, cut into cubes (Adela preferred margarine)
  • 1 egg yolks (save the white for the meringue)

For the cheese filling:

  • 1 lb 10.5 oz (750 grams) 9% white cheese
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue)
  • 1⅔ tablespoons (20 grams) vanilla sugar 2 packets
  • grated lemon peel from one lemon

For the meringue:

  • 3 egg whites (reserved from the crust and filling)
  • 1/2 cup Sugar

Instructions

  • 1. Heat the oven to 355F (180C) degrees and line the bottom and sides of your pan with parchment paper.

Prepare the crust:

  • 2. In a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar and butter in short pulses until you get a crumbly mixture. Add the egg yolk and process until uniform. If the dough does not form, you can add a tablespoon or two of cold water.

  • 3. Lightly flour a work surface, transfer the dough to it and roll out to a size similar to that of the pan (no need to be precise). Transfer the dough to the pan and flatten it with your fingers on the bottom so that the dough covers it evenly.

Prepare the filling:

  • 4. Mix all the filling ingredients together until uniform.

  • 5. Pour the filling into the pan lined with dough and bake for 30 minutes until the cake still jiggles a little but is mostly firm.

Meanwhile, prepare the meringue:

  • 6. In a mixer set to medium speed, beat the sugar and egg whites until shiny and stable but still soft. Pour over the hot cake and put in the oven for another 15 minutes, until the meringue turns slightly golden.

  • 7. Turn off the oven, open the door and cool the cake in the turned off oven for half an hour, and another hour outside the oven. Keep in the fridge until the cake is completely firm. After cooling, the meringue will "sweat" a little, and the drops that will accumulate on the surface of the meringue will look like beautiful golden droplets. The cake tastes best at room temperature, so if you keep it in the fridge, it's better to take it out half an hour before serving.

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