One of America’s Favorites – Cheesecake

January 6, 2020 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | 2 Comments
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Baked cheesecake with raspberries

Cheesecake is a sweet dessert consisting of one or more layers. The main, and thickest layer, consists of a mixture of soft, fresh cheese (typically cream cheese or ricotta), eggs, and sugar. If there is a bottom layer, it often consists of a crust or base made from crushed cookies (or digestive biscuits), graham crackers, pastry, or sometimes sponge cake. It may be baked or unbaked (usually refrigerated).

Cheesecake is usually sweetened with sugar and may be flavored in many different ways. It may be flavored by adding vanilla, spices, lemon, chocolate, pumpkin, or other flavors to the cheese layer. Additional flavors and visual appeal may be added by topping the finished pie with fruit, whipped cream, nuts, cookies, fruit sauce, chocolate syrup, or other toppings.

An ancient form of cheesecake may have been a popular dish in ancient Greece even prior to Romans’ adoption of it with the conquest of Greece. The earliest attested mention of a cheesecake is by the Greek physician Aegimus (5th century BCE), who wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes. The earliest extant cheesecake recipes are found in Cato the Elder’s De Agri Cultura, which includes recipes for three cakes for religious uses: libum, savillum and placenta. Of the three, placenta is most like most modern cheesecakes, having a crust that is separately prepared and baked.

A more modern version is found in Forme of Cury, an English cookbook from 1390. On this basis, chef Heston Blumenthal has argued that cheesecake is an English invention.

Strawberry cheese cake

The English name cheesecake has been used only since the 15th century, but the cheesecake did not evolve into its modern form until somewhere around the 18th century. Europeans began removing yeast and adding beaten eggs to the cheesecake instead. With the overpowering yeast flavor gone, the result tasted more like a dessert treat.

Modern commercial American cream cheese was developed in 1872, when William Lawrence, from Chester, New York, while looking for a way to recreate the soft, French cheese Neufchâtel, accidentally came up with a way of making an “unripened cheese” that is heavier and creamier; other dairymen came up with similar creations independently.

Modern cheesecake comes in two different types. Along with the baked cheesecake, some cheesecakes are made with uncooked cream-cheese on a crumbled-biscuit base. This type of cheesecake was invented in the United States.

Ironically, modern cheesecake is not usually classified as a cake, despite the name. People who classify it as a torte point to the presence of many eggs, which are the sole source of leavening, as a key factor. For others, the overall structure, with the separate crust, the soft filling, and the absence of flour, is compelling evidence that it is a custard pie. Other sources identify it as a flan or tart.

The United States has several different recipes for cheesecake and this usually depends on the region in which the cake was baked, as well as the cultural background of the person baking it. These cheesecakes are typically baked before serving.

New York style cheese cake

New York–style cheesecake relies upon heavy cream or sour cream. The typical New York cheesecake is rich and has a dense, smooth, and creamy consistency. Sour cream makes the cheesecake more resilient to freezing and is the method by which most frozen cheesecakes are made. However, a lavish variant uses sour cream as a topping, applied when the cheesecake is cooked. It is mixed with vanilla extract and sugar and replaced in the oven, essentially making the cheesecake twice-baked.

Chicago–style cheesecake is a baked cream-cheese version which is firm on the outside with a soft and creamy texture on the inside. These cheesecakes are often made in a greased cake pan and are relatively fluffy in texture. The crust used with this style of cheesecake is most commonly made from shortbread which is crushed and mixed with sugar and butter. Some frozen cheesecakes are Chicago-style.

 

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