What is Cheesecake?

A Cheesecake Primer
Cheesecake

A Cheesecake Primer

It’s gooey, creamy, and it just seems to melt in your mouth the moment you take a bite of it. What are we talking about here? What else, if not everybody’s favorite? It’s Cheesecake. If you haven’t had your first slice of this delicious dessert, then you certainly must have been living under a rock since you were born. You seriously need to have a taste of this great heavenly cake, do so but thank me now not later.

So, what is cheesecake? Well, cheesecake is a large family of thick and creamy torte with either sweet or tangy flour, made with cream and soft cheese, and other baking ingredients.

A Brief History of Cheesecake

The history of cheesecake is quite an interesting tale, and if you have ever had the thought that cheesecake is a modern creation, then you’re so wrong. Cheesecake is believed to be the dessert of Gods and Olympians. History has it that the first cheesecakes were made in Ancient Greece – more than 4000 years ago. The dessert began solely as a source of energy – it was used as food by athletes before the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. and was served during wedding receptions.

Romans added a little twist to the cheesecake recipe after conquering Greece. Instead of grinding the cheese, Roman pounded it, and included eggs in the mixture and then called it “libuma.” They offered libuma to appease their gods into giving them blessing and achieving success, and it was also served during special occasions. Politician Marcus Cato was the first Roman to record their version of the recipe.

As the Romans moved through Europe, they carried the cheesecake with them, and without much delay, it became a favorite dessert in Britain and all of Eastern Europe. The different regions used special ingredients which were unique to the area, and the dessert began to shape into the cheesecake we recognize today. The original recipe had its biggest change during the 18th century – When eggs were used to replace yeast, and it made the dessert more cake-like

When the Europeans visited America, they brought the recipe along. Unknown to them, they were exposing the recipe to one of its most distinctive changes. A New York dairy farmer made the first cream cheese when he was trying to make a Neufchatel, but instead, he made the cream cheese. The new cream cheese was branded and sold in 1875. After 50 years, the recipe was purchased by Kraft Company and is still making it.

Different Types of Cheesecake

Today, Havarti, ricotta cheese, twaróg, quark or cream cheese are used for making cheesecake, with additional ingredients like cream, eggs, sugar, and fruits. Just as there are many cheesecakes flavors, there are also many styles of making them. Below are few of them and a summary of each.

We have the American style cheesecake which is made of cream cheese. After the creation of the first cream cheese in 1872, it became a popular ingredient for cheesecake in the country.

New York-style cheesecake also called Jewish style cheesecake is a favorite among others because of its richness and smooth consistency which comes from eggs yolks. The recipe contains cream cheese, eggs, eggs yolks and heavy cream, and it’s baked in a 5 to 6-inch springform pan. Just every restaurant has its version of the recipe; some recipes include cottage cheese, lemon, chocolate or strawberry to give a distinct texture and flavor.

Philadelphia style cheesecake is lighter in texture and creamier than the NY style cheesecake.

Pennsylvania Dutch-style cheesecake relies on cottage cheese with large curds. This kind of cheese is known as pot or farmer’s cheese.

Country style cheesecakes are made of buttermilk which produces a firm text while increasing its acidity – serving as a preservative.

Chicago-style cheesecake is made of cream cheese produced by Eli’s Cheesecake. This cheesecake is creamy on the inside with a firm crust.

The United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand style cheesecake make use of biscuit for its crust, and the filling relies on soft cheese, cream or gelatin, and sugar.  It’s a rich, creamy no-bake dessert. Rumor has it that Queen Elizabeth II enjoys strawberry cheesecake.

Italian style cheesecakes are a modern-day version of the Roman cheesecake. The cheesecake uses either mascarpone or ricotta cheese and substitutes honey for sugar. Italian cheesecake recipe also excluded the use of bay leaves and adopted the use of ingredients, like vanilla extract and barley flakes. This cheesecake is drier in comparison to the American style cheesecake and often presented with small bits of crystallized fruit.

French style cheesecake is very light in texture. The light texture is from cheese that can be found in Paris and some part of South France. Gelatin acts as a binding ingredient, and the height of the cake is only about 3 to 5cm.

Like I mentioned earlier, the list of styles is not exhaustive as every area has their distinct way of making it. This list will get you started on your quest for knowledge on how to make this great dessert.

The Different Approaches to Making Cheesecake

Baked Vs. Icebox Cheesecake

Baked cheesecake as the name implies, is baked in a water bath or oven. A baked cheesecake recipe contains cheese, flour, and eggs which help to set the cake. The cake is dense and velvety, unlike Icebox Cheesecake.

Icebox cheesecake is No-Bake (no cooking) delicious dessert that you can use to impress your guests or for summer. It is refrigerated overnight. The cake has a custard-like texture and is often light and airy and has the same rich and creamy taste of the regular cheesecake. Icebox cheesecake has tender layers filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Regular Vs. New York Cheesecake

Other cheesecakes are not like the NY cheesecake. They are not as creamy and dense like NY cheesecake.  Historically, there are only three primary ingredients were used in making cheesecake, and these include cheese, flour, and sweetener. Out of the quest for making cheesecakes more relevant than the conventional after course, culinary experts and researchers have been able to record tremendous success.

New York cheesecake tastes better than cheesecakes made in other places. According to American Classic, all other cheesecakes are frauds.  The whole of U.S. has come to accept cheesecake as New York Cheesecake. The cake is heavier and creamier than regular cheesecakes. The ingredients are nothing but cream cheese, sugar, cream, eggs. Adding to the ingredients or removing from them alters the New York cheesecake.

Sweet Vs. Savory Cheesecake

Sweet cheesecakes are sufficiently soft and delicious. The flavor and taste of the cheese and other fresh ingredients are dominant. You can use fruit, jello or even chocolate as the topping.

On the other hand, savory cheesecakes have different ingredients which make them salty and spicy. However, they can be made with the use of various types of cheese, but fresh Italian ricotta cheese is perfect for making them. They can also be made using skim milk, goat milk, and cow milk. With a savory recipe, you will need to use one of the ingredients – like spinach, walnut, etc. to garnish it and to show what flavor of cheesecake it is.

Cooking Tips

  • Don’t over mix. Over mixing would cause cracking.
  • Always preheat the oven for about 15 to 30 minutes to ensure an ambient temperature. 30 minutes is perfect.
  • Do not peak while the caking is in the oven. If your oven doesn’t have a glass window, you must wait for at least 30 minutes before you take a quick look.
  • Use springform pans – they are perfect for cheesecakes. I recommend you use an aluminum foil to wrap the bottom before baking. With springform pans, you can easily remove the cake without any cracking. Loosen the side of the pan with a spatula before removing the cheesecake.
  • Always stick the recommended cooking temperature. Setting the temperature above or below may get you a crusty topping which will lead to cracking – instead of a nice creamy top with a golden brown appearance.

Related References

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