Give me Cheesecake

It seems cheesecake is a thing again. I don’t think it really ever stopped being popular, but it certainly seems to be very trendy right now. On my dessert menu currently creme brulee is the #1 seller, and it doesn’t seem to matter how I interpret or present it, or even the flavour for that matter. #2 is consistantly Cheesecake, and occasionally surpasses all other desserts. So, cheesecake is the topic. Why the fascination, how is it made, and what can you do with it on a dessert menu? Lets investigate.

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

Cheesecake is usually sweetened with sugar and may be flavored in different ways. Vanillaspiceslemonchocolatepumpkin, or other flavors may be added to the main cheese layer. Additional flavors and visual appeal may be added by topping the finished dessert with fruitwhipped creamnuts, cookies, fruit saucechocolate syrup, or other ingredients.

Culinary Classification

Modern cheesecake is not usually classified as an actual “cake“, despite the name (compare with Boston cream “pie”). 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. Others find compelling evidence that it is a custard pie, based on the overall structure, with the separate crust, the soft filling, and the absence of flour. Other sources identify it as a flan, or tart.

History

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 (πλακουντοποιικόν σύγγραμμα—plakountopoiikon sungramma).  The earliest extant cheesecake recipes are found in Cato the Elder‘s De Agri Cultura, which includes recipes for three cakes for religious uses: libumsavillum and placenta.  Of the three, placenta cake is the most like modern cheesecakes: having a crust that is separately prepared and baked.

A more modern version called a sambocade, made with elderflower and rose water, 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.

The modern cheesecake

The English name cheesecake has been used only since the 15th century,  and 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. The early 19th-century cheesecake recipes in A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Rundell are made with cheese curd and fresh butter. One version is thickened with blanched almonds, eggs and cream, and the cakes may have included currantsbrandyraisin winenutmeg and orange flower water.

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-cookie or graham cracker base. This type of cheesecake was invented in the United States.

How to make Cheesecake.

Rather than provide a recipe, let me explain it with formulas and procedure. Want a more thorough understanding of Pastry technique? Join as a member and get access to our culinary portals, feel free to contact me; macgillb2@gmail.com or pop by www.dtpcs.biz for more information.

So the formula for baked custard, is 2 parts liquid to 1 part egg. Essentially a cheesecake is a baked custard. Any combination of flavoring, cream or milk, whole eggs, egg whites/yolks works. This is how it works for 1 full 12″ springform cheesecake. 3 packages of cream cheese, .5 cup of sugar and three eggs. Not exactly 2:1, but for obvious reasons, cream cheese is very dense, and doesn’t require as much stabilization. I prefer sugar or short dough for crust….in fact anything but graham cracker! So, you have a crust and a filling. What’s next? Creativity.

Everything has to work together, it starts with an idea. The last cheesecake I made was a Moroccan lemon interpretation. Vanilla saffron short dough. Filling; lemon, pomegranate, and spices. Finishing; meringue and pomegranate glaze. Of course this still has to be plated, and a number of other elements are added to finish. There are many ways to make a cheesecake, let your imagination soar. Or you could come visit us at Chanterelles! Cheers, and have a wonderful weekend!