I was delighted to discover a reason to celebrate (and partake of) my favorite dessert. But before doing that, I decided to delve into the origins of cheesecakes.
I was surprised to learn that cheesecakes date back to ancient Greece. Physical anthropologists have excavated cheese molds, dated 2000 B.C., on the Greek island of Samos. In Greece, cheesecakes were considered excellent sources of energy and served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. Greek brides and grooms celebrated their nuptials with cheesecake.
An actual cheesecake recipe from 230 A.D. has been unearthed: Pound the cheese until it’s smooth and pasty, mix the pounded cheese in a brass pan with honey and wheat flour, heat the cheesecake in one mass, cool and then serve.
When the Romans conquered Greece, they modified the recipe by adding eggs. These ingredients were baked under a hot brick oven, and the cheesecake was served warm.
As the Romans expanded their empire, they shared their recipe with the Europeans. In England, Henry VIII’s chef cut up cheese into very small pieces and soaked these pieces in milk for three hours. Then, he strained the mixture and added eggs, butter, and sugar.
A fan of the New York Style Cheesecake, I decided to research its history. German-born Arnold Reuben (well-known for his signature sandwiches) was invited to a dinner party where the hostess served a cheese pie. Fascinated by the dish, Reuben experimented with the recipe until he came up with the smooth-tasting cheesecake we all know and love.
Over the centuries, different cheesecake recipes have evolved, reflecting the cheeses and preferences of each country: Italians use ricotta cheese, Greeks use mizithra or feta, Germans prefer cottage cheese, and the Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites. More daring chefs have introduced specialty cheesecakes that include blue cheese, seafood, spicy chilies, and even tofu.
I’m willing to try almost any flavor, but I’ll pass on the chilies, tofu, and seafood varieties. When it comes to creating my own cheesecake, I gravitate toward the following easy-to-prepare recipe that actually calls for frozen blueberries.
½ cup brown sugar
2½ cups graham cracker crumbs
¾ cup butter
8 ounces cream cheese (at room temperature)
32 ounces sweetened whipped cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3½ cups frozen blueberries
Combine brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and butter.
Press into the bottom of a 9” x 13” rectangular pan.
Bake for ten minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cool the crust.
Cream together the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice.
Add whipped cream and fold in blueberries using a wooden spoon.
Pour mixture into the pan.
Refrigerate for 24 hours.
Any other easy-to-prepare cheesecake recipes out there?