April 29, 2013
This is my most favorite dessert of all time, to both eat and make. Of the thousands of confections that exist, cheesecake is the most satiating, the utmost fulfilling, and uttermost complete dessert in the universe. Its nature is highly flexible and deeply forgiving. You can “Dress Her Up” or leave her “Plain Jane”. Either way, a good friend.
Many people think that the cheesecake got its origins in New York… this may seem reasonable, in a funny kind of way, but actually cheesecake started in ancient Greece over 4,000 years ago. They were creating what was called a “cheese cake”, which makes sense for the times. Flour, yeast, honey and some Greek cheese were formed into a cake and baked. Then when those crazy Romans conquer Greece, all hell breaks loose and they start doing great stuff to the “cheese cake”, like filling it in a pastry shell, adding flavors, and stuffing it with fruits.
It really wasn’t until the 18th century that “cheese cake” started to look like something that we know it as of today “cheesecake”, using eggs instead of yeast and making a little sweeter to taste more like a dessert rather than a savory cheese plate.
Now cream cheese was a definite American addition to this delicacy in 1872. A cheese maker in New York was trying to replicate a French cheese and accidentally discovered a process which resulted in cream cheese, of course now its famous and that’s all we need to know.
Having lived in New York for many years, I can tell you that New York made cheesecake an American dessert! Everyone in New York and every restaurant has a different version of a cheesecake. Amazing because they all taste and are slightly different, but all extremely wonderful in their own right. The possibilities are endless, this is one of the reasons I love cheesecake, if you have a good base recipe, you can pretty much do anything your imagination will allow you to do.
The key is to have a good base recipe and master that recipe, then you can go off the board and start experimenting with different a desired outcomes. Also, two other tricks that work great are to have your ingredients at room temperature and use a water steam bath when baking your masterpiece. Also, see “TIP” during recipe for other great tricks.
To show how versatile regional cheesecake can be, you can follow various cultures: Greeks bake with Feta, Germans use cottage cheese, Italians love ricotta, Japanese combine cornstarch and egg whites, ( pix on left) Americans pour on the cream cheese, and the French probably do it with blue and so it goes on and on from there.I think no matter how you look at it, cheesecake is the dessert that stands the test of time. It deserves respect, it deserves to be eaten frequently and it deserves to be experimented with because it’s got that strength and integrity to hold up.
Pear and Raspberry Cheesecake – a good base recipe
I like a thicker crust so I have increased the crust proportions- reduce for a thinner crust. TIP: This recipe makes enough for a 10″ cheesecake, but you may divide the batter and it will yield two smaller cheesecakes, 8″ or 9″. Make them different, and it is OK to freeze, just wrap them good!
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 T. sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 T. cinnamon (optional)
4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 T. flour
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup sour cream
1 T. vanilla
1 T. lemon juice
1 jar pear preserves and raspberry preserves (do not need to use both, pick one) 1 pint fresh raspberries 1 fresh pear
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Combine graham cracker crumbs and sugar.
- Stir in melted butter and cinnamon until moistened.
- Pour the mixture into a greased 10-inch by 3″ spring form pan. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. TIP: use the side of a measuring cup to help shove the crumbs up the side of the pan.
- Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.
- Beat cream cheese, sugar and flour until fluffy.
- Add eggs then yolks one at a time, mixing well with each addition
- Add heavy cream, sour cream, lemon juice and vanilla until combined.
- Pour into pan. TIP: Take a baking sheet and fill with water, place on shelf directly beneath the cheesecake, this will steam throughout the baking cycle.
- Place cheesecake on shelf above water and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes.
- TIP: if using 2 smaller pans, reduce baking time to about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- The center may jiggle a bit, that is ok, it will continue to cook.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely to room temperature.
- Chill in the refrigerator, the longer the better.
- Place the preserves in a glass bowl, just use one kind, save other for next cheesecake. Add a splash of water, then microwave until warm, about 1 minute. Glaze the top of the cheesecake.
- Slice the pears thinly. Place them on top decoratively with the raspberries.Now this cheesecake is definitely better when set and cold. So put it back in refrigerator and chill until ready to eat. Use whipped cream, or ice cream and definitely grab a coffee or hot tea!Enjoy, let me know how yours turns out. Mine is fabulous. Gotta go, I can hear it calling me from the fridge…..LOL. Leslie