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History of cheesecake

Before there was cheesecake there had to be cheese. Evidence of cheese molds have been found as far back as 2000 B.C. Talk about your nasty cheese! The first cheesecakes were served during the Olympic games in Greece in 776 B.C. Stealing the idea from the Greeks, the Romans served a type of cheesecake called placenta, sweetened with honey and baked on a pastry base. Yum Yum. With the spread of the Roman Empire, variations of cheesecakes appeared in Great Britain and Western Europe.

Cheesecake recipes traveled the Atlantic with the immigrants to find a home in America. The first recipes in family cook books were made from fresh cheese curds and flavored with spices, candied peels or raisins.

Cream cheese, a creamy un-ripened cheese, was invented in 1872 by American dairymen in an attempt to copy the French Neufchatel cheese. With the development of pasteurized cream cheese by James Kraft in 1912, the mainstay of the modern cheesecake was born. Dubbed Philadelphia cream cheese, other dairy producers soon copied the process.

It wasn't until the 1900's that cheesecakes became a popular item in restaurants. In the theatre district, Lindy's "New York Cheesecake" became the gold standard for cheesecakes.

Modern cheesecakes can be made from cottage cheese, cream cheese, Neufchatel or ricotta. Textures range from dense and rich to light and airy depending on the method of preparation and the ingredients used. Although more of a pie than a cake, cheesecake is delightfully rich and wholly satisfying to the palate. Because it is baked on a biscuit base instead of a pastry, the name cheese"cake" was born.(Not to be confused with the pictorial display of female beauty and charm coined sometime around 1944.)

Key Lime Cheesecake

In celebration of my daughter's 18th birthday I wanted to make a special dessert. Among her favorite desserts are key lime pie, cheesecake and anything chocolate. Seeing as it was in the middle of winter I thought why not something with a tropical feel? Key lime cheesecake sounded fabulous. After searching for the perfect recipe I read many variations and finally came up with the following, a fusion of several recipes.

Warning: Consume at your own risk, may cause an increase in adipose tissue especially around the hips, thighs and abdomen. It is highly addictive and habit forming.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (375 ml)
  • 2 tbsp sugar (30ml)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled (60ml)

Cake

  • 3 8-oz packages (24 oz) cream or Neufchatel cheese, softened (750 gm)
  • 1 cup sugar (250 ml)
  • 1 cup sour cream (250 ml)
  • 3 tbsp flour (45 ml)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup key lime juice* (60 ml)
  • 1 tsp lime zest (5 ml)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (5 ml)

Garnish

  • Lime slices
  • Mint leaves
  • Whipped cream

*A word here about key limes. Much smaller and more acidic than Persian limes, key limes have a distinctive aroma and tartness which makes them prized for culinary uses. You can substitute those other limes but the flavor will be different. If you just don't want to spend the time juicing those little suckers, which are about the size of a walnut, key lime juice is available bottled.

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Generously grease the bottom and sides of a 9 inch (23-25 cm) springform pan. If you don't know what a springform pan is you don't need to be making this recipe! Combine crust ingredients in a bowl and pat into bottom and up sides of the pan with your fingers. Bake in the oven for 6 to 7 minutes. Take out and let cool while you prepare the cake filling. Increase oven temperature to 375 F(190 C).

To make the cake:

Beat together the cream cheese and sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add the sour cream, flour then the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the lime juice, zest and vanilla beating until smooth. Carefully pour into prepared crust.

Here comes the tricky part. Cheesecakes can be temperamental. They need to be coddled like a baby. If you have trouble with it cracking I suggest you put a pan of water on the rack below the cake while it is baking. Bake for 15 minutes at 375 F (190 C) then reduce the temperature to 250 F (125 C) and cook an additional 50 to 55 minutes. The center should still be jiggly. Gently run a knife around the edge so that it will stay in one piece as it cools. Turn the oven off and crack the door a few inches. Leave it ALONE to cool for a few hours. Remove the sides of the pan and chill overnight in the fridge.

Topping options:

  • Thin slices of lime
  • Whipped cream piped around the edges
  • Fresh mint leaves

However if you would like to impress your friends or that special someone make the following raspberry topping:

  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (250 ml), frozen will do in a pinch
  • 1 small jar seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/8 (30 ml) to 1/4 cup (60 ml) water

Heat jam, raspberries and 1/8 cup water in saucepan just to boiling. Turn to low and cook approx. 5 minutes. Let cool and add more water as needed to desired consistency. Drizzle the sauce over the top of the cheesecake and on sides of individual plates for a beautiful presentation.

While you're at it why not make it a real tropical escape. Mix up a batch of Margaritas or Pina Coladas, add Lometas Grilled lime chicken, rice and a salad and you'll be halfway to the islands. Oh, and don't forget to mix in a little Jimmy Buffet for atmosphere.

http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/CakeHistory.htm History of Cakes © copyright 2002-2004 by Linda Stradley
http://www.hainesworld.com/cheese.htm
http://www.clarendoncheesecakes.com/history.html
http://www.keylime.com/diff.html

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