New York Style Cheesecake

 

 

AdobeStock_204861933.jpeg

This month, we a continuing to showcase the food of New York with this recipe for New York Style Cheesecake.

Contrary to popular belief, the first “cheese cake” may have been created 4,000 years ago on the Greek island of Samos and not in New York City. In Greece, cheesecake was considered to be a good source of energy, and there is evidence that it was served to athletes during the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. Greek brides and grooms were also known to use cheesecake as a wedding cake. When the Romans conquered Greece circa 146 B.C., the cheesecake recipe was just one spoil of war. They added their own spin on the recipe including crushed cheese and eggs. The Romans called their cheese cake “libuma” and they served it on special occasions. Marcus Cato (234 – 139 B.C,), a Roman politician in the first century BC, is credited as recording the oldest known Roman cheesecake recipe. The writer Athenaeus is credited for writing the only known surviving Greek recipe for cheesecake in 230 A.D.

As the Romans expanded their empire, they brought cheesecake recipes to Europe around 1000 AD. Great Britain and Eastern Europe began experimenting with ways to put their own unique spin on cheesecake. Cheesecakes were also flourishing throughout Scandinavia and northwestern Europe.

propertitle-lgIn Europe, the recipes started taking on different cultural shapes, using ingredients native to each region. A cookbook entitled “A Propre new booke of Cokery” (1545) was printed in London during the Renaissance and it described cheesecake as a flour-based sweet food.

It was not until the 18th century, however, that cheesecake would start to look like something we recognize in the United States today. In the 18th century, Europeans began to use beaten eggs instead of yeast to make their breads and cakes rise. Removing the overpowering yeast flavor made cheesecake taste more like a dessert treat. When Europeans immigrated to America, some brought their cheesecake recipes along.

Many foods that Americans have come to regard as uniquely “American”, are Jewish originating from the Ashkenazi. Because of the Jewish dietary restrictions (Kashruth), the restriction on serving meat and dairy products at the same meal gave rise to a set of traditional dairy dishes including blintzes, cheesecake, and noodle pudding. The concept of delicatessens also came to the United States in the mid-19th century with a new influx of European immigrants.

In 1888, Katz’s Deli was the first Jewish American delicatessen to open in New York City. The popularity of delicatessens that specialized in kosher food spread throughout American culture with the help of the Ashkenazi. As delicatessens began to spring up in many Jewish communities they locally became known as “delis” as they proved even popular with the general public.

Katz'sDeli01 (2).jpg

Photo Credit: Katz Delli circa 1920s.  Marvin Padover and Marlene Katz Padover

 

Cream cheese was an American addition to the cake, and it has since becomehistory_cont_1872_new.jpg a staple ingredient in the United States. It was invented in 1872 by American dairyman William Lawrence of Chester, New York, who accidentally developed a method of producing cream cheese while trying to reproduce a French cheese called Neufchatel. In 1880 Lawrence started distributing his cream cheese in foil wrappers under the name of the Empire Cheese Co. of South Edmeston, New York, where he manufactured the product. He called his cheese Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, now a famous trademark. Lawrence adopted ‘Philadelphia’  as the brand name, after the city that was considered at the time to be the home of top quality food, including ice cream….but that is another story for another time. 

In 1903, the Phoenix Cheese Co. of New York bought the business and with it the Philadelphia trademark. The brand was bought by the Kraft Cheese Co. in 1928. Kraft Foods still owns and produces Philadelphia Cream Cheese today.James L. Kraft invented pasteurized cheese in 1912, which led to the development of pasteurized Philadelphia Brand cream cheese. It is now the most popular cheese used for making cheesecake today.

By the 1900s, New Yorkers were in love with cheesecake. Nearly every restaurant had its own version of the dessert on their menus.

 

 

arnoldreuben1946-2By the 1920s, the deli became a celebrated gathering place in Jewish and American life and the signature sandwiches were a standard. Sandwiches like the overstuffed pastrami or corned beef on rye was popular choice in Jewish American delicatessens — becoming a hallmark of an iconic New York institution. Even though he is best known for his resturants and signature sandwiches, Jewish-German immigrant Arnold Reuben (1883-1970) is generally credited for creating the New York Style cheesecake in 1929. The story goes that Reuben was invited to a dinner party where the hostess served a cheese pie. Allegedly, he was so intrigued by this dish that he experimented with the recipe until he developed the beloved New York Style cheesecake. New Yorkers have vied for bragging rights for having the original recipe ever since.

As all food lovers know, New York is not the only place in America that puts its own spin on cheesecakes. In Chicago, sour cream is added to the recipe to keep it creamy. Meanwhile, Philadelphia cheesecake is known for being lighter and creamier than New York style cheesecake and it can be served with fruit or chocolate toppings. In St. Louis, they enjoy a gooey butter cake, which has an additional layer of cake topping on the cheesecake filling. Even around the  World, every country  has its own take on the best way to make the dessert. For example, the Italians use ricotta cheese, while the Greeks use mizithra or feta. Germans prefer cottage cheese, while the Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites. There are specialty cheesecakes that include blue cheese, seafood, spicy chilies and even tofu! In spite of all the variations, the popular dessert’s main ingredients – cheese, wheat and a sweetener –remain the same.

No matter how you slice it, cheesecake is truly a dessert that has stood the test of time. From its earliest recorded beginnings on Samos over 4,000 years ago to its current iconic status around the world this creamy cake remains a favorite for sweet tooths of all ages.

 

Makes 1 9-inch cheesecake, Serving 8 to 10

Ingredients:
For the Crust:
1 ¼ cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
½ stick unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
Four 8-ounce packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Fresh fruit, for garnish

 

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 º F.

To make the crust: In a large bowl, add the crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Blend until a sandy texture is achieved.

Evenly spoon the crumb mixture into a 9-inch springform pan, halfway up, pressing down the sides and bottom firmly making the crust adhere to the pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove from the refrigerator and then bake the crust until set, for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.

To make the filling:  In a large bowl add 1 package of the cream cheese, 1/3 cup of the sugar, and the cornstarch together and using an electric mixer, beat on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl several times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each.

Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the remaining sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in the cream just until completely blended.

Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Prepare a ban-marie (water bath). Place the cake pan in a large shallow pan containing hot water that comes approximately 1 inch up the side of the springform pan.

Bake until the edge is light golden brown, the top is light gold, and the center barely jiggles, about 1 1/4 hours.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours undisturbed. While remaining in the springfrom pan, cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, for 24 hours.

On the following day, remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator and unmold from the springform pan. Serve chilled or at room temperature, garnished with fruit if desired.

Cook’s Notes:
In slicing the cheesecake, use a sharp straight-edge knife, not a serrated one, to get a clean cut. Be sure to rinse the knife with warm water between slices. Refrigerate any leftover cake, tightly covered, and enjoy within 2 days, or wrap and freeze it  for up to 1 month.

 

stock-photo-new-york-style-cheesecake-on-white-plate-decorated-with-fresh-strawberry-parsley-and-strawberry-657935272.jpg

Advertisements

Kentucky Transparent Pie

kentucky pie
Photo Credit: Spruce Eats, 2017.

I am a Southerner with a sweet tooth and Kentucky Transparent Pie fits the bill as a custard pie that is a sweet as it can get as a dessert. Similar to a chess pie, buttermilk pie, vinegar pie or sugar pie, this version of the pie is made with half brown sugar and half granulated sugar. Many of Kentucky’s pies feature bourbon, one of their most famous exports and I am sure that you could slip a dram or two into your pie if you desire. Basically, the simple combination of ingredients makes a filling to die for!

The most well known Kentucky Transparent Pie can be found at Magee’s Bakery in Lexington, Kentucky. Usually around Thanksgiving, there is a rush for the pie found on the bakery shelves. Maysville, Kentucky is about 70 miles northeast of Lexington, and is the home of the original Magee’s Bakery, which opened in the 1930s. Magee’s is known for popularizing the Transparent Pie.

Although the pie is not “transparent” the pie filling is really just a pale shade of yellow.

In terms of culinary history, Transparent Pie goes way back to the frontier days, where families made pies using whatever pantry goods they had on hand. They had no refrigeration in those days, and these pies did not have to be refrigerated. It was determined many years ago, that Transparent Pie originated in Kentucky, and not just anywhere in Kentucky, but in the Maysville Kentucky area. Transparent Pie is a very well-known pie in Maysville area, although it is not well-known to many people, even in the most populous parts of Kentucky.

While the attention-grabbing name is unique — and first started appearing in Kentucky newspaper advertisements and articles in the 1890s — food historian Sarah Baird says the dessert actually closely resembles pies from other regions of the United States. While a pie crust is the ideal vessel for just about anything edible, in Kentucky, nuts and chocolate reign king among pie fillings. Sugary custard pies also have their own special place in Kentucky culinary history. Transparent pie, buttermilk pie, vinegar pie, sugar pie and Jefferson Davis Pie, all made with the basic ingredients, these pies are all comparable in recipe and method, but have a distinctness and regional popularity that is all their own.

Throughout much of the Appalachian Mountains and certainly into the eastern parts of Kentucky, chess pie is a potluck essential. Most food historians believe that the word chess is simply slang for English cheese pie filling. Others say that the word is “chest,” spoken with a Southern drawl, because these sugary pies could be stored in a pie chest rather than being refrigerated. And yet others believe it to be a run-on version of the words “just pie.” Because of its simple ingredients (eggs, sugar and butter) with no added nuts, fruits or candies, it is “jes’ pie” or chess pie.

Jefferson Davis Pie is also popular throughout the South but had a historical presence at Berea College’s well-known Southern inn, the Boone Tavern, throughout the mid-1900s. Richard T. Hougen, manager of the inn, was said to have taught all Boone Tavern pastry chefs how to make Jefferson Davis Pie for hotel guests and visiting dignitaries to enjoy. Wherein chess pie and Jefferson Davis Pie can be found throughout the Deep South, Kentucky claims the transparent pie as their very own.

“When you go into Indiana you have sugar pies,” Baird says. “It’s kind of a kissing-cousin of shoofly pie, which is in Pennsylvania.”

Baird also mentions chess pies, originally found in New England, and Southern buttermilk pies. All of these have the same simple sugary liquid filling that is baked down in a shell.

Baird did some in-depth research on the origin of the transparent pie for her book Kentucky Sweets. She thinks part of its original popularity — and the popularity of similar variations — was due to its accessibility to rural families.

“What everyone in my research kept coming back to over and over is that it’s a pie that doesn’t require something expensive like pecans,” Baird says. “They are kind of farm ingredients, right? You are going to have all those ingredients in the pantry or on the farm. You can go get the eggs, you will have the cream.”

She says the actual origin of the transparent name is still kind of a mystery — but it’s something that is definitely unique to the Maysville area.

McGeesTransparentPie-13_FotorMagee’s Bakery concocted the recipe for this silky, custard pie. The bakery, located on Market Street, has been making these pies for over 60 years. They make regular size pie and portable small tarts. And according to social media, these little transparent tarts are the favorite pie of actor George Clooney, who grew up in Augusta, Kentucky, who always sings the praises of Transparent Pie. Clooney, not only travels to Maysville to purchase Transparent tarts and pies, but has bought them to share at movie sets and television studios with his crew and colleagues ……but then again, they are probably the favorite pie of anyone who grew up in the Maysville area!

Makes 1 Pie, Serves 8

Ingredients:
For the Pastry:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (granulated)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (chilled or frozen, cut into small pieces)
3 to 4 tablespoons of ice water

For the Filling:
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whipped Cream, for serving

Directions:
In a food processor pulse the flour, salt, and sugar until well blended. Add half of the butter and pulse about 6 times. Add the remaining butter and pulse 5 or 6 times. The mixture should look crumbly with pea-sized pieces here and there. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of ice water over the flour mixture and pulse a few times. Add more ice water, a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture begins to form small clumps.

Toss the mixture out onto a floured surface and press and shape with your hands until the dough holds together. Don’t overwork the dough. Shape it into a flat disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 450° F (230° C/Gas 8).

Roll the chilled dough out about 2 inches bigger than the pie plate (upside-down). Fit it into the pie plate and crimp the edge as desired. Line the pie shell (do not prick the dough) with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.

Bake the pie shell for 8 minutes. Remove the foil and pie weights, return it to the oven, and bake for another 3 minutes. Remove the crust to a baking sheet and reduce the oven temperature to 350 °F (180° C/Gas 4).

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar, flour, melted butter, cream, salt, and vanilla. Blend well. Pour the filling mixture into the crust. Place a pie shield over the crust edge to prevent excessive browning. Transfer the pie to the 350 F oven (baking sheet and all) and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the pie shield and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, or until set.

Cool on a rack and then chill thoroughly in a refrigerator before serving.

Slice the chilled pie and serve it, topped with freshly whipped cream.

Cook’s Note:
If you choose to use a pre-made frozen crust or refrigerated pastry, follow the instructions for partially baking the pie shell. Even though you can bake the pie with an unbaked crust, a par-baked crust is recommended to avoid a soggy bottom.


Kentucky Bourbon Balls

 Bourbon-Balls-10.jpg
Photo Credit: Christin Marhling, 2018.

These boozy bite-sized treats—were developed in 1936 by Ruth Booe, co-founder of the Rebecca Ruth Candy Co. in Frankfort, Kentucky—can be rolled in powdered sugar or dipped in melted chocolate and topped with pecan halves; on the inside, the creamy center usually consists of some combination of bourbon, sugar, butter, chopped pecans, and semisweet chocolate. These trifles are chilled rather than cooked and do pack a tipsy punch, so you may wish to warn younger or teetotalling guests of their alcohol contents.

 

Makes 24

Ingredients:
1 cup finely chopped pecans nuts
5 tablespoons Kentucky bourbon
1/2 cup butter, softened
One 16-ounce  package confectioners’ sugar
8 ounces semisweet chocolate

Directions:
Place the nuts in a resealable jar. Pour the bourbon over the nuts. Cover and allow the nuts to soak overnight.

The following day, mix the butter and sugar; fold in the soaked nuts. Form into 3/4″ balls and place on a waxed paper lined baking sheet and  refrigerate overnight.

The next day, line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler over just-barely simmering water, stirring frequently and scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula to avoid scorching. Roll the balls in the melted chocolate to coat. Place a pecan half on top of each ball and  arrange them on the prepared tray. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.