Georgian Cheesecake: What came before?
Our journey yesterday went off exceedingly well; nothing occurred to alarm or delay us… At Devizes we had comfortable rooms and a good dinner, to which we sat down about five; amongst other things we had asparagus and a lobster, which made me wish for you, and some cheesecakes, on which the children made so delightful a supper as to endear the town of Devizes to them for a long time.
Jane to Cassandra
13, Queen’s Square, Friday (May 17) 1799
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, who wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes (πλακουντοποιικόν σύγγραμμα—plakountopoiikon suggramma). Cato the Elder’s De Agri Cultura includes recipes for two cakes for religious uses: libum and placenta. Of the two, placenta is most like most modern cheesecakes, having a crust that is separately prepared and baked. It is important to note that though these early forms are called cheese cakes, they differed greatly in taste and consistency from the cheesecake that we know today.
To Make Almond Cheesecakes
Take 1/2 lb. of blanch’d almonds pounded small with a spoonful of orange flower water, a lb of double refined sugar, 10 yokes of eggs well beat. Add the peels of two oranges or lemons (which must be boiled very tender). Then beat in a mortar very fine, then mix them together. Then add 1/2 of a pound of almonds beat fine with orange flower water; 3/4 lb of a pound of sugar, and eggs (half ye whites), a little mace pounded, and a little cream; beat all together a quarter of an hour; bake them in a puff paste in a quick oven.
-From Martha Lloyd’s Household Book
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. In 1912, James Kraft developed a form of pasteurized cream cheese. Kraft acquired the Philadelphia trademark in 1928, and marketed pasteurized Philadelphia Cream Cheese which is now the most commonly used cheese for cheesecake.
A Tangerine Georgian Cheesecake
1 cup Graham Crackers — Crushed
2 tablespoons Melted Butter
2 tablespoons Sugar
2-4 eight-ounce packages Cream Cheese — Softened
2 tablespoons Tangerine Juice
1 tablespoon Grated Tangerine Peel (or other citrus)
1 cup Sugar
1 1/2 cups Sour Cream
2 tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 tablespoons Freshly Squeezed Tangerine Juice (or other citrus)
Combine first 3 ingredients thoroughly. Press into bottom and sides of 9″ springform pan. Bake 5 minutes and cool; (350 degrees F. oven). Turn oven to 250 degrees F.
Place 1 8-ounce package cream cheese and 1 egg in large mixer bowl; beat thoroughly. Repeat with remaining cheese and eggs, beating well after each addition. Gradually add sugar alternately with juice. Beat at medium speed for 10 minutes. Stir in peel. Pour into crust and bake 25 minutes. Turn off heat; let cake stand in oven 45 minutes and then remove.
Turn oven to 350 degrees F. Thoroughly combine topping ingredients. Let stand at room temperature. Gently spread over warm cake. Return to preheated 350 degree F. oven for 10 minutes. Partly cool on wire rack. Refrigerate overnight.
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