Cheesecake, Please

Baking,Dessert,Recipes
June 15, 2012

The breakthrough in the cheesecake story came in the late 19th century when a New York dairyman came up with cream cheese.

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Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn
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In its heyday, Lindy’s was one of the most popular restaurants in New York. On busy nights, lines formed outside, but we never minded waiting because the payoff was a piece of Lindy’s cheesecake, which we always ordered for dessert.

In addition to eggs and cream, what’s often called “New York Cheesecake” has 2 1/2 pounds of cream cheese and is invariably described as rich and creamy. We’d always assumed that cheesecake was invented by one of Lindy’s bakers who found himself with an oversupply of cream cheese, but it turns out that cheesecake goes back a lot longer than Lindy’s.

According to food historians, cheesecake probably originated in 776 B.C. when it was served to athletes at the Olympic games. After a roundabout journey across Europe, where it was made with curd cheeses like ricotta and cottage, cheesecake made the trip across the Atlantic with immigrant cooks. The real breakthrough in the cheesecake story came in the late 19th century when a New York dairyman came up with cream cheese by adding cream along with milk to his cheese. From there, it was only a matter of time before blocks of foil-wrapped Philadelphia-brand cream cheese were transformed into cheesecakes.

Cheesecake has always been one of our favorite desserts, and although we’re not runners, we’d like to think we could manage a few sprints if it meant a cheesecake at the finish line.

—By Jean Kressy, a food writer in Ashburnham, Mass.

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