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Now days there are hundreds of different cheesecake recipes. The ingredients are what make one cheesecake different from another. The most essential ingredient in any cheesecake is cheese (the most commonly used are cream cheese, Neufchatel, cottage cheese, and ricotta.)
Ever since the dawn of time, mankind has striven to create the perfect cheesecake. The earliest history of the art is lost, but we know that cheesecake was already a popular dish in ancient Greece. With the Roman conquest of Greece, the secret fell into Roman hands. The Roman name for this type of cake (derived from the Greek term,) became "placenta." Placenta was more like a cheesecake, baked on a pastry base, or sometimes inside a pastry case. They were also called "libum" by the Romans, and were often used as an offering at their temples to their gods.
1st Century A.D. Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 B.C.) was a Roman politican. His treatise on agriculture, De Agricultura or De Re Rustica, is the only work by him that has been preserved. He wrote about farming, wine making, and cooking among other things. This is his recipe for libum, the small sweet cake often given as a temple offering:
Small cheesecakes were served to athletes during the first Olympic games held in 776 B.C. on the Isle of Delos.
230 A.D. - According to John J. Sergreto, author of Cheesecake Madness, The basic recipe and ingredients for the first cheesecake were recorded by Athenaeus, a Greek writer, in about A.D. 230:
1000 A.D. -Cheesecake were introduced to Great Britain and Western Europe by the Roman conquering armies. By 1000 A.D., cheesecakes were flourishing throughout Scandinavia, England, and northwestern Europe.
1545 - A cookbook from the mid 16th century that also includes some accounts of domestic life, cookery and feasts in Tudor days, called A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye, declarynge what maner of meates be beste in season, for al times in the yere, and how they ought to be dressed, and serued at the table, bothe for fleshe dayes, and fyshe dayes, has a recipe for a cheesecake:
New York cheesecake is the pure, unadulterated cheesecake with no fancy ingredients added either to the cheesecake or placed on top of it. It is made with pure cream cheese, cream, eggs, and sugar. Everybody has a certain image of New York Style Cheesecake. According to New Yorkers, only the great cheesecake makers are located in New York, and the great cheesecake connoisseurs are also in New York. In the 1900s, cheesecakes were very popular in New York. Every restaurant had their version. I believe the name "New York Cheesecake" came from the fact that New Yorkers referred to the cheesecakes made in New York as "New York Cheesecake." New Yorkers say that cheesecake wasn't really cheesecake until it was cheesecake in New York.
1929 - Arnold
Reuben, owner of the legendary Turf Restaurant at 49th and Broadway in New York
City, claimed that his family developed the first cream-cheese cake recipe. Other bakeries relied on cottage
cheese. According to legend, he was served a cheese pie in a private home, and he fell in love with the dessert. Using his
hostess recipe and a pie she made with ingredients he provided, he then began to
develop his own recipe for the perfect cheesecake. Reuben soon began to serve his new
recipe in his Turf Restaurant, and the cheesecake quickly became very popular with the
people who frequented Reubens Broadway restaurant.
A soft unripened cheese originally from Neufchatel-en-Bray, France:
1872 - American dairymen achieved a technological breakthrough that ushered in the Modern Age of cheesecakes. In attempting to duplicate the popular Neufchatel cheese of France, they hit upon a formula for an un-ripened cheese that was even richer and creamier (they named it cream cheese). William Lawrence of Chester, New York, accidentally developed a method of producing cream cheese while trying to duplicate the French Neufchatel.
1880 - The Kraft foods website states
that the Empire Cheese Company of New York began producing PHILADELPHIA BRAND Cream Cheese
for a New York distributor called Reynolds.
In 1912, James Kraft developed a method to pasteurize cream cheese (Philadelphia cream cheese), and
soon other manufacturers of dairy products offered this newer kind of cream cheese.