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Celebrating National Cheesecake Day: A Brief History with Recipes


Separately, cheese and cake are among my favorite food groups and, I will hazard a guess, of those around the world. Combined, their rich flavors are amazing and the reason why cheesecake is celebrated every year on July 30. But before we get into how to make cheesecake, courtesy of recipes from King Arthur Baking Company, one of the oldest businesses in the country having been founded in 1790 in Boston, Massachusetts, by Henry Wood. At the time, according to the company’s history, there were 13 states in the new United States. George Washington was America’s first president. And Henry Wood began importing flour from England, establishing his business at Boston’s Long Wharf. Henry Wood & Company, the original ancestor of King Arthur Baking Company, was the first flour company in the young United States — and first food company in New England.

Maple Cream Pie. Photo and recipe (see below) courtesy of King Arthur Flour, now the King Arthur Baking Company.

HISTORY OF NATIONAL CHEESECAKE DAY

Cheesecake can be traced back to ancient Greece though the recipe then consisted of such ingredients as cheese, flour, and honey and was a dish fed to the Greek athletes during the 776 B.C. The recipe stayed basically the same until around the time the Romans conquered Greece, adding eggs to the list of ingredients and baking the mixture into a cheese-like cake.

In 1872, New York dairyman William Lawrence unintentionally came up with cream cheese while he was trying to replicate a creamy white cheese made from whole or partly skimmed milk called Neufchâtel as it originated from Neufchatel, France. He instead ended up with cream cheese but that was okay because it became so popular and the demand for it so high that it was packaged and distributed to local stores in the area. Intriguingly, cream cheese is now a big hit in France.

The next advance for cheesecake came about when Arnold Reuben, a German immigrant living in New York ate a cheese pie. He liked the dessert so much, that he experimented until he came up with what we think of as New York Cheesecake. The difference between the New York-style and others is the use of heavy cream and eggs which produces a dense, velvety and smooth consistency that is then nestled into a shortbread crust.

Company headquarters in Norwich, Vermont. Photo courtesy of King Arthur Baking Company.

The popularity of the New York Cheesecake increased so much that different cities came up with their own versions such as Chicago and Pennsylvanian cheesecakes. All these cheesecakes became so embedded in America’s culinary culture that in 1985, July 30 was designated as National Cheesecake Day.

The following recipes are courtesy of King Arthur Flour.

New York Cheesecake (see recipe below). Photo courtesy of King Arthur Baking Company.

Maple Cream Pie
By Gwen Adams

Crust
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Filling
3 cups half & half
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 large egg yolks
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon maple flavor, optional
Whipped cream
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

To make the crust: Mix the butter and cream cheese until well blended. Add the flour, sugar, and salt; mix until just blended. Pat into a disk, wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Roll the dough on a floured surface until it’s 12″ in diameter. Place it into a 9″ pie pan. Shape and crimp the crust. Line the crust with aluminum foil and pie weights or uncooked beans. Bake it until the bottom inside surface is light brown, approximately 20 minutes. remove the crust from the oven, carefully lift the foil and weights out, and allow it to cool while you make the filling.

To make the filling: Mix the half & half, maple syrup, egg yolks, brown sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the maple flavor and vanilla.

Pour the filling into the cooled pie shell. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Roll the chilled, rested dough to a 12″ to 13″ circle and fit it into the pan. Trim and flute the edge, then put the lined pie pan in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 425°F.

To pre-bake the crust: Prick the crust all over with a fork. Line it with parchment paper or a basket-style coffee filter, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then remove it from the oven. Remove the liner and weights or beans, and brush the crust all over with the beaten egg mixture. Return it to the oven and bake for 3 more minutes. Remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F.

To make the filling: Whisk together the sugar, syrup, eggs, bourbon, fresh ginger, ground ginger, and salt. Sprinkle the pecans and mini diced ginger into the pie crust, and pour the filing mixture over them.

To bake: Place the pie on a parchment- or foil lined baking sheet, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling has set and is slightly wobbly in the center. Remove it from the oven and cool it on a rack completely before serving.

For the whipped cream: Whisk the heavy cream and vanilla until stiff peaks form.
Whisk the sugar into the whipped cream. Generously dollop on to individual slices of pie.

Tips from King Arthur Bakers
We recommend using only real maple syrup in this recipe. The imitation stuff just isn’t strong enough and will result in a pie with minimal flavor.

King Arthur Flour. 2012. Justin Cash Photography

Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie

Crust
Filling
1 recipe Classic Single Pie Crust
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup Grade A very dark maple syrup (cooking maple syrup)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons good bourbon, optional
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
1/4 cup mini diced ginger

To make the crust: Grease and flour a 9″ pie pan.

Roll the chilled, rested dough to a 12″ to 13″ circle and fit it into the pan. Trim and flute the edge, then put the lined pie pan in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 425°F.

To pre-bake the crust: Prick the crust all over with a fork. Line it with parchment paper or a basket-style coffee filter, and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, then remove it from the oven. Remove the liner and weights or beans, and brush the crust all over with the beaten egg mixture. Return it to the oven and bake for 3 more minutes. Remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F.

To make the filling: Whisk together the sugar, syrup, eggs, bourbon, fresh ginger, ground ginger, and salt. Sprinkle the pecans and mini diced ginger into the pie crust, and pour the filing mixture over them.

Company Headquarters. Photo courtesy of King Arthur Baking Company.

To bake: Place the pie on a parchment- or foil lined baking sheet, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling has set and is slightly wobbly in the center. Remove it from the oven and cool it on a rack completely before serving.

New York Cheesecake

Crust
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg, at room temperature

Filling
2 pounds (four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
Fruit glaze
1 or 2 14.5 ounce cans of tart cherries in water, or 4 cups fresh or frozen fruit*
1 cup (water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 drops red food coloring, optional

*Using 2 cans of cherries will give you enough leftover fruit to serve alongside individual slices.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a 10″ springform pan.

To make the crust: In a mixing bowl with a paddle, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and butter. Mix until the mixture is crumbly, then add the egg and continue to mix until a soft dough forms. Press the dough on the bottom and an inch up the sides of the prepared pan; prick it all over with a fork, and bake for 15 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the filling: Place the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl with a paddle. Add the sugar and flour, and mix at low speed until there are no lumps. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl at least twice during this process, to be sure no cheese is sticking.

Add the lemon zest, salt, and vanilla, and mix to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping the mixing bowl between additions. Stir in the sour cream.
Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the edges of the cake

are set one inch in from the edge. The middle should still jiggle when you nudge the pan; in fact, the cake will look underbaked. Measure the temperature of the cake an inch from the edge: when it reaches 175°F, turn off the oven. Prop open the door, and let the cheesecake cool slowly in the oven for 1 hour. During this time the center will finish setting. Cooling the cake slowly will keep the top from cracking and ensure a smooth, even texture inside.

Photo courtesy of King Arthur Baking Company.

To make the glaze: Whisk together the water, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan until the cornstarch dissolves. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils, becomes clear, and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the food coloring and the drained cherries. Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then spoon it over the cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate the cake until you’re ready to serve.

King Arthur Flour, now King Arthur Baking Company, is an employee-owned company that first opened in 1790. Every one of their employees are bakers at heart and are described in the company’s literature as being for generations there with you as you bake. King Arthur Baking Company’s mission is to be the ultimate resource and inspiration in the kitchen, to inspire connections and community through baking, and to use our business as a force for good.

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