Cheesecake has withstood the test of time around the world, generation after generation.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the New York Style Cheesecake. My mother swore that this version was the only “real” version of cheesecake. Serve it at room temperature for optimal flavor. Traditionally, it is served topless, however, on occasion, I’ll top mine with fresh fruit. I’m not a fan of cheesecake with additives like candy bars and such nonsense.
Arnold Reuben is credited with creating the New York style cheesecake. It’s thought that Mr. Reuben attended a dinner party where he got the idea for his version of cheesecake after being served a cheese pie.
Due to anthropologists discovering cheese molds dated circa 2,000 B.C., it’s speculated that cheesecake originated on the Greek Island of Samos. Whole wheat, honey, and cheese were simple, high energy, dense nutrient ingredients.
In 230 A.D., the Greek writer, Athenaeus, is credited for the first written cheesecake recipe. The method reminds me of my grandmother’s directions of “bake until done”. He wrote “pound the cheese until it is smooth and pasty…mix with honey and spring wheat flour. Heat “in one mass”, cool and serve.
Over the centuries, the cheesecake has undergone many makeovers, with various bakers creating their own designer versions depending on the cheese available and the whim of the baker. America has several of its own versions, including one made with sour cream, and one made with an additional layer of cake on top of the cheesecake portion.
In New York City, my mother lived in a walk-up apartment building with my dad and older siblings (this was before I entered the picture) With no elevator, she got her daily exercise walking down and up the five flights. There were markets she shopped at each day where she picked up fresh fruits and vegetables. Knowing my mom would use over-ripe produce that no one else would, some of the shopkeepers would beckon her. “Mrs. Messeder! I have some nice ripe bananas for your baby today!”
The apartment building was home to many nationalities. She was friendly with many of her neighbors. They would chat over coffee, hang laundry together on the roof, and share recipes. Occasionally, they would look after each other’s children.
Sophie was one of the Greek neighbors my mother befriended. They remained in contact long after mom and dad moved from NYC to Maine. They continued to swap recipes and one of those recipes was for Sophie’s Greek Cheesecake. I’ve dubbed it “Sophie’s Choice Greek Cheesecake” as I think it is definitely a “choice” recipe.
Sophie's Choice Greek Cheesecake
- Large mixing bowl
- Medium mixing bowl
- Hand or stand mixer
- 9-inch springform pan
- Knife (for releasing cheesecake from side of pan)
- Large knife for cutting and serving
- Regular fork
- Sieve or blender
Almond Cheesecake Crust
- 2 cups Almond flour Substituted for traditional graham crackers or zeibach Sophie used
- 1/2 cup Butter
- 3 tbsp Granualted sugar Granulated instead of caster - the large crystals will allow the butter and almond flour to adhere together. If using graham crackers, omit the sugar.
- 1 teas Almond or or vanilla flavoring Optional
- 1.5 lbs Cottage or ricotta cheese
- 6 large eggs
- 1 cup cream
- 1 cup Granulated sugar I prefer caster sugar for this step. Blend granulated in a blender to reduce the size of the crystals so it incorporates more readily.
- 1 teas Almond or vanilla flavoring
- Dash Salt
- 2 tbsp Cornstarch I use arrowroot to avoid corn products.
Method for Making the Crust
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Grease a 10 in (23 cm) springform pan (or you can line the bottom with parchment paper).
- With a fork, mix the almond flour (or crushed graham crackers/ziebach), melted butter, sugar, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl, until well combined and dough is crumbly. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Bake for 12 mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Press cheese through a sieve to make it smooth or use a blender.
- Separate the egg yoks from the whites. Beat well the egg yolks until light yellow. Add sugar, cheese, cream, cornstarch, salt, and flavoring. Beat well, but don't overbeat. You want a smooth batter but not aerated and fluffy. Beat whites and fold into cheese mixture.
- Pour batter into pan on top of cooled crust. Bake 1 hr or until the center is set, but jiggly. Turn off oven and allow to cool in oven 1.5 hrs.
- Allow to thoroughly cool 3 or 4 hrs on countertop or overnight in refrigerator.