4

The United States of Desserts: New York Cheesecake

^
Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

In this series, we examine the history and origins of famous sweets, confections and desserts associated with American states.

Cheesecake, like everything else of merit in this world, was invented in America, specifically, New York City.

NOT. (I bet I had you there for a second. Relax (for now) and read on.)

Cheesecake, though not the modern form many of us have come to love, can be traced back to ancient Greece where renowned physician Aegimus wrote a book about proper cheesecake cookery. His confections made use of soft cheeses, were less sweet, and did not always contain a crust.

Later, European versions of cheesecake emerged in Italy and France, which often use ricotta and neufchâtel cheese, respectively to construct the cake's hallmark dense, soft dairy interior. A German variation, also still produced today, uses dough for a crust and quark in the filling--no, the elementary matter particle but rather the sour milk spread.

The most popular, albeit potentially apocryphal, account of the invention of American cheesecake involves William Lawrence, a late nineteenth-century food enthusiast from Chester, NY who derived a form of soft "cream cheese" to use instead of neufchâtel in cheesecakes. Hence why cheesecake is traditionally associated with New York even though virtually all American recipes call for "Philadelphia-style" cream cheese, so-called because James Craft, who developed his own version of spreadable unripened cheese, patented it as such in 1928.

While, cheesecake may be the darling of New York, with many delectable varieties available at famous establishments such as the Carnegie Deli and Eileen's, there's no need to make a trip north of the Mason-Dixon line for a premium slice.

Make your own from scratch at home (for the love of God, do skip that 'no-bake' packaged nonsense) or head to Kenny & Ziggy's, Happy Fatz, or Katz's.

My absolute favorite in Houston, however, takes the best of Greece and America: check out the the baklava cheesecake at Cafe Pita.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.