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    Posted July 13, 2012 by

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    Say Cheese for National Cheesecake Day


    One of the most hailed desserts is the creamy, decadent cheesecake. Gracing a line on every restaurant dessert menu across the nation and coveted by many for its supremely rich texture, often marbled or topped with other delectable edibles such as jewel-toned berries or velvety chocolate, the cheesecake gets its center stage spotlight on July 30th, dubbed as National Cheesecake Day.


    Originating in ancient Greece, cheesecake is prepared in kitchens throughout the world. Different variations use different cheeses, many of which are indigenous to the country in which the cheesecake is created. The Italians use ricotta or mascarpone, the French use Neufchatel and the Germans use quark. Other cultural and ethnic influences from one country and/or region to the next vary the additional ingredients used.


    Most modern cheesecakes produced in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada are made from cream cheese. Additional items on the basic cheesecake ingredient list typically include heavy cream, sugar and vanilla. Baked cheesecakes also contain eggs, making for a denser cake than their non-baked counterparts. Once these ingredients are combined, they are poured over a crust that has been prepared and baked separately, usually within a spring form pan. The crust is most commonly made from crushed graham crackers or cookies, although sponge cake has also been used and the occasional cheesecake omits a crust altogether.


    The cheesecake has come a long way, thanks to the creative talents of culinary artists always in pursuit of taking their pastry projects to the next level. Marbled cheesecakes display decorative swirls and curlicues of raspberry sauce, blueberry sauce, chocolate, peanut butter or caramel. Cheesecake is no longer restricted to a creamy white vanilla filling. In a quest to infuse color and additional facets of flavor, crushed berries, pureed pumpkin, chocolate, lemon or green tea may be added. Spirited cheesecakes result in such cocktail flavors as margarita, white Russian, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlua. Even the crowning finish on a cheesecake has spanned far beyond the humble dollop of whipped cream. Colorful presentations now feature juicy macerated blueberries and saucy crimson strawberries. For an added dimension of crunch, toppings such as chopped nuts or toffee, streusel, shards of chocolate and candy bits are enlisted for good textural measure.


    I have savored an abundant array of cheesecakes over the years. I have been very fortunate indeed, as my sweet tooth has reaped the benefits of two outstanding cheesecake makers, both located in New York. The famous Junior’s cheesecakes, produced in Brooklyn since 1950, have been lauded as the world’s most fabulous cheesecake. Juniors’ creations have endured for over half a century and have earned them world-class status. A bit closer to home on Long Island, the award-winning Holy Moses cheesecake has been produced in Westhampton for over twenty years. Holy Moses cheesecakes are distinguished by a hole in the center resulting from being baked in a tube pan, and more than fifteen flavor choices have been created. My taste buds will confirm and declare that both of these cheesecake conjurers deserve the accolades that they have earned.


    Other cheesecakes have been presented from my kitchen, desserts that I prepared myself from collected recipes, for various holidays. When choosing a cheesecake recipe, I enjoy seeking out a variation that will showcase the colors or flavors associated with the occasion for which I am baking. Thanksgiving cheesecake demands the autumnal hue and flavor of pumpkin, covered with maple-coated walnuts or a cinnamon crumb topping. A white chocolate cheesecake is made festive for Christmas with the joyous crimson of a raspberry sauce cascading over the sides. Another winter holiday alternative is a chocolate-mint cheesecake topped with a mixture of crushed candy canes, chopped dark chocolate and red and green sugars. The creamy palette of summer cheesecake serves as the perfect backdrop for colorful summer berries. I have made all of these.


    The month of July celebrates many favorites, from ice cream to luscious sapphire hued blueberries and, of course, cheesecake. What better photograph to select for this article than the one featured above, depicting a tantalizing blueberry-crowned blueberry cheesecake? It was so good that I have made it several times. Perhaps I will have to perform a repeat episode and prepare yet another in honor of National Cheesecake Day. Sounds repetitious? Somehow I don’t suspect that I will hear any complaints from my husband; only a request for another helping ‘for the cause’ will escape from his lips on July 30th!

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