Cooking With Fire: Cheesecake
It seems that just about everyone loves cheesecake… myself included. There’s something about the dessert that makes it so enjoyable, including the many variations of cheesecake that exist, but modern cheesecake is not a thing like the original.
Roman politician Marcus Porcius Cato wrote a treatise on agriculture that included a recipe for libum, a simple cake that was topped with honey. These cakes were traditionally used as an offering to the various Roman gods, and were made with ricotta cheese, flour, eggs and honey, and were baked in a wood fired oven under a heated brick.
Similar recipes can be found in Greek writings in the second century AD and Western Europe got their first taste of cheesecake as the conquering roman armies moved north. By 1000 AD cheesecake was a popular food in Scandinavia and England.
Fast forward to the mid 1500s and the English had developed a more modern recipe for a Cheese Tart. This recipe calls for cheese, eggs, sugar and sweet milk, leaving out the flour from previous recipes.
This is much closer to the modern cheesecakes we know and love today.
But it wasn’t until the year 1872 when the American dairy industry, in an attempt to develop a cheese like Neufchatel, a popular French cheese, that we got the most important ingredient in cheesecake… cream cheese. By the early 1900s New York was known for their cheesecake, and even though they didn’t actually invent the dish, many New Yorkers will still insist on any cheesecake being called New York Cheesecake, as long as you don’t put anything on top of it.
Well, we’re not purists around here, so listen to the latest episode of Cooking with Fire where my co-host Chef Tom and I will talk about what makes cheesecake so great and give you a recipe for a Kahlua Cheesecake… on the grill.
For the crust:
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 oz (8 Tbsp) melted butter
For the filling:
- 24 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 10 oz sugar
- 4 eggs
- 4.5 oz heavy cream
- 1/2 C Kahlua
- pinch salt
- To make the graham cracker crust, melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Add the graham cracker crumbs and sugar to the bowl, and mix until incorporated. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of your springform cheesecake pan. Use a measuring cup or glass to pack the crust down and level the surface.
- Preheat your grill to 300ºF, set up for indirect grilling.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the room temperature cream cheese and sugar. Whip on medium-high until light and fluffy and color has lightened. Scrape the sides occasionally and in between steps to help prevent lumps.
- Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to incorporate before adding the next. Add the pinch of salt. Scrape bowl. Mix another thirty seconds. Turn mixer down to low. Pour in the heavy cream and Kahlua. Mix one minute then remove from the mixer. Whisk by hand until all lumps have disappeared. Pour into the springform pan over the crust.
- Place a foil pan (or sheet pan) on the bottom rack of the cooker and add a couple of inches of water. Place the cheesecake on top rack. Bake at 300ºF until the cheesecake reaches an internal temperature of 155ºF, about 2-2.5 hours. Pull and cool to room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator.
- Run a knife around the inside of the springform pan ring. Remove the cheese cake from the pan. Slice and serve.