The first time I ever had cheesecake was when I was probably in my first or second year at Manchester Polytechnic and there was a delicatessen which seemed like a treasure cave – I had never been in a shop so packed with things I had never heard of but which sounded so delicious. There was a glass fronted cabinet and in it was cheesecake. It was the baked sort, thick and crumbly and absolutely delicious. I don’t remember it being on a crushed biscuit base but something which seemed a cross between cake and pastry, very thin but quite hard in a good way. I can’t remember how much it cost but probably more than I could afford very often. When cheesecake became more popular I was visiting someone who made one for dessert; imagine my disappointment when I was served with the gelatinous, sweet packet cheesecake which became popular.
I used to look for recipes for it, but in those days there was no internet and I don’t remember recipe books in the library (maybe I’m wrong, or maybe they just didn’t have any cheesecake recipes in them) and the sort of recipe books with ‘proper’ cheesecake recipes were expensive, and the ingredients weren’t available. I thought cheesecake must be an American dessert, probably originating in Germany maybe as I’d never heard of them before going to exciting and diverse Manchester. Looking through Nell Heaton’s little 1944 book ‘Cookery To-Day and To-Morrow’, guess what! I found this recipe:
- short pastry No. 2 (8 oz flour, 2 oz shortening, 1 tsp baking powder)
- 1 lb curds
- ¼ lb margarine
- ½ lb sugar
- 2 eggs
- baking powder
- line patty tins with pastry
- melt together margarine and sugar
- add eggs, curds and baking powder
- add a grating of nutmeg and currants if desired
- bake in a moderate oven
This was written during the war so I wonder if afterwards Nell would have used butter instead of margarine, and I wonder if we would add the baking powder? I don’t propose to try it, but I will find a modern recipe to compare, because the use of curds makes me think it must be more authentic than the gooey tarts which often pass for cheesecakes today!