You are at your favorite restaurant and you order something off the dessert menu. None other than universal go-to and favorite, cheesecake. Then you begin thinking to yourself, why do they call it cheesecake when the main ingredient in the cheesecake is cream cheese? Why not call it Cream Cheesecake? Well, truth be told, while some use cream cheese to make cheesecake, many other parts of the world use actual cheese to create this one-of-a-kind dessert masterpiece. There are actual a number of cheeses that different parts of the world use to make their own version of [real] cheese cake.
Cream cheese was first created in the 19th century across the United States. Having many styles and variance, cream cheese was first made my local dairy farmers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later, in the 19th century, William A. Lawrence, a Chester, New York dairyman bought a Neufchâtel factory. Neufchâtel is a softer cheese that is native from France for centuries. Lawrence, however, decided to take an additional step by adding more cream during the Neufchâtel-making process causing the cheese to become richer and heavier. He termed this “cream cheese”, and how fitting the name was. The majority of cheese cakes across North America are made with the base of some type of cream cheese giving “typical” cheese cake that rich, creamy texture.
Seriously?? While sour cream is not a cheese, it is a dairy byproduct of fermenting cream. Because of its smoothness and creaminess, it is often added to the cream cheese base that is used in cheese cake to make it creamier and thicker. Yet, other renditions of the dessert may feature a strictly-cream cheese base with a sweet, sour cream topping, usually in plain form or with lemon shards adding an extra bite or or layer of flavor.
Across various parts regions of Europe, quark is the go-to ingredient when making cheese cake. Because it is native to parts of Europe, cheese cake made from quark is often termed “German-style” or “Bavarian” cheesecake. Like Sour Cream, quark is made from the fermentation of milk. It has a creamy and yet a bit crumbly in texture and often has curds. Unlike cottage cheese, also having curds, quark is not made with rennet (as cottage cheese is) and salt, at times.
Here we have the real deal. I, personally, have had cheesecake made with Ricotta and I can tell you that it is the best cheesecake I have ever had. Besides its most common use in Lasagna and Manicotti, Ricotta is used to make cheesecake. While it is made in the United States as well, it is referred to as “Ricotta Pie” here in the states. Other versions of Italian cheesecake might use Mascarpone, a very soft Italian cheese often used in Tiramisu.