Chocolate Cheesecake is a sweet, cheese-based dessert formed of a topping made with soft, fresh cheese.
Typically, the cheese topping sits atop a pastry, cookie, digestive biscuit or graham cracker-crumb crust; sometimes the base is a layer of cake.
The cheese used can be ricotta, Havarti, quark, twaróg, or, most often, cream cheese. Sugar, eggs, cream and fruit are often mixed in with the cheese. Flavorings such as vanilla or different types of chocolate may be added, and a fruit topping, like strawberries, is frequently used.
Contrary to what the name suggests, chocolate cheesecakes are essentially custards. The word 'cake' was formerly applied to a much broader category of foods than it is today.
Chocolate cheesecake is one of the richest desserts in the world. It may even be one of the oldest desserts containing dairy other than milk.
Cheesecake is believed to have originated in ancient Greece and served to athletes during the first Olympic Games in 776 B.C. From there its popularity spread from Greece to across Europe. Centuries later cheese cake recipes, brought by immigrants, appeared in America.
In 1872, while trying to reproduce the French cheese Neufchatel, American dairyman William Lawrence of Chester, N.Y. ended up with what's now known as cream cheese.
In 1912, James L. Kraft invented pasteurized cheese, which lead to the development of pasteurized Philadelphia Brand cream cheese, now the most popular cheese used for making chocolate cheese cake.
Chocolate Cheesecakes are broadly categorized as baked and unbaked and each comes in a variety of styles determined by region:
Almost all modern cheese cakes in the United States use cream cheese.
The United States has several different recipes for cheese cake and this usually depends on the region the cake was baked in as well as the cultural background of the person baking it.
--New York-style: relies upon heavy cream, cream cheese, eggs and egg yolks to add a richness and smoothness. Some recipes use cottage cheese and lemon for distinct texture and flavor or add a drizzle of chocolate or strawberry sauce.
--Pennsylvania Dutch-style: uses slightly-tangy pot cheese. Pot cheese is in the midway stage between cottage cheese and farmer's cheese.
--Philadelphia-style: richer in flavor than New York style cheesecake, yet lighter in texture.
--Farmer's cheese-style: the contemporary implementation of the traditional use of baking to preserve fresh cheese. Farmer's cheese is, most often, an unripened, solid, dry and crumbly cheese.
--Country-style: uses buttermilk to produce a firm texture while decreasing the pH (increasing acidity) to extend shelf life.
--Lactose free: may be made either with lactose-free cream cheese or non-dairy cream cheese alternatives with other lactose-free ingredients.
--Gooey butter cake: a St. Louis variant that has a layer of regular cake with a cheesecake top.
BRITAIN, AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND
In the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, cheese cake is typically made with a base of crushed biscuits and butter. It's generally a cold dessert not cooked or baked.
The most common filling is a mixture of cream cheese, sugar, cream, sometimes gelatin, and topped with a fruit compote. Sometimes it's also made with banoffee flavor, coffee, tea, chocolate, Irish cream, white chocolate, and even marshmallow.
--Bulgarian-style: uses cream cheese in a New York style filling and Smetana (Russian sour cream) for a top layer. Often ground nuts are added to the crust mixture.
--Ancient Roman-style: uses honey and a ricotta-like cheese along with flour and is traditionally shaped into loaves. Some recipes call for bay leaves, which may have been used as a preservative.
--Italian-style: uses ricotta or mascarpone cheese, sugar, vanilla extract, and sometimes barley flakes. Often, small bits of candied fruit are added.
--French-style: uses lightly textured and flavored Neufchâtel cheese (a ripened farmer cheese) with gelatin as a binding ingredient. This variety is typically only 3 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) tall. In some parts of France this cheese cake is sometimes referred to as "Gâteau Remise".
--Greek-style: commonly uses Mizithra. Mizithra is a traditional unpasteurized cheese made from sheep milk and/or goat-milk whey with some added milk. The cheese is soft, snow-white, creamy, and granular; similar in flavor to Italian ricotta salata.
GERMANY and POLAND
German and Polish cheese cakes use Quark cheese. Quark (or Qvark) is a soft, white, un-aged curd cheese that has a much lower fat content than cream cheese and no added salt.
--German-style: famous for its unique sweet and sour taste said to "melt in your mouth". Not all German-style chocolate cheesecakes get baked.
--Dutch/Belgian-style: typically flavored with melted bittersweet chocolate.
Belgian chocolate cheese cake also includes a traditional biscuit crust.
--Polish "Sernik": one of the most popular desserts in Poland.
--Brazilian-style: usually has a layer of guava marmalade (goiabada).
--Argentinian-style: usually served with strawberry or another berry marmalade on top.
--Asian style cheese cakes: lighter in flavor and sometimes light and spongy in texture. Compared to their European counterparts, they're also considerably less sweet.
--Japanese-style: has a smooth flan-like texture and almost plastic appearance.