I·ATE Food Term of the Week: Kéiskuch

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Cheesecake is a creamy cake with cheese! It is common belief that the combination of sweet and salty gives birth to an unbeatable taste. Cheesecake is a beloved dessert which is the proof of this belief.

There are many variations on the kinds of cheesecake, depending on the kind of cheese which is used and the topping of the cake (fruits, chocolate, or caramel).

But where does Cheesecake come from?

Etymologically speaking, Cheese is rooted in the Latin word “caseus” which was derived by the Proto-Indo-European root *kwat-, which bears the original meaning of: to ferment, become sour. The Latin word “caseus” is the etymological source of the respective “cheese words” in Italian- “cacio”-, in Spanish – queso” – in Irish – “caise” – and in Welsh – “caws”. Cheese is defined as the “curd of milk, coagulated, separated from the whey, pressed and used as food. We find traces of the same root also in Prakrit (“chasi”), Old Church Slavonic (“kvasu”), Czech (“kysati”), Sanskrit (“kvathati”), Gothic (“hwabjan”) and Ancient Greek (“tirevo”).

It is of high interest that in the Greek epic poem ‘Odyssey’ by Homer, there is special reference to the cheese made by Polyphemus, the one-eyed Cyclope in his cave by the milk of his goats.

The first Cheesecake is believed to have been made in the Greek island of Samos. As mentioned in the “History of Cheesecake”, “Physical anthropologists excavated cheese molds in Samos, which were dated circa 2,000 B.C. In Greece, cheesecake was considered to be a good source of energy, and there is evidence that it was served to athletes during the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. Greek brides and grooms were also known to use cheesecake as a wedding cake. The simple ingredients of flour, wheat, honey and cheese were formed into a cake and baked”. The first Cheesecake recipe has been written by the ancient Greek writer Athenaeus in 230 a.D. The instructions were plain “pound the cheese until it is smooth and pasty, mix the pounded cheese in a bras pan with honey and spring wheat flour, heat the cheese mass in one mass, allow it to cool and serve!”

This first Ancient Greek recipe was enriched after the conquer of Greece by Romans, who added crushed cheese and eggs. The Romans called their cheesecake “libuma” and they served it on special occasions. Marcus Cato, a Roman politician in the 1st century B.C., is credited as recording the oldest known Roman cheesecake recipe. The expansion of Romans and their empire brought their cheesecake recipe to the Europeans. Each European country started giving its own cultural spin. The first Cheesecake cookbook was printed in 1545. The immigration of Europeans to America brought Cheesecake on the “table” of the Americans who changed the use of cheese to the use of the cream cheese.

The variations of Cheesecake keep expanding according to each season and its fruits as well as according to the taste culture of each nation.

Kéiskuch, the traditional Luxembourgish cheesecake is especially favored and once tried is difficult not to keep looking for it on your table!

Below is its recipe.

Luxembourg Cheese Cake (Kéiskuch)

Course: Dessert – Cuisine: Luxembourg
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 1 pie
Author: International Cuisine

Ingredients
for the crust

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup milk

for the filling

  • 1 pound curd kéis
  • 3 egg yolks beaten
  • ½ cup cream
  • juice and rind from 1 lemon
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. For the crust
  3. Mix the dry ingredients, add butter then milk. Roll and place in a cake or pie tin.
  4. for the filling:
  5. Mix all the filling ingredients together and pour over the dough in the cake or pie tin
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes, it will finish setting in the refrigerator
  7. Remove and serve at room temperature
  8. If you like you can whip up the whites and make a meringue or top with some fresh berries.

Sources

Caseus, Etymology of the word [ONLINE], https://www.wordsense.eu/caseus/, Accessed on October 1st 2020
Cheese, Etymology of the word [ONLINE], https://www.etymonline.com/word/cheese, Accessed on October 1st 2020
Cheesecake, History of Cheesecake, [ONLINE], https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheesecake, Accessed on October 1st 2020
History of Cheesecake and Cream Cheese, [ONLINE], https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-cheesecake-and-cream-cheese-1991463 Accessed on October 1st 2020
History of Cheesecake, [ONLINE], https://www.cheesecake.com/History-Of-Cheesecake.asp Accessed on October 1st 2020
History of Greek Cheeses, (in Greek) [ONLINE], https://www.rodiaki.gr/article/357932/h-gwnia-ths-glwssas-mas-h-feta-to-kaseri-h-myzhthra-h-panarxaia-istoria-twn-tyriwn Accessed on October 1st 2020
Kéiskuch, The Traditional Luxembourgish Cheesecake, International Cuisine, [ONLINE], https://www.internationalcuisine.com/luxembourg-cheese-cake/, Accessed on October 1st 2020


Maria Papamargariti pictureWritten by Maria Papamargariti, Greek and English Philologist, writer in the field of children’s literature.