About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, June 02, 2008
Traditional Cheesecake

In our household, we love our potatoes.

For every particular recipe, we have a certain variety of potato for the job. Potato salad means kipflers, boiled spuds gives Dutch creams the chance to shine. For mashing, roasting or chip making, most folk would use sebagoes, a great all-rounder and generally known as all-purpose, but, if we can get them, russet burbanks are our number one choice for those three jobs.

That russets make great chips is beyond dispute, being the choice of McDonalds Corporation to make their world famous fries and is also one of the main varieties used by McCain, the world's leading producer of french fries. So when I lugged a ten kilo sack of russets home the other day, my wife D was most pleased.

"Good boy, I need those."

"What are you making?"


Honestly, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

That cheese and potato work together comes as no surprise. The French have aligot, the Swiss, raclette and the national dish of Slovakia is bryndzové halušky, a potato dumpling affair, slathered with sheep's milk cheese. But all the aforementioned dishes are savoury, not sweet.

D had been reading one of her Polish cooking magazines, Moje Gotowanie and in it were a number of recipes for cheesecake, which Poles have a deep and abiding love for. The recipe that caught her eye and my attention was the traditional version, one that contained potato, it was also a recipe she had never seen before, but was curious to make.

Most Polish cheesecakes contain a little potato flour, which may well have derived from using whole potatoes. Given that the recipe was called traditional, it is very likely that in times past, potato was a regular part of the filling, perhaps to help lighten the texture of the cake, or in straightened times, of which Poland has known a few, maybe as a way to stretch out the cheese, without interfering with the flavour.

Poland is not the only country to use potatoes in cheesecake. There is an old English recipe for Bishop Auckland Cheese Cakes that have no cheese at all, only potato, which was thought to mimic a cheesecake made with curd cheese. Another interesting fact, according to The Joy of Cooking, is that cheesecake is not a cake at all, rather, it is a baked custard.

Traditional Cheesecake
(adapted from Moje Gotowanie)

800g cottage cheese
3 medium white potatoes, peeled and boiled
6 eggs, separated
200g sugar
180g butter
50g sultanas
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 lemon
vanilla essence

In a food processor*, blend the cheese until smooth, rice the potatoes and mix with the cheese. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time. When fully mixed gradually add the cheese and potato mixture, making sure there are no lumps, but do not overmix. Stir in the sultanas, the orange and lemon zests and vanilla essence to taste. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until just stiff and carefully fold into the cheesecake mixture. Grease well with butter a 24cm springform pan and pour in the mixture. Bake in a 180c preheated oven for 80 minutes. When done, turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the tin.

*for a more delicate mixing, some like to pass the cheese through a mincer once or twice instead of a processor. Whichever way you use, be careful to not overwork the cheese.
  posted at 8:07 am

At 6:35 pm, Anonymous kitchen hand said...

Sounds great - I will try that. I'm sure you're right in that it was to make the milk go further. My mother used to make something with grated potatoes called mock bait that came from the depression years.

At 10:14 pm, Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm no cheesecake aficionado, but honestly I've never heard of potato in cheesecake before. Very clever way of mimicing the texture of cheese, with a much less expensive and more easily obtainable ingredient. Must try this!

At 12:38 pm, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

At first this sounds radical and then you consider that it keeps texture and flavor while being less expensive (both money & time to make or grow) it makes perfect sense that this might well have been original in making a cheesecake. I don't think you'd ever find me not being happy with potatoes!! Like the idea very much.

At 1:12 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi kitchen hand, I could swear that I've heard of mock bait, what is it?

Hi lydia, I even rang a Polish frien who is a great cook and she hadn't heard of it either. Very hard to research as I don't read or write Polish. It was impossible to tell that it was made with potatoes.

Hi tanna, when D told me about it, the first person I thought of was you! It is so unsurprisingly cheesecake.

At 10:16 pm, Anonymous Ellie @ Kitchen Wench said...

You're right about the Polish loving their cheesecake, the potato sounds intruiging - will have to ask my friend's mother if she knows anything about it!

At 12:42 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi ellie, I'd be very interested to know what you find out.


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