Cheese Pie

Cheese pie. Photos by Keri White

I have written before about my friend’s mom, Merle Markowitz, baker extraordinaire. I had the good fortune to have dinner at her home last week, and dessert did not disappoint.

She presented a cheese pie — sort of a lighter, simpler version of a cheesecake. The recipe is said to be Pennsylvania Dutch in origin, and it’s an oldie but a goodie. Markowitz, a spry 87-year-old who looks about 70, got it from her late sister’s mother-in-law. She shared the recipe with me from the faded handwritten 3-x-5 card, which has kicked around her collection for a good 50 years.

The original version calls for zwieback crumbs made from those old teething biscuits, but they are increasingly hard to find. Markowitz uses graham cracker crumbs as a substitute, and the results are splendid.

She sent a generous slab of the pie home for my husband. He tasted it and said “Oh my gosh. Holy $&%#. This is so good! My knees are weak. I’m eating this all, not sharing with you.” Markowitz was thrilled with his reaction. (Me, less so.)

The pie should be well chilled to ensure that the filling holds together; for this reason, it is best made early in the morning, or the day before you plan to serve it.

Cheese Pie

Don’t let the multiple steps scare you — this is a simple recipe with straightforward ingredients. It is lighter and more foolproof than a traditional cheesecake.

This makes a 9-inch pie

The crust:
1¼ cups zwieback or graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar

Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the crust ingredients in a 9-inch pie plate and press them firmly into the bottom and up the sides. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool slightly.

The filling:
3 eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 pound cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend the filling ingredients well with an electric mixer and pour them into a pie shell. Bake them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

The cream topping:
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

While the pie bakes, mix the topping in a small bowl. When the pie is baked, cool it slightly and cover it with the sour cream mixture.

The crumb topping:
½ cup zwieback or graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons sugar

In a small bowl, mix the crumb topping ingredients and sprinkle them evenly over the top of the pie. Bake the pie for an additional 5 minutes. Let it cool completely, then chill for several hours or overnight.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here