Plakountas – the 4000 years old Greek cheesecake

cheesecake - Plakountas - the 4000 years old Greek cheesecake - hotelathensgreece.com

Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash

Cheesecake is a delicious and beloved dessert around the world. While many assume that it has its origins in New York, it actually dates back much further. The delicious cheesecake has its roots in Ancient Greece. The Plakountas (Placenta cake) has a long history of over 4000 years!

In Ancient Greece, the plakountas was considered to be a superior source of energy, and there is evidence that it was served to athletes during the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. It was also used as a wedding cake by Greek brides and grooms.

Plakountas - the 4000 years old Greek cheesecake - hotelathensgreece.com

Female bakers kneading dough accompanied by a musician playing a flute; terracotta figurine group discovered at Thebes, Boeotia, 6th century BC (Louvre, Paris).

The earliest attested mention of a cheesecake is by the Greek physician Aegimus (5th century BC), who wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes (πλακουντοποιικόν σύγγραμμα — plakountopoiikon syngramma).

Athenaeus, a 2nd century AD author, in his book The Deipnosophistae (=dinner-table philosophers) mentions that Callimachus (3rd century BC) used to have a work by Aegimius that described the art of making cheesecakes.

The earliest extant cheesecake recipes are found in Roman Cato the Elder‘s De Agri Cultura, which includes recipes for three cakes for religious uses: libum, savillum and placenta. Of the three, placenta is most like most modern cheesecakes, having a crust that is separately prepared and baked.

the Placenta travels the world

A number of modern scholars suggest that the Greco-Roman dessert’s Byzantine descendants, plakountas tetyromenous (“cheesy placenta”) and koptoplakous (Byzantine Greek: κοπτοπλακοῦς), are the ancestors of modern tiropita (cheese pie with fyllo) and baklava respectively.

Today on the island of Lesbos in Greece the name placenta (πλατσέντα) is used to describe a baklava-type dessert of layered pastry leaves containing crushed nuts that is baked and then covered in honey.

Through its Greek name plakountas, the dessert was adopted into Armenian cuisine as plagindi, plagunda, and pghagund, all “cakes of bread and honey”. From the latter term came the later Arabic name iflaghun, which is mentioned in the medieval Arab cookbook Wusla ila al-habib as a specialty of the Armenians settled in Cilicia (southern Asia Minor) and in the neighboring Crusader kingdoms of northern Syria.

Thus, the dish may have traveled to the Levant in the Middle Ages via the Armenians, many of whom migrated there following the first appearance of the Turkish tribes in medieval Anatolia.

Other variants of the Greco-Roman dish survived into the modern era in the form of the Romanian plăcintă and the Viennese palatschinke.

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This post is republished under license from theDelphiGuide.com, your guide for Delphi, the Navel of the Earth


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