Foods of Bucks County
By Neil Plakcy
“The jazz band from the high school was playing off-key, and someone on the other side of
the half-moon driveway was selling candy apples, guaranteed to rot the teeth of even the most careful
eaters. The light breeze brought the sweet smell across to us, and I remembered going to Styer’s Farm
Market when I was a kid. My mom wouldn’t buy me one of the apples, covered in a shiny red lacquer,
but my dad would.”
Flea markets and festivals were staple events of my childhood, where I’d cadge a quarter or two
from my parents and head for the funnel cake table, where someone poured a kind of pancake batter
out of what looked like a watering can with a funnel-likespout. The ribbons of batter would swirl around
on a hot griddle, creating a kind of heavy lace pancake, which was then dusted with powdered sugar.
My family ate a lot of what we called “Jewish food” at home – chopped liver, chicken soup
with matzo balls, lox and bagels, brisket and roast chicken. When I was in high school we had a Polish
cleaning lady, Helen Wielninski, a heavy-set, big-busted woman in her sixties who came to us
once a week in a flowered smock to rearrange the dust. If she was in a good mood, or we were
celebrating a special occasion, she brought us a cheesecake, made according to her own special
recipe. The cakes were baked in a springform pan, one with a spring on the side so the pan
could be opened and a removable bottom, and they cracked in the middle while baking, giving
you a sneak preview at all the rich goodness inside.
Making Helen’s cheesecake today is an exercise in nostalgia for me – for the days
when I could eat four or five slices of cheesecake at once and not gain a single pound, when I
could ride my bike anywhere in town and many of the stores where we shopped were owned
by people my parents had grown up with. That’s the kind of place I’ve created in Stewart’s
Crossing (though my hero watches his weight now.)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
5 eight ounce cream cheese packages
3 tablespoons flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
8 ounces chocolate mini-chips
Preheat the oven to 500° F. Open the cream cheese and leave it out to soften.
Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter and press into the bottom of a 9"
Cream the cheese with a wooden spoon, and then, using an electric beater, add in the
eggs, one at a time. Then mix in the flour, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until there are no more
lumps, then add in the chocolate mini-chips. (Regular size chips will sink to the bottom of the
cake, which is fine if you want a chocolate layer down there. The mini-chips are small enough to
remain suspended in the batter. You can also swirl in some chocolate syrup if you want.)
Pour into the springform pan, and bake at 500 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn the oven
down to 250 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes. Then turn the oven off and let the
cake cool in the oven for one hour.
I like this cake best after it has been refrigerated, but if you're too eager to wait it tastes
just as good right out of the oven.