Arts and Sciences

EK “Try”athalon – Libum: Ancient Roman Cheesecakes

A Taste of Ancient Rome

Some may say it is a cheese cake, while others refer to it as a cheese bread. This simple recipe requires only 5 or 6 ingredients that you most likely already have laying around the kitchen.


Ingredients:

  • 1+ cup flour (any kind will do: white, whole wheat, or spelt)
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, strained
  • 1 large beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon honey or vanilla extract (optional if you’d like a sweeter result)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/3 cup honey

Instructions:

  • Preheat an oven to 425°F and grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  • Put the cup of flour into a large bowl. Beat the ricotta cheese in a small bowl until it is creamy and soft. Stir the ricotta into the flour along with the beaten egg and the honey/vanilla, if using. If the dough still remains too wet, add more flour until it comes together. On a floured surface, knead the dough until soft and divide into four rounds. It should not take much working. Place four bay leaves onto the baking sheet. Put each dough round on top of each leaf. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Discard the bay leaves.
  • For the honey, you have two options.
    • 1) Heat the honey in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and transfer to a serving dish. Add the cheesecakes and let sit for 30 minutes, flipping the cakes occasionally so that they absorb the honey.
    • 2) If you’re more impatient to start eating, you can drizzle your cakes with some honey and then start enjoying.

Makes 4 cakes

About This Recipe

Libum is a bread like cake made with flour and cheese. It was offered as a sacrifice during rituals to household gods on alters in Roman kitchens.

This recipe is described by Cato the Elder in his manual for agricultural life, Di Agri Cultura, in 160 BC. In the book, he writes about Roman life, culture, and food. He was a prominent Roman citizen who went from life as a soldier and senator to the more quiet life of a farmer. If you’d like to check out the text, here it is in it’s entirety online.

More Resources

I love this website: Tavola Mediterranea. She does lots of hands on research into the foods of Mediterranean cultures. She has many recipes from Ancient Rome. I highly recommend checking it out.

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