Cheesecake. Decadent, chocolaty with a burst of sweet cherries in every bite. Even the person who normally would shy away from eating dessert will usually go for a mini cheesecake as they are not much of a diet breaker being so small. They are literally like 4 bites of sweet nirvana. My child-who is not really much of a dessert person, devoured them. To be precise-imagine him taking one bite and then shoving the rest into his mouth. They are that good. You could dress these up even more by serving them with some roasted cherry sauce or ganache topping, but I kept them simple and topped with whipped cream and a fresh cherry.
Chocolate & Dark Sweet Cherry Cheesecake
yield: 12 mini cheesecakes
Cooked Sweet Cherries
Pitted fresh dark sweet cherries (cut into quarters to equal 1 1/2 Cups)
1 T water
1 T sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. water
In a small saucepan place the cut cherries, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of water. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until become softened. In a small bowl make a slurry by mixing the cornstarch with 2 teaspoons of water. Add to the cherries and continue to cook while constantly stirring for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, place in a small bowl and set aside while you make the crust and cheesecake batter.
3/4 Cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
3 T melted butter
In a bowl mix together the crumbs with the melted butter.
Chocolate Cheesecake Batter
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 T Kirsch liqueur (optional)
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey’s)
1/2 Cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1. Prepare a mini cheesecake pan by rubbing the bottom and sides of each well with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Note: I’ve tried both spraying with non stick spray, and this preparation, and this works better. Firmly press a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate crumb mixture (recipe above) into the bottom of each well. If you don’t have a mini cheesecake pan, you can use a muffin pan and line each well with a foil type of cupcake liner.
2. Preheat oven to 325° F. In the bowl of a stand mixer place the softened cream cheese and sugar and cream on low speed until combined (I mix the entire batter on low speed to ensure no extra bubbles form). Add the vanilla, optional Kirsch, and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the cocoa powder and mix to combine. Add the melted chocolate and mix to combine. Fold in the cherries- you will see some red marbling at first but it will come together okay.
3. Fill each well to the top with batter-(takes about 1/4 cup) note you might have about 1/4 Cup batter left over depending on the size of your cheesecake wells. Place the cheesecake pan on a sheet pan and bake in preheated 325° oven for about 30 minutes, stopping after 15 minutes to turn the pan from front to back to ensure even heating. Note: the cheesecakes will rise quite a bit and appear to separate into a “cap” like appearance but don’t worry-they will shrink back down level once cooled. Allow cheesecakes to cool over a wire rack, then move to the refrigerator to chill completely. Top with sweetened whipped cream and garnish with a cherry.
Merry Christmas to all my wonderful readers.
Peace, Love, and Blessings to all of you and a Happy New Year for 2014.
I know this is a bit late to plan for baking for Christmas so I apologize as I have been running around like crazy this week; but keep it in mind for Valentines Day; just plan to change up the sprinkles to something appropriate.
Red Velvet Mini Cheesecakes
yield: ~ 19 individual cheesecakes
1 Cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
20 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup natural (such as Hershey’s) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1 oz. red liquid food coloring (such as McCormick) (one small McCormick bottle is 1 oz.)
3 lg. eggs, room temp
1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Prepare mini cheesecake pan(s) or standard size muffin pans with paper liners. Spray the mini cheesecake pan with non stick baking spray or alternatively spray the paper liners.
2. Mix the chocolate crumbs and melted butter together and press 1 Tbsp. into the well of each cup. Press firmly to the bottom. NO NEED TO PRE BAKE! Set aside while making the batter.
3. Cream together the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add the cocoa and beat until combined. Add in the vanilla and red food coloring until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and stop often to scrape bottom and sides of mixer bowl. Combine until smooth. Pour batter into a glass measuring cup to make filling easier. Fill each well almost to the top. Use a bamboo skewer or toothpick to pop any visible air bubbles.
4. Bake at 375° F for 15-20 mins. or until tops of cheesecake no longer look shiny. Bake only one pan at a time. [remaining cheesecake batter filled pans will be fine to sit while first batch is baking]. Note; baking time is only a guideline; make sure to check cheesecakes as pan sizes vary. Remove pan to cool over wire rack. Once cool, place in fridge to cool completely.
5. To serve; top with whipped cream and crushed pieces of candy cane.
6. Note; this recipe also works well as half a recipe (to yield 9 cheesecakes). Divide recipe by half, and regarding the eggs; just weigh the egg portion and use 1 1/2 eggs. (Weigh the second egg and divide by half).
Calling all pumpkin spice fans. How many of you have already made it into Starbucks for your pumpkin spice latte? Uh huh. That’s what I thought. Quite a few of you…Can we get enough of fall time pumpkin treats. I think not. Here’s something you can whip up on your own–no coffee house trip needed. Pumpkin Cheesecake bars. After I made these, I thought they looked a little plain so I added a recipe for a cream cheese frosting to spread on top if you like. Cheers~
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
1 1/2 Cup crisp gingersnap cookie crumbs
3 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted melted butter
1. Line a 9×9 inch square pan with tinfoil. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C). Lightly grease the tinfoil. In a small bowl combine the ingredients well with a fork. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake at 350 for about 14-15 minutes until crust looks set around edges. (crust may look a bit wet–that’s okay). Let crust layer cool completely. Make the cheesecake layer while crust is cooling.
12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 Cup confectioners sugar
1/2 Cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 Cup pumpkin puree* (note: pumpkin puree usually comes as a 15 oz. can–which gives you exactly 1 3/4 Cups puree; you will have exactly 1 Cup leftover puree after this recipe. Freeze the remainder in a ziplock baggie for another recipe that calls for pumpkin).
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (note: if you can’t find pumpkin pie spice, use 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg)
1. With an electric mixer cream together the cheese and confectioners sugar until combined; about 3 minutes. Hint: to avoid excess air bubbles don’t go past speed 4 (or medium) on your mixer. Stop occasionally to scrape down bottom and sides of bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix (same speed) until combined. Add eggs one at a time until smooth; scraping down sides and bottom occasionally until smooth. Add in vanilla. Add the pumpkin puree and beat (same speed) until combined. Add in the flour, salt and spices and continue to beat until combined. Pour the mixture onto the cooled crust and rap the pan on the counter several times (about 20 times) until you no longer see any air bubbles rise to the surface (This helps prevent getting those nasty air bubbles you sometimes see on top of the cheesecake). TURN THE OVEN DOWN TO 300 DEGREES F TO BAKE.
2. Bake at 300°F for about 30-35 minutes or until just set. The middle portion of the pan should look JUST slightly jiggly when you gently shake the pan. Turn off the oven and prop open the door and let pan sit in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove pan from oven and let cool completely over a wire rack.
Spread with cream cheese frosting if desired. To store: cover pan with tinfoil and chill in the fridge until firm enough to cut.
Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. soft butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 Cup confectioners sugar, measured then sifted
In a small bowl combine the cream cheese and butter with a rubber spatula until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir in the sugar and combine until smooth. Spread over cooled cheesecake.
Sometimes you crave something sweet, but you can’t place exactly what it is that you want. You start running through your mind all the options for a sweet tooth fix but nothing sounds right. This is the time I usually go for something sweet and tart. I love tangy and citrus desserts. I never met a lemon dessert I didn’t like. These cheesecake bars are really easy to whip together and they fulfill the sweet but tart craving. I had a jar of lemon curd in my pantry I had to use up, so I went with that rather than homemade, but you could make homemade lemon curd if you like. Enjoy~
Lemon Cheesecake Squares
recipe adapted from Fine Cooking
1 (5 0z.) pkg. Pepperidge Farm “ginger-man”cookies, (or other gingersnap type cookies) ground to a fine crumb (to equal 1 Cup of crumbs)
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1. Combine the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Prepare an 8 inch square pan lined with tinfoil to allow a 2 inch overhang on all sides. Lightly spray the foil with baking spray (nonstick spray). Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350° F. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 325° F. Make the filling as below.
2 (8 oz.) bars cream cheese, room temp
3/4 Cup sugar
zest of two lemons
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Lg. eggs, room temp
1. Cut the cream cheese into one inch pieces and place into a food processor along with the sugar, zest and lemon juice. Process for about 30 seconds until smooth. Add the eggs and process again about 20 seconds. Pour onto the crust and bake at 325 degrees for about 40 mins. or until the center appears dry and the edges become slightly puffed. Allow the cheesecake to cool about 10 minutes. Take the jar of lemon curd, spoon it into a bowl, and microwave for about 20 seconds to become warm. Gently pour the curd over the cheesecake, and spread evenly with an off-set spatula. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature then place the pan in the fridge to chill for several hours or overnight. Once chilled and set, remove the entire pan of bars using the tinfoil and peel away the foil and cut into squares.
(about 1 generous Cup purchased) jar of lemon curd (I like Dickinson’s)
I have a childhood confession. I used to steal blackberries from the neighbor’s yard; but it’s okay because my Mother made me do it. She doesn’t remember this, but I remember it vividly as if it were yesterday. We had an old man who lived behind us that had an amazing garden. He scared the living daylights out of me. His garden had wonderful plump blackberries. That garden of his was like something out of a Secret Garden. True story book material. It was somewhat magical and grand. He was always tinkering in his big garden so it was hard to find the time when he was not around. I think I had his nap time figured out though. Just when the moment was right, I would bring my little Tupperware container and seize a few of those berries.
Then I would run like hell.
Technically is it stealing if those berries are crossed over into your property by say a half an inch or two? 🙂 If I were in that house today I would simply make these bars and ask him for some berries. I’m sure he would have approved.
Blackberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars
8 large cinnamon graham crackers; crushed to a fine meal to equal 1 generous Cup crumbs
3 Tbsp. confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 (8 oz). bars (16 oz. total) of cream cheese; softened to room temp
1 Cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sour cream at room temp
3 Large eggs at room temp
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2 Tbsp. flour
1/3 Cup Blackberry seedless jam
1 Tbsp. water
Make the filling: Combine the cream cheese and sugar in an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat until smooth. Stir in the vanilla bean paste. Add the eggs one at a time and combine until smooth. Stir in the flour. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the worker bowl to make sure all the cream cheese has been combined thoroughly.
1. Prepare an 8 inch pan with a double sling (so each side is covered) of tinfoil. Spray the foil lightly with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F.
2. Pulse the graham crackers to a fine meal in either a food processor or blender; you should get about one generous Cup. Add the sugar and salt and melted butter and combine. Press into the bottom of your prepared pan and chill for 30 minutes. Bake the chilled crust for 10 minutes.
3. Prepare the filling while the crust chills.
4. Pour the filling into the pan and dot the filling with the blackberry jam by dropping teaspoons over the batter. Use a wooden skewer to swirl the jam. Lower the oven to 325 degrees.
5. Bake the bars at 325° degrees for 30-40 minutes until the filling is set but slightly soft in the center. let the bars cool in the pan on a wire rack until set. Chill the bars for 2-3 hours until very cold and remove the entire pan of bars carefully using the sling. Peel away the foil. Cut into bars. Decorate the top with fresh blackberries is desired.
In the late summer of 1998 I moved to San Francisco from New Mexico. I had been living in the “Land of Enchantment” for a short time when I was a traveling Nurse. I still remember the long drive through the central valley of California on my way to San Francisco and seeing all the fresh produce trucks driving past me in great numbers. Convoys of huge trucks filled with roma tomatoes, and other fresh produce were cruising past me on my journey to my new home. It suddenly dawned on me that California was going to be an exciting place when it came to shopping for fresh fruits and veggies. The first taste of a really ripe apricot was one of my first amazing discoveries, the second was tasting a really ripe juicy raspberry. Grocery shopping suddenly became a little more exciting to me. Being a “foodie” this was fun for me to find such gorgeous fruit. I don’t mean to wax poetic, but this was something new to me; a raspberry that was really sweet and not half ripe. Cartons of beautiful ruby-red raspberries all stacked atop each other in neatly organized rows. A raspberry that was picked from the coastal region of California the day before at its peak of ripeness- not hard, not pale red, but deep dark red and sweet. Raspberries have been on sale this week so I took the opportunity to grab quite a few and made some fresh raspberry sauce to top my cheesecakes. You could also use frozen raspberries and it would work fine. Here is another favorite recipe of mine; a raspberry tart recipe while raspberries are in season. Click here for more facts about California raspberries as well as how to pick and store fresh raspberries from the fine folks at Driscolls. Enjoy.
Mini Raspberry-Vanilla Bean Cheesecakes
yield: 24 mini (standard muffin size) cheesecakes
24 oz. fresh raspberries
1/2 Cup sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. water
In a 3 quart saucepan combine the raspberries and sugar and let them macerate for a few minutes. On medium high heat, bring the raspberries and sugar mixture to a boil for 3 minutes while stirring continuously with a rubber spatula. Mash the raspberries with the spatula while letting it come to a boil. After 3 minutes, in a small bowl combine the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Stir in the slurry and continue to stir for another 3 minutes to let the mixture thicken. Strain through a fine mesh strainer over a medium bowl to remove all the seeds and press the mixture with the spatula back and forth to allow all of the raspberry filling to pass through. Scrape the underside of the strainer to make sure you get all of the filling into the bowl. Let the filling cool and chill in a covered container in the fridge.
4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese; room temp
1 Cup sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
4 eggs; room temp
1 1/2 Cup fresh raspberries rinsed and drained well
24 “Nilla” wafers
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare 2 standard size muffin tins with paper liners. Place a Nilla wafer in the bottom of each muffin cup with the flat side down. Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla bean paste until well combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time until just combined. Carefully fold in the fresh raspberries. Fill the liners 3/4 full with cheesecake mixture. Bake about 15-18 minutes until the centers are ALMOST set. Cool completely and chill the cakes for 3-4 hours. Top each cheesecake with raspberry topping. Serve cold.