I might have a weakness for cheesecake; and might I note there is nothing easier than a good old 9×13 slap it in the pan, and pour it in, and bake dessert. Cheesecake in an oblong pan is like the kissing cousin of slab pie. but in my mind, even easier to pull off. Strawberries have been crazy cheap in my area lately. Last weekend I found 1 pound cartons for 50 cents. I grabbed two and threw them in the fridge not knowing what I had planned for them. A recipe popped up on my email for these squares from the New York Times. The original recipe calls for topping them with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. I decided instead to spread a classic sour cream topping in lieu of whipped cream. You could also make this in a standard springform pan as well. I tweaked it slightly by adding in some extra strawberry flavor (LorAnn Strawberry Bakery Emulsion) to punch up the strawberry-ness. You can skip that step if you cannot access the strawberry emulsion.
recipe adapted from New York Times
Strawberry Cheesecake Squares
11 oz. Shortbread Cookies (I used 2 packages of Pepperidge Farm brand)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 and grease or line with a parchment sling a 9×13 inch pan.
In a food processor grind the cookies and salt until you have fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and pulse until combined.
Press the crust into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Cool completely while you prepare the filling.
24 oz. fresh strawberries, cleaned, hulled and halved
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
3 (8 0z.) packages cream cheese, room temp
5 large eggs, room temp
1 tsp. strawberry emulsion (LorAnn brand)
Fresh quartered/halved strawberries for garnish (optional)
In a 3 quart or medium pot, mix the strawberries and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the berries soften and mixture becomes saucy; about 8 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then transfer a clean food processor bowl and puree until smooth and no longer chunky; tiny bits are fine. Pour into a large bowl and set aside.
To the food processor bowl, add in the cream cheese and 1 1/4 cups sugar and blend until smooth. Add in the eggs a couple at a time and blend until smooth. Add in the strawberry flavor emulsion and blend. Scrape down the sides of processor bowl and mix until all blended. Pour the cheese mixture into the strawberry mixture and fold until combined. Pour into the cooled crust and bake for 45-50 minutes until edges look set but the middle is very slightly jiggly. Note: I only baked mine for 45 minutes, but next time I will do a few mins. longer as I found the filling was still a little soft. While the cheesecake is baking stir together the sour cream topping. When the cheesecake is done, remove from the oven and gently dollop the topping on top and smooth evenly and to the edges with a small offset spatula. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 11-12 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan over a wire rack, then refrigerate over-night or for several hours until cutting into squares. Serve cold. Garnish with fresh strawberries as desired.
Sour Cream Topping
2 Cups sour cream, room temp
1/2 Cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla
In a medium bowl stir together all the ingredients with a whisk.
I remember parfait desserts being very popular when I was a child. We had this section in our cupboard for dessert glasses. My Mom always had cute little dessert glasses or parfait glasses for such things. It is true when they say you eat with your eyes first. For some reason there is something very inticing about a dessert with visual layers of differing textures and color. I love when you dip and drag your spoon down into the glass as you lift it up to take that first bite of all the different layers. These little desserts are perfect for a party when you don’t want to be fussing with cutting and serving. All you have to do is assemble them ahead of time and keep them chilled. If you use disposable plastic cups they are even better because you can throw them in the recycle bin when you are done and no washing!
I used my new Russian ball piping tip (#271) to pipe the stabilized whipped cream on top.
Black Forest Cheesecake Parfaits
Double Cherry Compote
3 Cups fresh sweet cherries, pitted
1/2 Cup tart dried cherries (such as Montmorency)
1 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
cornstarch slurry: 1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp. cold water
1 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1/2 C confectioners sugar
1 1/2 C heavy whipping cream, cold
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder
*Miscellaneous: you will need Famous brand chocolate wafer cookies for assembly
Fresh sweetened whipped cream (for garnish)
1 Cup cold heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp. nonfat dry milk powder
In the bowl of a stand mixer whip the cream cheese with the paddle attachment until cheese is soft. Remove cheese with a rubber spatula into a separate bowl and set aside at room temp.
In the same bowl (no need to wash) place the heavy cream and chill the bowl with the cream for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes place the bowl on the mixer and add in the vanilla and the nonfat dry milk powder and whip with the whisk attachment until thickened. Add in the softened cream cheese and stir gently with the whisk attachment until incorporated. Spoon filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip. (I used an Ateco 809).
• Take about 1/2 package of Famous chocolate wafers and place in a large ziplock bag. Using your hands crush the cookies from the outside of the bag until they are coarsely broken (you don’t want fine crumbs).
• Place about 2 Tbsp. of the chocolate wafer crumbs into the bottom of each parfait glasses. I used 14 oz. “crystal cut” chinet brand plastic cups for my parfaits.
• On top of each chocolate crumbs layer, pipe a layer of cream cheese filling, then top with a spoonful of cherry compote. Repeat another layer of chocolate cookie crumbs, followed by cheese cake filling and then end with a spoonful of cherry compote. Top with a small amount of chocolate crumbs and then fresh sweetened whipped cream, followed by a fresh cherry with stem.
Note: For a nice decorative touch you can use a Russian ball tip # 271 to pipe your whipped cream.
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.