Chocolate and Sweet Cherry Mini Cheesecakes

chocolate dark cherry mini cheesecakes

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.

Choc Cherry Mini Cheesecakes

Mini Chocolate Bing Cherry Cheesecakes

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.

Chocolate Crust

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)

2 eggs

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.


Cherry Vanilla Yogurt Pops

 

Vanilla Cherry Yogurt Pops

 

Soon you can “legally” wear white pants. Memorial Day is looming…You don’t really follow that silly rule, do you? Nor do you know you can only enjoy a popsicle that you purchase in a frozen store case. The world is yours to discover. Break out the Vitamix, blender, or food processor and start making your own frozen pops. Start with your favorite fruit or two and add a little yogurt or extra jam for flavor. Pick a fruit that is in season and remember that anything frozen looses a little sweetness when it’s at frozen state, so if adding any sugar this helps to gauge before you make your final pour into your pop molds. Enjoy~

 

Cherry Vanilla Yogurt Pops

1 1/2 Cups vanilla low fat yogurt

1/2 Cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted

1/3 Cup cherry jam

In a blender, food processor or Vitamix in this order; place the yogurt and jam. Process/pulse until mixture is smooth. Add the fresh pitted cherries and pulse until the cherries are small pieces; if you like your pops a little more chunky, then so be it. Once processed to your liking pour into clean pop molds and if using wooden sticks, wait for about 15 minutes to place sticks. Freeze until firm.

 

Cherry Vanilla Yogurt Pops

 

Sweet Cherry Yogurt Pops


Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake

I’ve got a bad case of the winter blah blah blahsss. I’m dreaming of sunny skies, cool night breezes-the kind that beckon sleeping with the windows open, tart red cherries, and sipping cold lemonade on a hot summer day… I thought this coffee cake would lighten the mood with it’s tart burst of cherries and crunchy sugary top it’s just the thing to remind me of summer. I used frozen (thawed) sour cherries. Growing up my Mother used to squirrel away frozen fruit in a huge freezer so we would have any kind of berry or fruit all Winter long for such a baking occasion. I like to squirrel away fruit too- I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

 

cherry streusel cake

 cherry streusel coffee cake

cherry almond coffee cake

Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake

Cake:

1/2 Cup milk

1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. lemon zest

3/4 Cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 granulated sugar

1 lg. egg

1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/2 Cup (generous) cherry preserves, divided (I like Smuckers)

2/3 Cup frozen tart cherries, thawed (If you can’t find frozen tart cherries- you can substitute 1 Cup of dried tart cherries)

1. Make the streusel as per below and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Prepare an 8 inch pan by lining with a parchment sling so that all sides have an overhang of about 1 1/2 inches. Spray the parchment with baking spray or lightly butter.

3. In a small bowl combine the milk and lemon juice and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in the egg and lemon zest and combine well. Add the vanilla and almond extract. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and whisk with a fork.

4. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients alternating with the milk mixture in two additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Take 1/2 of the batter (it will be thick) and spread it evenly in the pan. Take 1/4 C of the jam and heat it slightly in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Spread the jam evenly over the batter, then sprinkle 1/3 Cup of the cherries over the preserves. Note: I blot the cherries dry first with a paper towel to prevent too much liquid in the batter. Take the remaining batter and dot spoonfuls of the batter over the first layer, then carefully spread batter, repeat by spreading the other half of the (warmed) cherry preserves, and sprinkle with remaining cherries.

Note: If you can’t find frozen cherries; you can fold in 1 Cup or more of dried cherries into the batter before spreading batter into the pan. (Still spread the cherry preserves onto the batter as called for in the recipe).

5. Sprinkle the streusel on top and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for 50-55 minutes until the streusel is set (doesn’t look too wet or loose) and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. If the top of the cake gets too brown you can cover with tinfoil for the last 5-10 minutes as needed. Let the cake cool in the pan set over a wire rack.

 

Almond Streusel

1/4 Cup sugar

1/4 Cup light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

5 Tbsp. butter, softened

1/3 Cup sliced almonds

1. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or in a bowl with a fork) combine all the ingredients except the almonds until appears crumbly. Stir in the almonds.

 


Happy Memorial Day- Cherry Crisp

I have a very vivid memory of my childhood peering into the abyss of a large freezer filled with sour cherries. This freezer still exists at my parents house. It is ancient, but trustworthy. Michiganders are notorious for squirreling away vast quantities of food in freezers as you can never be too prepared for a brutal winter, or frankly just prepared for any kind of weather.

We were not one of those families who had freezers full of deer meat. Like I said, for some reason I remember seeing a lot of sour cherries. Sour cherries (which are the variety Montmorency cherries) are a big thing in Michigan- right up there with blueberries. You never know when the mood strikes you to whip out a cobbler or crisp- and you must be prepared! If you are not privy to sour cherries by all means use fresh sweet bing or a mixture of bing and rainier cherries; just reduce the sugar probably by half.

 

cherry crisp 3

cherry crisp with almonds

cherry crisp with vanilla bean ice cream

Vanilla ice cream just takes it over the top….

 

Cherry Crisp

serves 7

yield: 7 individual 4.5 oz ramekins or one large 1.5-2 quart casserole dish

 

7 Cups pitted frozen tart cherries, thawed

1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar

4 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 tsp. vanilla

 

1. In a medium nonstick saucepan combine first 3 ingredients. Cook over medium heat until mixture becomes thick and bubbly. Stir in the extracts. Fill ramekins 3/4 full, then top with crumble mixture (recipe below). Bake at 375° F for 24-30 minutes until topping is lightly browned. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream. Note: if you like you may make one large dish and use a 1.5 or 2 quart oval or rectangular casserole dish, and adjust the baking time as needed.

 

Crumble:

1/4 Cup flour

1/4 Cup packed brown sugar

pinch of salt

1/4 Cup soft butter, cubed

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 Cup slivered almonds

 

 


Baked Mini Cherry and Sakura-Sugar Donuts

Sakura sugar is sugar blended with cherry blossom flowers. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing this sugar is. I know I needed to make something simple to let the sugar be the star. Simple baked donuts. Light, infused with cherry flavor and tossed in this amazing sugar. Now I know most of you will not be able to get your hands on this sweet sugar, so I included a version for cherry glaze that you can dip the tops of the donuts in. Enjoy~

sakura sugared mini donuts

sakura sugar bottle

Sakura Sugar Donut

cherry glazed sakura donuts

cherry glazed version

Baked Cherry & Sakura-Sugar Donuts

recipe: adapted from Doughnuts by Lara Ferroni

3/4 Cup all purpose flour

1/4 Cup pastry flour

1 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. dried cherry powder

1/3 Cup super fine sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 Cup whole milk, scalded

1/4 Cup plain yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg, beaten

dried cherries, diced (optional)

Topping:

melted butter

Sakura sugar

Cherry Glaze Topping:

1 Cup confectioners sugar

~ 2-3 Tbsp. cherry juice

1. Prepare a mini donut pan by greasing lightly with oil. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2. Sift the flours and baking powder together into a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer. Whisk in the sugar, dried cherry powder, and salt. Add the butter and use your fingers to rub it into the dry ingredients as you would in making a pastry crust, until even distributed. Add milk, yogurt, vanilla and egg and stir until just combined. Fold in dried cherries (if desired). Do NOT overmix or your donuts will be rubbery.

3. Using a piping bag or small spoon, fill each doughnut well until about 3/4 full, making sure each center post is clear. Bake until light golden brown and donuts spring back when touched, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly before attempting to remove from pan.

4. For sugar coated: dip each donut into melted butter and roll in sakura sugar.

5. For cherry sugar glazed: mix the confectioners sugar and cherry juice until desired consistency (you are looking for thickness like heavy cream). Dip top of each donut into glaze and let set up over a wire rack. Sprinkle with decorative or sakura sugar.


Cherry Chocolate Rugelach

Rugelach for some is one of those Holiday cookies that must make an appearance. I for one did not grow up making rugelach, but certainly have come to love these little gems. Some of my Jewish friends may know them better than I and I’m sure their Mother or Grandmother has a favorite recipe. I’m giving a shout out to all my Jewish friends-and you know who you are. Woot woot! They really aren’t so much of a cookie but a flaky little pastry bite. I love the dough as it has cream cheese in it and it gives them the flakiness that these little gems are so popular for. There are many types of fillings you can choose from; if you cruise the web you can find a myriad of choices. Some fillings have raisins or chopped fine nuts. I found this recipe from food network that has no nuts, but tweaked it a bit by adding in some finely grated chocolate. Enjoy~

Cherry Rugelach 1

Cherry Chocolate Rugelach

cherry rugelach ready to bake

Cherry Chocolate Rugelach

recipe: food network

yield: ~ 36 cookies

Dough:

8 oz. cream cheese, room temp

1/3 Cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/2 tsp. salt

2 1/2 Cups all purpose flour

2 sticks (1 Cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Filling:

1/2 Cup dried tart cherries

1/3 Cup apricot jam

1/8 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. allspice

pinch salt

1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely grated

2 Tbsp. milk (for brushing top)

granulated sugar (for sprinkling on top)

Make the dough first so it can rest while you make the filling, as the dough needs to rest for one hour before you can roll it out. Note: you can also make one or both parts the day before and assemble and bake the day of.

Dough:

1. Pulse the cream cheese, sugar and both extracts along with 1/2 tsp. salt in a food processor until smooth. Add the flour and butter and pulse until the butter is in pea size pieces. Divide the dough into 3 pieces, shape into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill for one hour.

Filling:

Put the dried cherries in a shallow bowl and cover with about 1/3 cup boiling water. Let sit for about 15 minutes to re-hydrate. Drain any water and add the cherries to a clean food processor along with jam, cinnamon, allspice and the pinch of salt, and pulse to make a paste.

To assemble:

Let dough soften slightly at room temp. Roll out each piece on a floured board into a 9 inch round circle; transfer to the refrigerator while you roll out the next piece. Spread a generous 1/4 cup filling on each dough round in a ring, but leaving a 1/2 inch border along the outer edge. Sprinkle with 2-3 Tbsp. of grated chocolate. Using a pizza wheel or cutter, cut 16 equal wedges (cutting like you would a pizza pie) and starting at the outside edge, roll each wedge toward the point. Arrange cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm; about 30 minutes. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.


Spring-Cherry Blossom (Cherry Flavored) Sugar Cookies

The cherry blossoms are out in my neighborhood and they are so beautiful. There are a lot of trees in my neighborhood with blossoms. It always catches my eye when I see a tree in full bloom; the soft pink haze of a million blossoms is quite a sight. They are the promise that Spring is close and the weather is turning. I heard you can buy (sakura) cherry blossom extract (in Japan) but alas I tried to find some in Japan town and could not locate any. I decided to infuse my sugar cookie recipe with cherry powder to impart a  hint of cherry flavor. I know it’s not the same as sakura extract but thought it would taste good to add it to my basic recipe. The cookie dough ends up turning a light pink which is pretty. Cherry blossoms smell so amazing if you get a chance to smell them up close and personal, make sure to stop and take a whiff. If you are not feeling up to decorating the cookies with icing, another great alternative is to take some powdered sugar and mix it with a bit of the cherry powder and toss the cookies in the sugar.

cherry blossom 3

cherry blossom 2

cherry blossom 5

Blossom Cookies 1A

Blossom Cookies watermarked

Naturally Flavored Cherry Sugar Cookies

3 Cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. organic cherry powder*

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 Lg. egg

1  1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. almond extract

*I buy my cherry powder at “Spice Ace” in San Francisco. They have an online store: click here for the link.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cherry powder and salt; set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the extracts; mix. Add in the egg and mix. Add the flour mixture a little at a time and mix until just combined; scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is combined well. Try not to overmix the dough. There will be crumbs; take out the dough and knead softly with your hands. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick (or slightly thicker if you like a thicker cookie). Cut into desired shapes. Place on a Silpat sheet or parchment paper lined cookie sheet and Bake at 350 °  F for 12-15 minutes until the edges just barely start to turn light brown. Let cookies cool on sheets placed on a wire rack for 10 mins. Move the cookies to wire rack to cool completely before icing. Decorate as desired with royal icing.

Royal Icing:

4 Tbsp. meringue powder

1/2 C cold water

1 lb. powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. clear vanilla

pink (gel) food coloring of choice

Combine the meringue powder and H2O until foamy. Add the sugar a cup at a time [if the sugar is lumpy; make sure to sift it first] and beat on low until combined. Once all the sugar is combined, turn up the mixer to high and beat for about 5 mins. until the meringue forms stiff peaks. Add cold water one tsp. at a time until the mixture is thinned to consistency of heavy cream. Ice the cookies and let the icing dry until the icing is totally dry. This may take overnight. Decorate as desired.