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.
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.