Mini Cheesecakes, (or what I brought to Easter dinner)

Mini Cheesecakes

Mini Cheesecakes

Good morning, folks,  Happy Spring,  Welcome to Monday, and here I am back….did you miss me?  I certainly missed you!

Last week was a whirlwind of busy-ness, and I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so our meals devolved into left overs and quick and easy ones that are already on these pages somewhere.  Can you believe one evening we even had Chinese Takeout?   Well, what can I say?  We like it every so often (in a pinch).   The point to all this being …I didn’t have anything new to share with you,  until Easter weekend rolled around, that is.

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The family gathered at my niece’s house–she wanted to try being the hostess for the first time.  I like to encourage our younger family members to try hostessing and entertaining,  and so I said,  “what can I do to help with dinner?”   The answer:  “Oh, Aunt Carolyn, will you please make dessert?”   YES!

I had seen a picture of miniature cheesecakes in a magazine that were so cute, I really wanted to try them.  They were individual ones, made in muffin tins, with the tops decorated with toasted coconut and mini chocolate eggs to look like little nests.  I knew the children would really like them…and the adults too!  They were super easy to make and came out just right.  I was so pleased.  Those pictured below were decorated with help from a 3-year-old, so they may not look perfect.  A few extra “eggs” may have been eaten along the way, but it was fun doing it with a little girl to help me!

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The crust under the cheese filling is meant to be made with graham cracker crumbs, but in our family we have an allergy to graham crackers, so I always use a shortbread cookie instead.  In this case I used Nilla Wafers, crushed to replace the graham crumbs.  I also used a low-fat cream cheese in place of the regular, for a reduction of some fat and calories.  It all worked out beautifully.

As the cheesecakes bake, the tops of them get cracked, but as they cool, and the tops sink a bit, the cracks close up, and they are covered by the toasted coconut “grass”, so don’t worry about that small detail.

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It has occurred to me that these little cakes would be a perfect dessert for a buffet.  With Mother’s Day coming up soon, bridal showers and graduations too, just change out the type of little candies in the “nest” to fit the occasion.  So cute!!

MINI CHEESECAKES

Yield:  Makes 18 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (or other type of cookie crumb)IMG_9528
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 3 pkg. cream cheese, softened (8-oz. each)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. coconut
  • 54 tiny speckled chocolate eggs

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325*F.  Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

2.  Mix graham crumbs, 2 Tbsp. sugar and melted butter in a small bowl until uniformly moistened and crumbly.  Press 1 Tbsp. crumbs into the bottoms of muffin cups.

Crumbs in the bottom of the cups.

Crumbs in the bottom of the cups.

3.  Beat cream cheese, vanilla and remaining sugar with mixer until smooth.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended.

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Spoon over crusts.  (Each cup takes about 2 Tbsp. filling)

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4.  Bake at 325*F. for 25 to 30 minutes or until centers are almost set.  Cool completely.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

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To toast coconut:  pour the 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. coconut onto a baking sheet and bake at 325*. for 5 minutes.  Watch carefully to prevent over browning.

Toasted Coconut.

Toasted Coconut.

5.  Top each cheesecake with 1 Tbsp. toasted coconut shaped into a nest.

Fill each one with 3 tiny speckled chocolate eggs.

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SOURCE:   Food Network Magazine

 

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The Tale of a Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

This story begins with a cheesecake and ends with a “dog story”.  It may not make sense at the start, but it will by the end, so hang in here with me.

One of my contributions to our Thanksgiving Dinner was a pumpkin cheesecake.  I brought it plus my Sweet Potato Casserole and Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce to my sister-in-law’s house for our family dinner.  Having made these last two items in advance, last Wednesday I made the Pumpkin Cheesecake.

The project began in the morning when I took two blocks of cream cheese out of the fridge to soften up while I did some other things.  By afternoon I was ready to begin putting the cheesecake together.   It is very easy to make and I chose this recipe because it has garnered so many “stars” by recipe testers on Allrecipe.com.  Think of it as an all-star recipe, even award-winning, you might say.

Folks who made it said it tasted just like the cheesecake at a very popular restaurant.  It cut cleanly and looked attractive on the plate because the cheesecake goes into the crust in two layers, and when it’s cut the layers are very apparent.  It was described as perfectly seasoned with the spiciness of pumpkin pie, but so much more creamy, because of the contrast of the crumb crust.

As I happily went about making what sounded so delectable, my mouth was watering.  I had described it in such detail to my sister-in-law that her mouth was watering just hearing about it, and she really loves cheesecake, so we two couldn’t wait for dessert.  I don’t want my wonderful readers to miss out on enjoying  this terrific cheesecake so the recipe, and steps I followed in making it are listed below…..

DOUBLE-LAYER PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

Yield:   Makes one 9-inch cheesecake, or 8 servings

Ingredients:IMG_8627

  • 2  (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened (low-fat is OK)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1  (9-inch) prepared graham cracker crust
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cloves
  • frozen whipped topping, thawed, or whipped cream to dollop on top.

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325*F.

2.  In a large beater bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth.  Blend in eggs, one at a time.

3.  Spread 1 cup of cream cheese mixture in the bottom of the crumb crust.

Plain cheesecake batter goes in the bottom of the crust.

Plain cheesecake batter goes in the bottom of the crust.

To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.   Stir gently until well blended.  Carefully spread over batter in the crust.

The remainder of the batter containing pumpkin and spices goes on top.

The remainder of the batter containing pumpkin and spices goes on top.

4.  Bake at 325*F. for 35 – 40 minutes, until center is almost set.  Cool at room temperature, then refrigerate at least 3 hours and best if overnight.  (Make this a day ahead if you can, because it really needs that much time to set up properly.  It will slice beautifully after a night in the fridge.)

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

Pumpkin Cheesecake, freshly baked.

 

At the completion of our main meal we eagerly went outside to get the pies where they had been stored in the cold, as there was no room in the refrigerator.  We had a total of 4 pies and my cheesecake.  When we went out to the get the pies we found only 3 pies and 2 empty pie plates,  plus 1 very guilty-looking dog.   Who let the dog out, that’s what we’d like to know?    The dog devoured what we ourselves couldn’t wait to try:  the cheesecake and an apple-walnut-caramel pie.  The whole scenario was so funny with poor Sandy sitting next to the empty pie plates, hanging her head in shame, but with a secret smile on her face, and a few crumbs on her whiskers.  She would  give them 5 stars if she could 🙂

Sandy, after her pie-eating escapade.

Sandy, after her pie-eating escapade.

I  promised to make the cheesecake again for Christmas, so we will try again to see for ourselves how good it is.

 

SOURCE:    Allrecipes Magazine

 

 

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Squares

Chocolate chip cheesecake squares.

Chocolate chip cheesecake squares.

Did I hear someone say “cheesecake”?.   Oh, that was me!  Yes, well,  I fell off the wagon, and I mean big time!  But you will remember it was my birthday and Mother’s Day all in the same weekend.  So that was my excuse for treating myself and, of course, anyone else who was around to some sinfully rich and oh-so-good chocolate chip cheesecake squares WITH toffee cookie crumb crust.  Try saying that three times fast.  I could eat one faster than I can say it, and I bet you could, too.

An elegant, creamy, smooth dessert.

An elegant, creamy, smooth dessert.

There are so many recipes for cheesecake bars and squares out there, that you could pick any one that you like, but I particularly like this one because it not only includes cream cheese, but also mascarpone.  And when you combine those two you can’t expect anything but perfection.

The most commonly used ingredient for making a crust is graham cracker crumbs,  but Mr. D. has an allergy to graham crackers, so in their place I usually use shortbread cookies crushed into crumbs.  In making these bars I would have done the same except when I was shopping for groceries I spied  these cookies called Toffee Sandies by Keebler.  Since I’ve always loved pecan sandies, I thought these would make an interesting crust instead.

The cookies I used.

The cookies I used.

Cheesecake is a dessert that is very forgiving in that you can add many different flavorings, use all kinds of toppings, change the crust, and bake in a variety of pans.  It still comes out creamy and delicious.  So you really can’t go wrong.  If you need a dessert that everyone will love, give this stellar creation a try.

The hint of orange is such a good companion flavor to chocolate.

The hint of orange is such a good companion flavor to chocolate.

CHOCOLATE CHIP CHEESECAKE BARS WITH TOFFEE COOKIE CRUST

Servings:   9

Ingredients:

For the crust

  • 1  1/2 cups toffee sandies—fine crumbs
  • 5 Tablespoons butter, melted

    Cream cheese, mascarpone, chocolate chips and orange zest provide the flavor

    Cream cheese, mascarpone, chocolate chips and orange zest provide the flavor

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened  ( 1/3 less fat variety, OK )
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup semisweet (or your choice) chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs

1.  Place the toffee sandies in a food processor bowl and pulse to fine crumbs;  place in a mixing bowl.

2.  Add melted butter and mix well.

3.  Press crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9 x 9 inch pan.  I made one and a half times the recipe, thus you see a larger pan.

Cookie crumb crust in the pan.

Cookie crumb crust in the pan.

4.  Bake crust for 10 – 12 minutes at 325*F.

5.  Allow to cool while you make the filling.

Filling:

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cheeses, sugar, zest and vanilla until smooth.

2.  Add eggs one at a time, beat on low speed just until combined.

3.  Fold in chocolate chips

4.  Pour over crust and smooth with an offset spatula

Going into the oven.

Going into the oven.

5.  Bake at 325 *F for 35 – 40 minutes or until center is just set and top begins to brown.

Out of the oven--only the edges are browned, but the filling is "set".

Out of the oven–only the edges are browned, but the filling is “set”.

6.  Remove pan from the oven, and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes

7.  Carefully run a knife around the edge of pan to loosen;  cool 1 hour longer then refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight before serving.

You will want more than one of these!

You will want more than one of these!

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SOURCE:   adapted from   A Culinary Journey with Chef Dennis