Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mini Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecakes

You'd think I liked cheesecake or something. Actually, I had a container of mascarpone that needed to be used, some extra lemon curd, and a love for my new mini cheesecake pan. Those three ingredients led to this tasty tidbit - a lighter than usual morsel with a refreshing lemon tang.

This will probably be my last cheesecake for a while - I've made other (boring, standard) cheesecakes that I haven't bothered to post here, and frankly, I'm cheesecaked out. I still have plans for that pan though; my birthday is coming up (ed: yea, in two months!) and I am plotting a big ole birthday feast. I have two companies and myself to feed, after all! If anyone has any suggestions or cravings, let me know in the comments and I'll add to my feeding extravaganza menu. I bet you can't wait (I know I can't!).

I used Trader Joe's lemon curd, but lemon curd is one of those recipes that's easy to make and gorgeous to taste.

Mini Lemon Mascarpone Cheesecake (minorly adapted from Diana's Desserts)
* 2 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
* 1/3 c sugar
* 8 tbsp butter, melted
* 1 c blanched almonds, coursely chopped
* 12 oz cream cheese
* 1/4 c plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
* 1 tbsp lemon zest*
* 1/3 c mascarpone Cheese**
* 5 tbsp heavy cream
* 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
* 2 tsp lemon juice*
* 2 large eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350F. Set mini cheesecake pan on a cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter, and almonds. Put a heaping spoonful in each cup and pat down with a shot glass.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, cream cheese and lemon zest. Mix until smooth. Add the mascarpone cheese and mix until just combined. Add cream, vanilla extract and lemon juice and mix until smooth. Stir in the yolks then transfer to a medium sized mixing bowl.

Wash and dry the electric mixing bowl. Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture. Add batter to each cup leaving about 1 cm from the top. Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 20-25 minutes. Let cool, then dollop a teaspoon of lemon curd on top. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Mini Caramel Apple Pie Cheesecakes

I couldn't get apple pie out of my head. I tend to be naughty - I try to think of desserts that will poke at the boyo's weaknesses, even though I know he'd rather eat ... well, let's say "more wisely" tho I think "less funly" is more apt. My boyo loves apple pie. Pies of all kind, but give him apple and he won't even protest.

He also won't protest over cheesecake - remember those two from the cruise? Hmm, I thought. Could I possibly make him a dessert that is so in tune with his cravings, that he implodes from the tastiness? Hey, who can resist a challenge?

On top of that, I had a new pan I'd been dying to try: a mini cheesecake pan. Now, if the idea tickles your fancy, a word of recommendation - they're cheap, get two. I found myself taking way too long with the baking, just because I only had one pan in rotation. But, then again, I'm crazy and generally bake for 50. If buying pans for single projects isn't your thing (-cough-) you might be able to use a muffin pan .... but I really wouldn't recommend it. The cheesecake pan works because the bottoms come out, allowing you to push the cheesecakes up-n-out with very little hassle.

So. I'm going to give you guys options. There's the way I actually made the recipe, and then there are the tweaks. I'll add the latter in as notes so you can decide how you want to go, but let me just say, either way you go, YUM.

Mini Apple Pie Cheesecakes (adapted from Diana's Desserts)
* 2 c graham cracker crumbs
* 1/2 c granulated sugar
* 7 tbsp (3/4 stick/3 oz/85g) unsalted butter, melted
* 1/2 c pecans, coarsely chopped (tweak: my recommendation would be to omit the caramel swirl and caramelize the pecans instead before chopping them up)

* 2 large apples (I used fuji)
* 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
* 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
* 2 tsp vanilla extract
* 4 large eggs
* 1 tbsp cinnamon (or to taste)
* 1 tsp nutmeg (or to taste)
* 4 oz apple concentrate (or to taste)

Caramel Sauce (from The Food Network)
* 1 1/2 c sugar
* 1/3 c water
* 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 c heavy cream
* 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Serve with:
Leftover caramel sauce

For Crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F/160°C. Place removeable bottoms in mini cheesecake pan.

Stir cracker crumbs, pecans and sugar in medium bowl to blend. Add melted butter and stir until evenly moistened. Spoon a heaping teaspoon into each hole and pat down using the bottom of a shot glass.

For Filling:
Peel, core, and finely dice the apples. Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reserve 2/3 c batter for caramel swirl; add apple concentrate and spices to the remainder, then gently fold in the diced apples.

Note: The caramel swirl is optional - the contrast on the top wasn't as strong as I was hoping and there was only a hint of caramel in the overall flavor. Caramelized pecans in the crust would do better if you're looking for a caramel punch... but if you're looking for subtlety, the swirl's the way to go (or hey, both!).

For Sauce:
Mix the water and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean (or vanilla extract). Simmer until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Let cool before using.

Note: I think this is what is called "dry caramel" and boy is it scary as all heck (mostly because I wasn't expecting it). As a warning - that water you're adding? It's going to evaporate and leave big chunks of hard sugar to very slowly dissolve. I would leave the water out entirely - just watch that pan closely!

To the reserved cheesecake liquid add spoonfuls of the sauce until it turns a light golden and is still fairly liquid. Make sure the sauce is well incorporated into the batter.

Pour ~1/4 c of apple cheesecake batter over each crust (about 3/4's way full). Drop by teaspoons the caramel batter into each cup and swirl around with a toothpick. Place the pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool before removing.

For those curious - he didn't implode. He did eat five though!