Archive for the ‘Cakes – Cheesecake’ Category
Spicy gingersnap cookies are a great alternative to graham crackers when you’re making a crust for a pie or a cheesecake. They can be ground up into crumbs just like graham crackers can be and give a warm, spicy kick to whatever they’re paired with. I like to use them a little more often in the winter, when everyone is in the mood for spices like cinnamon, ginger and cloves, but I like them in general because they’re an easy way to add a lot of flavor to a recipe.
These Mini Lemon Cheesecakes are a perfect match for a gingersnap crust. The cheesecake batter is flavored with lots of lemon zest, so it has a bright citrus flavor that is a wonderful contrast for the spicy crust. I also added a small amount of lemon zest to the crust to tie the two together. I recommend choosing a flavorful type of gingersnap (Biscoff are quite good) for the best results, but you will still get a tasty dessert if you use regular graham crackers for the crust, as well.
These are a spinoff of my Chocolate Chip Mini Cheesecakes. They’re single serving cheesecakes, baked in muffin pans. I recommend using a muffin liner when baking these because it makes it much easier to remove them from the pan and serve them. If you happen to have a mini cheesecake pan, where the bases of all the muffin cavities are removable, then you can skip the muffin liners and bake your cheesecakes directly in the pan.
These can be served at room temperature shortly after being baked, or they can be chilled for up to two or three days. Garnish with whipped cream and a sprinkle of spice and gingersnap crumbs, or a small twist of lemon zest.
The only thing better than a full sized cheesecake is a mini cheesecake. One could argue that a full sized cheesecake is better because you get so much more – but there is a lot to be said for single-serving cheesecakes that can be made easily in small batches. They’re quick and convenient to bake, and they offer both portion control and portability. And on top of all that, they taste just as good as the full-sized version.
These Chocolate Chip Mini Cheesecakes are a simple cheesecake batter baked in a standard muffin pan, and no waterbath or other special equipment is required. The pans are lined with muffin wrappers, which make them easy to remove after baking, and a graham cracker crumb mixture is pressed into each one. The crust bakes along with the cheesecake. The cheesecake batter is a thick, creamy mixture of cream cheese and a bit of sour cream (or greek yogurt will also work) and it bakes up to have a rich, creamy texture. Chocolate chips are added on top of the crust before the batter is added to each of the muffin cups and are also sprinkled on top of each cheesecake before baking. I like classic semisweet chocolate chips for these mini cheesecakes, but dark chocolate and white chocolate will also work very well.
This recipe makes a small batch, just 8 mini cheesecakes. It can be doubled if you need more for a party or get together. The cheesecakes are good when they’re still slightly warm and the chocolate is a bit melty, but they’re also good after they’ve been chilled. You can eat them straight out of the wrapper, as you would a muffin, or peel off the wrappers and plate them for a slightly more dressed-up dessert. The leftovers will keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of days.
While I do enjoy a good slice of cheesecake, I prefer to make cheesecake bars at home when I’m looking for a cheesecake fix. They’re easy to make, have a short baking time and don’t need to be baked in a water bath. They also make a great basic recipe for putting all kinds of variations on for different flavors. For this batch, I wanted to add a key lime element to my cheesecake bars and get the richness of cheesecake and the tang of a key lime pie in one dessert.
Most of the flavor comes from a homemade key lime curd that is swirled into the cheesecake batter before baking. This curd is a twist on a lower fat lemon curd recipe that I absolutely love. Made with tart key lime juice, the curd is very bright and citrusy. It makes for a nice contrast with the rich tasting cream cheese filling. I simply added a few dollops of the curd into the cheesecake and lightly swirled it around with a butter knife before baking. In some places where there was more curd than others, the lime curd sank below the cheesecake (other places it remained lightly swirled on top), creating a nice layered effect. The whole dessert is much less sweet than key lime pie, with a wonderfully rich cheesecake texture and a very refreshing lime flavor. If you don’t have key limes, you can use regular limes in the recipe for lime curd.
The bars have a vanilla crumb crust that is made with crushed vanilla wafer cookies and butter, and is baked and cooled before being filled with cheesecake mixture. Graham crackers would work for the crust, as well, but the vanilla adds a nice mellow flavor that goes very well with the flavor of the cream cheese. The crust holds up very well to the filling without getting soggy, and while it would be crumbly if you tried to slice it on its own, the filling adds the perfect amount of moisture to keep it together and still slice easily.
New York Style Cheesecake is known for being rich, creamy, heavy and indulgent. And when I say “heavy” I mean it literally, because the classic recipe for this type of cheesecake calls for 2 1/2 lbs of cream cheese! The dense but smooth texture of the cheesecake is its signature, setting it apart from other types of cheesecakes and making it so popular – and rather high in fat from all that cream cheese. Having a slice once in a while is a real treat and not one to miss, but a lighter version of this classic recipe, like the Authentic New York Cheesecake developed by America’s Test Kitchen from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook means that you can indulge a little more often.
This cheesecake looks and tastes just like the real thing. It is dense and creamy, with a wonderful cream cheese flavor backed up by a hint of lemon zest and a bit of vanilla extract. It feels very decadent when you take that first bite, so you might be a bit surprised to hear what goes into this cheesecake. It uses light cream cheese – with only a fraction of the fat of regular cream cheese – as well as low fat cottage cheese and low fat yogurt cheese. The trick to using the cottage cheese is draining it. Getting rid of that excess moisture allows it to blend very smoothly in with the rest of the ingredients in this cake. You will need a food processor to make this cheesecake, as it is essential to getting the texture of the filling down pat.
The yogurt cheese is also an unusual ingredient. Some stores sell yogurt cheese already packaged (it is also called labne), but you can simply use thick Greek-style yogurt and drain it along with the cream cheese for a similar result if your store doesn’t carry the labne. America’s Test Kitchen recommends draining plain, non-Greek yogurt for 10 hours to make your own yogurt cheese, but it is a lot quicker to start with the thicker Greek yogurt, which is easy to find in just about any grocery store.
The other trick to this cheesecake is the baking method. Some cheesecakes call for the use of a water bath, which allows heat to hit the pan at a very consistent temperature. This cheesecake is baked briefly at a very high temperature to set it, then baked for a long time at an extremely low temperature, which allows the custard to cook gently even without the aid of a water bath. Your cheesecake shouldn’t crack during baking with this method, although I will confess that mine cracked during cooling because my kitchen was very cold and the big temperature change caused the cheesecake to cool too quickly (and therefore crack).
This cheesecake is delicious plain or topped with fresh berries. It keeps well, covered in the refrigerator, for at least two days after baking, too.
One way to combine cheesecake and brownies is in a batch of cheesecake brownies. It’s a fantastic combination of rich cream cheese and decadent chocolate that is also very portable and easy to enjoy. But it’s not the only way to enjoy this combination of ingredients. I put them together in the form of a cheesecake with a brownie base, delivering more brownie and more cheesecake in each bite – and giving you a dessert with a real wow factor on top o it.
This dessert is put together in two parts. First, the brownie base is baked in a springform pan, then a no-baked cheesecake batter is poured on top of it. I like the no-bake cheesecake for this recipe because it has a slightly lighter texture than some cheesecakes, which really highlights the difference between the creamy cheesecake and the dense brownies. The cheesecake still has that luscious, smooth texture to it that you would expect from a cheesecake, it just has a hint of airiness that helps it melt on the tongue and contrast with the chewy brownies.
You can prepare this whole dessert in advance, as it needs time to chill and allow the cheesecake to set up before serving. The cheesecake only needs a couple of hours in the fridge to set up, but you can easily prepare this the night before you want to serve it so you don’t have to do any last minute preparation. For a unique twist, if you want something a little different that just a classic vanilla and chocolate combination, add in a teaspoon of mint extract along with the melted chocolate in the cheesecake batter for a mint chocolate marble dessert!