Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mini Cheesecakes

I was intimidated by the idea of making my own cheesecake for a long time. First of all, many cheesecake recipes involve making a huge 9-inch cheesecake and baking it in a waterbath and then turning off the oven and leaving the cheesecake in the half-open oven for a designated period of time and it all seemed like so much work for something which I would either have to eat all by myself, or which I would have to make to share with company, without knowing how the results would turn out.

But then I found this recipe for mini cheesecakes a few years ago which is not only simple, but also requires no water bath. It is also delicious and relatively quick.

This recipe makes about 12 mini cheesecakes, which can be baked directly in muffin tins. I especially like this recipe because it gives you a nice thick crust (which I like). If you're not a huge fan of the crust, then simply make thinner crusts and pour in more filling! If you have extra graham cracker crumb, you can easily bake this for about 5-10 minutes (depending on how much you have), and it makes an excellent topping for ice cream, yogurt, or baked fruit.

For the crust:
1 ¾ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsps sugar
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons melted butter

For the cheesecake:
½ lb (one 8-ounce box) cream cheese, at room temp
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/3 cup heavy cream

Stir the crumbs, sugar and salt together in a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter and stir until all of the dry ingredients are uniformly moist.
Butter your cupcake tins.
Divide the crust ingredients among the cupcake tins. Use your fingers to pat an even layer of crumbs along the bottom of the pan and up the sides a bit (to create a nice crust).
Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven.
Preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 5 minutes.
Set the crust aside to cool on a rack while you make the cheesecake.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

Beat the cream cheese at medium speed until it is soft, about 4 minutes.
Add the sugar and salt and continue to beat another 4 minutes or so, until the cream cheese is light.
Beat in the vanilla. Beat in the egg. Remember: you want a well-aerated batter.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the heavy cream. Once incorporated, beat till completely smooth.

Pour an even amount of batter over each cheesecake crust.
Bake the cheesecakes at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes on the middle rack (time can be anywhere from 15-20 minutes), until they seemed fairly set, although still a bit jiggly in the center. Then, turn off the oven, leaving the cheesecakes in the oven. Leave for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool.
To remove the cheesecakes from the cupcake tins, I find it easiest to just throw the entire pan (after it has cooled a bit) into the freezer and removing the frozen cheesecakes. They hold their form better that way. Refrigerator-chilled cheesecakes tend to cling to the pan and break apart.


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