Kneads and Cravings: Holiday bonding with the oven
Ah, December, a month when it seems that everyone and their mother, their grandmother and their estranged, ferret-obsessed great aunt is trying to push their festive desserts on you.
I won’t lie. I’m guilty of coming into the office with a platter of cookies or small cakes to foist on my co-workers. Partially because they’re wonderful people and partially because I don’t need to have a small army of pastries hanging out in my kitchen. My younger siblings always loved it when I went through my baking binges. My brother in particular spends December eating his weight in my snickerdoodles.
This year I decided to add a little extra something to my holiday dessert menu, if for no other reason than for my own amusement. I’m adding cheesecake to the menu — well, actually, cheesecakes, as my family can’t seem to pick just one flavor. So in an effort to please them and to avoid making 13 different cheesecakes, I’ll be serving up mini cheesecakes.
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
16 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and crush the graham crackers into a fine powder with a rolling pin. Stir the crumbs with the melted butter and the sugar until the mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Once the crust mixture is ready, place paper liners in a muffin/cupcake tin and spoon the crust mixture into each cup, dividing evenly among the liners. Bake the crusts for 5 minutes. While the crusts are baking, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until it is light and whipped (ideally, let the cream cheese soften while preparing the crust). Once the cream cheese is whipped, add the sour cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla and beat again until the mixture is smooth. Once the crusts are done, let them cool completely, then spoon two tablespoons of filling on each crust and bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Check to see if the cheesecakes are done by jiggling the pan — they should wiggle slightly in the center. If they start to crack, they’ve been in the oven too long. Let the cheesecakes cool in the muffin tins completely before taking them out and moving them to the fridge. Chill for at least one hour before serving with your favorite toppings.
Now, this is the basic cheesecake filling recipe. It can be adapted to add different flavors and toppings. To make oreo cheesecakes, I swapped crushed oreo cookies with graham crackers to make the crust and added a handful of crushed oreos with their cream to the filling before baking. A plain cheesecake can also be dressed up by drizzling a raspberry sauce, a lemon cream, fresh strawberries, and chocolate or caramel sauce over the top.
And because they’re mini cheesecakes, they won’t make you feel too guilty for having one or two right before diving into your New Year’s diet.