Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Chanukah is fast approaching, and I usually make either cheesecake ( in honor of Judith) or fry up some jelly donuts (symbolic of the Temple flame).  I thought I would post a few recipes for cheesecake, as I imagine that more people would be willing to do that than to rise dough and fry it.  I spent the entire weekend making, and throwing out cheesecake.  I'm an experienced baker - the year before last, I made 200 cheesecakes for a fundraiser, so I was completely baffled when all of my cheesecakes failed. Some of them overbrowned, and other underbaked, and I finally figured out that my oven wasn't working properly.  It can be a challenge trying to determine when a cheesecake is baked through, especially if you have a low-end oven that is inconsistent.  In the meantime, all of the minis that I made came out great, so I knew that this would be an easy recipe for any kind of baker, using any kind of equipment.  They're also the perfect size if you're having more than one dessert, or if you've just had a large meal containing fried foods!


Cookie Crumb Crust
1 cup crushed Oreo thin crisps, or chocolate wafers
Powdered sugar to taste (typically 1-3 tablespoons)
1- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, room temperature (add 1 more yolk if you like a lighter cheesecake)

Ganache Topping
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 ounces semisweet bar chocolate (I like Lindt™ gold), chopped

To make the cookie crumbs, process the cookies until finely ground, or you can place them in a large ziptop plastic bag and roll over them with a rolling pin. To get the crumbs out of the bag, cut a large hole in one bottom corner of the bag and let the crumbs fall out into a bowl.

To bring the eggs to room temperature quickly, immerse them, in their shells, into a bowl of warm water for 3-5 minutes.

PREHEAT OVEN TO 350 degrees F. with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Have ready a mini-cheesecake pan with removable bottoms (I like Norpro™) and a tart tamper (both are available from http://www.amazon.com/)

Place the cookie crumbs in a bowl and add the butter to the crumbs, a little at a time, stirring with a fork to moisten the crumbs. Add just enough butter for the crumbs to hold together when you press them with your fingers (the exact amount will depend on the cookies used).

Spoon 2 teaspoons of cookie crumbs into each cup, and then use the dough tamper to press the crumbs firmly into place .  Place in the oven and BAKE FOR 5-7 MINUTES until the crust is just starting to color. Remove from the oven and let cool.


For the filling: Processor Method
Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a processor bowl (requires a 6 cup processor). Process until smooth. Add the sugar, and vanilla, and process until well mixed. Scrape down the bowl, and process to blend. Add the eggs (and egg yolk, if using) and process just to blend. Scrape down the bowl and process to blend.

Alternate: Mixer Method
Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a large mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until creamy. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat until well blended. Scrape down the bowl and beat a little to blend. Lastly add the eggs (and yolk, if using) one at a time. Beat on low speed just to blend together.

To continue:
Spoon the cheese mixture into each cup until it comes to within 1/4-inch of the top (you will have a little too much filling).

Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes – the tops should not have any "wet" or raw looking spots in them.. Let cool for an hour, and then push up on the bottom of each cheesecake to get each out of the pan.  You won't need to run a knife around each one - they'll come out fine without doing that.  Place the minis in a container, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  Mop up any excess moisture on top of the cheesecakes with a paper towel before garnishing. 

For Ganache:
Pour the cream into a small microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high until bubbling. Add the chocolate to the bowl. Let set for a minute, and then stir. If the chocolate isn't completely melted, reheat it on medium power (5), in 30 second increments, stirring between each heating, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir to blend the chocolate and cream completely. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon onto each mini-cheesecake.  If desired sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of finely chopped unsalted peanuts into the chocolate of each cake. Refrigerate the cheesecake until about 5 minutes before serving. Cheesecake can be made 3 days ahead. Cover with foil and keep refrigerated until serving.

If you'd like to make plain cheesecake minis, use sour cream instead of peanut butter and don't add that extra egg yolk.  You can use the vanilla, or delete it and use orange or lemon juice instead.


Lori Lynn said...

The minis are just darling!
Happy Hanukkah Penny!

Jane said...

Hi Penny--

You have a disobedient oven too? Mine is hyperactive, as far as heat goes. Sounds like yours has the opposite problem! Love this post, and your honesty about the cheesecake difficulties. Your minis look just wonderful!