Happy (one day belated) mother’s day! In honor of my mom, I made her favorite dessert, cheesecake. Unfortunately we are separated by 300+ miles of barren dry land and distance but we shall enjoy them in her honor. For these cheesecakes, I used the same recipe I used for for New York Style Cheesecake, except I multiplied it by 3/4 because I only had 3 out of the 4 required packs of cream cheese (fail #1). I was very sad upon that discovery but life goes on.
On a side note. Throughout this entire year, I baked and cooked in fear. What kind of fear, you might ask? Fear of the fire alarm. I always seemed to have a phobia of me baking or cooking something that would produce a sizzle or a healthy dose of smoke that would set off the fire alarm which would set off everyone in a terrible mood for the rest of the day, and for the rest of the year, I would be known as the “girl who set of the fire alarm.” That is a real fear. And to make matters even worse, we have an extremely old oven that begins to smoke as soon as it hits 350 degrees. There’s no fire or anything, smoke will just appear for the first three minutes then disappear for the rest of the baking session. I don’t know why, I should probably clean the oven or call our facilities department but for the year, I simply accepted that as fact and baked and cooked with the oven fan on high, the hallway door closed (smoke alarm is in the hallway btw), both windows open and the door sometimes ajar. And a totally random fact, I remember reading somewhere that one of the biggest regret people often have upon their death bed is not pulling the fire alarm.
***Update. I wrote the above post and made the cheesecakes last night. This morning, one of my worst fears happened. Yes the fire alarms went of today morning. Yes it was my fault. Yes I feel terribly guilty. Yes let us please move on.***
But anyways, this is said so you will understand me when this recipe which normally would only take maybe two hours to accomplish, turned into a five hour ordeal because the oven began to smoke again at 350 degrees, causing me to lower the temperature to 300 degrees and the mini cheesecakes having to bake for an excessively extended period of time (fail #2). The outcome still came out great though, as cheesecake is glorious one way or another.
The first step is key: make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature. This is to prevent the cheesecake from rising too high during baking then sinking and creating a major dome during cooling. I set mine out on the windowsill for at least two hours before using.
As for the graham cracker crust, I unfortunately ran out of freezer gallon bags (fail #3). The way I 99% of the time make the crust is by using a freezer gallon zip lock bag, sealing it, then rolling over the crackers with a rolling pin until it is all finely crushed. Then I would add in the sugar and melted butter, seal again, then toss it around until it is the desired consistency. But because everything was totally going in my favor today, I had to crush the graham crackers in a deep baking dish and rolled the pin until they were finely ground. To make sure they were finely crushed, I sifted out the parts that still needed to be ground and re-rolled them.
After, I poured in the sugar and melted butter. Using a whisk, combine them until they form a coarse crumble.
You should be able to clump them together with only a little bit of pressure. If it falls out, add more melted butter until it reaches this consistency.
Line a cupcake tin with liners and fill 2 Tbsp of the graham cracker crust into each one. Then, find a flat round surface that just fits the cupcake tins and use the bottom to press the crust down. I am using the bottom of my 1/4 measuring cup.
Place into the oven to lightly toast. Meanwhile, whip up the filling until it is light and fluffy.
As I am making strawberry swirl cheesecakes, we need to make the strawberry puree. We really only need two strawberries and a couple tablespoons of sugar. Pulse it until it is a thick liquid and strain out any of the clumps. You now have a smooth strawberry puree to work with.
Once the graham cracker crust is toasted, remove from the oven and fill each cavity with 1/4 c of cheesecake batter.
To get the swirl, use a fork and drop several drops of puree onto the cheesecake.
Take a chopstick or toothpick and run it through each drop. You can try to make pretty designs but aint nobody got time for that.
Once they are all finished, set into the oven to bake. Don’t forget the water bath! That will keep it moist and prevent the tops from cracking in case it rises too high. When they have finished baking, you want to cool them in four stages. First, turn the oven off and leave it in there for about two minutes without opening the door. Second, put a wooden spatula in between the oven door and the oven so it is only opened a small crack. Leave it like this until it is cooler inside the oven. Third, open the door halfway and finally, once most of the hot air has escaped, take the cheesecakes out to finish cooling at room temperature before placing in the fridge. This method of cooling will prevent the cheesecakes from sinking down and creating an indented dome after it bakes.
After that, enjoy!! Hopefully you can make this without as many disruptions as I did. I only realized once writing this post how unfortunate I was during this process. Only had 3 out of the 4 cream cheese packs, no zip lock bag, oven began smoking…oh well. If I could do it in these circumstances, so can you!
**Note: The recipe given below is the FULL recipe, unlike the above photo’s where I decreased it to 3/4**
Mini Strawberry Cheesecake
2 c graham cracker crumbs (about 15 sheets)
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/2 c butter, melted, may need more as needed
2 lbs. or (4) 8 oz. blocks plain cream cheese, room temperature
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1½ c granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
⅔ c sour cream, room temperature
⅔ c heavy whipping cream, room temperature
1/3 c strawberries
3 Tbsp sugar
Line two standard cupcake tins with cupcake liners, set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, placing the top rack in middle of the oven. In a large freezer ziplock bag, finely grind the graham cracker to crumbs with a rolling pin. Add in the sugar and pour the melted butter over top and mix until the crumbs become coated and clump together. Spoon 2 Tbsp into each cupcake liner and with flat surface of a small cup (I used the bottom of a 1/4 measuring cup), press the crumbs down. Place into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat the cream cheese, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer for approximately 4 minutes or until smooth and creamy. With mixing speed on low, gradually add the sugar, then turn back up to high and beat for an additional minute. With mixing speed on low, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add the sour cream, then the heavy cream, beat on high for 1 minute.
To make the strawberry puree, simply pulverize the strawberries and sugar together until it is a thick liquid. Using a wire mesh, strain out the seeds to get a smooth, strawberry puree.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop 1/4 c of cheesecake batter into each cupcake tin. Tap the tins on the table to remove any air bubbles that may be lying beneath. Dip a fork into the strawberry puree to drop several droplets onto each cheesecake and with a chopstick or toothpick, create swirls.
Once they are all finished, place them in the oven on the middle rack. On the lower rack, place a baking tray filled halfway with water to create a water bath. This will help keep the cheesecakes moist and prevent further cracking. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-45 minuets. Halfway through, rotate the cupcake tins. However, avoid opening the oven door too often, as it will cause the steam to escape. If you like extra firm cheesecake, continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes.
After the the cheesecake has baked, turn off the oven for two minutes. Then, stick a wooden spoon between the oven door to slowly release the hot air until it is cooler. Third, open the oven door half way and continue to allow it to cool. Finally, once the hot air has all escaped, remove the cheesecakes to cool at room temperature before placing in the fridge to completely chill.