Mini 4th of July Cheesecake Bites
This has been a crazy busy summer for my husband and me. Almost every weekend we’ve had an event to attend or an occasion to celebrate, most of which involve driving a few hours to some other location and crashing with friends or relatives or forking over the cash to stay in a hotel. I love all the time I’ve spent with friends and family this summer, but sometimes you just need some time to sit around your own house with nothing to do all weekend, you know?
So while most of the country was celebrating Independence Day by stuffing themselves silly at backyard barbeques with loved ones, my husband and I stayed home and celebrated by ourselves in a very low key way. Early in the day I threw some baby back ribs in the crock pot so they could simmer low and slow all day in order to be fall-off-the-bone tender for dinner. Once the ribs were cooking, I got to work on the cutest 4th of July dessert you will ever see: bite-sized mini cheesecakes.
With only 2 people in our household (and one dog who doesn’t like people food), I often avoid making big fancy desserts like layer cakes and cheesecakes because my thighs don’t need an entire cheesecake sitting on them. (And you know if there’s a cheesecake sitting around, I will eat it.) While surfing for red, white, and blue dessert ideas I saw a photo of some mini cheesecakes and realized I could have my (cheese)cake and eat it too – without eating way too much of it.
The recipe is very easy to make, and you probably have all the ingredients you need right in your pantry and fridge. I know I did. The worst part of the recipe – pressing the crusts in the mini muffin tins – isn’t even hard, just a little bit tedious. It’s still easier than making a full-sized cheesecake with its water bath and long baking time.
And oh, how all of the (not really) hard work pays off!
Each mini cheesecake is a perfect two-bite indulgence. The filling is smooth, light and creamy just like it’s full-sized big brother, and the cinnamon in the crust is the perfect little zing to wake up all the other flavors. Top them with fresh fruit or a fruit puree and you won’t even notice it’s not a full slice of cheesecake. These would be perfect finger food for a party. Just be sure to make extras – it’s hard to stop at one!
Bite-sized Mini Cheesecakes
Adapted from Pinch My Salt
Makes about 12 mini-muffin sized cheesecakes
This recipe will also work in a mini cheesecake pan, but I don’t like buying such specialized pans so I made it using my mini muffin tin. If you skip the paper liners, be sure to let your cheesecakes cool in the refrigerator to make them easier to remove from the pan in one piece. You’ll want to make these at least a few hours to a full day ahead of when you plan on serving them.
For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
For the crust:
7-9 cinnamon graham crackers
(or 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs + 1 tsp. cinnamon + 2 Tbsp. sugar)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
For the Topping:
Fresh fruit (optional)
Frozen fruit + sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 375° F. Line 12 cups of a mini muffin tin with paper liners or grease each cup very well.
For the crust, if not using store bought graham cracker crumbs, break the cinnamon graham crackers into chunks and pulse them in a food processor until they are fine crumbs. (This should yield about 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs.) With the crumbs in the food processor, pulse while slowly pouring in the melted butter until combined and resembling wet sand. Divide the crumbs between 12 cups of the prepared mini muffin tin, pressing the crumbs into the bottom and a little bit up the sides to form the crust. Set aside.
For the filling, beat softened cream cheese and egg in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and sugar, and continue beating until combined. Spoon the filling into each mini muffin cup, filling almost to the top.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are no longer glossy and the centers are set.
Allow the cheesecakes to cool about 30 minutes at room temperature. If using paper liners, remove the cheesecakes from the pan to cool. If not, let the cheesecakes cool in the pan, then put them in the refrigerator to cool for at least 1 hour. Once cool, store cheesecakes in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
For the topping, thaw about 1/2 cup of frozen berries. Heat the berries over med-low heat in a small saucepan until warm, then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Put the puree back in the saucepan over med-low heat and stir in 2-3 Tbsp. of sugar (adjust to your taste) until dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Just before serving, top mini cheesecakes with fruit puree, or for an easier topping, pile with fresh fruit. Devour immediately.