Sometimes serving individual little cheesecakes is just a little more special than slicing servings from a large cheesecake. If you're having a small dinner with just a few people, mini cheesecakes are a fun option. I have two ways to make mini cheesecakes, which are easy and work well - one is Wilton's inidividual mini cheesecake pans and the other is this Norpro mini cheesecake pan. But what if you don't have these pans and don't want to invest in something like this when you're only going to use them once in a blue moon? You can bake a whole cheesecake in a 9x13 pan and just cut out individual cheesecakes with a cutter.
The cheesecake needs ample time to chill before cutting, so making it the day before you plan to serve works out well. It can chill all night in the fridge and be all ready the next day for cutting. You can also make the cranberry orange topping the day before.
Using individual little cheesecake pans works the best and this method of cutting them out with a round cutter works well, but it does take a little fiddling - the cheesecake is very sticky and you will have to wash the cutter out between each cutting. You also will have a lot of cheesecake "trimmings" but hey - they're still great the next day! But this is a method for you to use if you don't have a specialty pan.
The crust is made from chocolate graham crackers and the topping is an orange infused cranberry sauce. The combination of chocolate with the orange and cranberry is, I think, a great holiday flavor and looks so pretty!
Mini Cheesecakes with Cranberry Topping & Chocolate Crust
for a printable recipe, click here
makes about 8 mini cheesecakes, depending on the size you cut them. You can also just serve this in the pan, and just cut them into bars. You can also make this recipe in a regular 10" springform pan.
This cheesecake needs ample time to chill in the refrigerator before cutting. You can make this the day before and let it cool overnight in the refrigerator.
You will need about a 3" round cutter
1½ cups ground chocolate graham crackers (about 12 whole sheets)
⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
5 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1 8-ounce container sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons orange liqueur, like Cointreau or Triple Sec
¾ cup sugar
4 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tablespoons water
1 bag fresh cranberries (12 ounce bag)
2 oranges to zest (for the topping) and peel (for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grind the chocolate crackers and the sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until blended. Line a 9x13 pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray (I use nonstick foil so I don't have to do this). Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan, using a flat cup of some kind. Bake for about 10 minutes to set crust. Remove from oven and let cool.
Make the filling:
Lower the oven heat to 325°. Beat the cream cheese in an electric mixer until soft. Add the sugar and blend well. Add the flour and then the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg well before adding the next. Add the sour cream and the vanilla extract and orange liqueur. Blend.
Pour the mixture on top of the crust in the pan. Flatten with a spatula. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, just until set. Remove from oven and allow to cool and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Make the topping:
Stir sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves. Add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a simmer. Add the cranberries and cook until they begin to pop, about 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in the zest of one orange. Remove from heat, place in a bowl and cool completely in the refrigerator.
Spray a 3" round cutter with cooking spray or run under water. Cut out a cheesecake, making sure to press cutter all the way down through the crust. With a spatula, remove the cheesecake. Wet a spoon with water and remove the cheesecake from the cutter by gently pressing with the wet spoon. The cheesecake comes out better if you press it out from the crust side. This is a very sticky process and you may need to take the wet spoon and fix any damage to the crust. Turn the cheesecake right side up on your serving plate. Fix any ragged edges. Clean the cutter and cut the rest of the cheesecakes.
When all the cheesecakes are cut out, top with the cranberry sauce and garnish with fresh orange peel.
(Save all the "trimmings" for future snacking - they keep well in the fridge for several days.)