Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tiny Dulce de Leche Cheesecakes

Tiny Dulce de Leche Cheesecakes
They're so cute.

How did I get here? Hmm...I signed up to bring some desserts for the teachers at my son's school for the dinner the PTO organizes during parent-teacher conferences. Because I have a friend on the staff, I can always count on positive feedback about the treats I bring. I need positive affirmation more than a normal person probably should. I kind of gave up on making super yummy things for the elementary school, due to lack of positive feedback. It might be wrong, but I don't want to bust my rump making something awesome if its awesomeness goes unnoticed. 
I digress. As a teacher myself, I know that when parents bring yummy food, I want to try it all. If I were to make even the individual sized dulce de leche cheesecakes, I knew that might be too much and that the teachers would not be able to enjoy the other yummy desserts that would undoubtedly be available. I knew I had to do it. I had to take these yummy little guys to the next level: tiny. That way, each serving would produce the same fullness effect as an average sized cookie.
I bought the cute little liners weeks ahead of time at Hobby Lobby. I prepared my caramel. I bought the cream cheese. When I was about halfway through baking them, I thought, "Holy cow! This is going to make a lot of tiny cheesecakes!" I made 96 of these tiny things, and two of the larger versions because I did not have it in me to do any more individual ones. I knew at that point that I would only fit about 60 or so onto the sheet pan I had planned to transport them in. 
They ended up tasting just as fabulous as their larger counterparts, and they're only one to two bites. Perfect. My friend posted a flattering picture with nice comments on facebook, and the secretaries said they liked them too. Success all the way around. Totally worth the effort. And I still have quite a few in my downstairs fridge that I need to give away before I eat them all myself.

Tiny Dulce De Leche Cheesecakes

Prepare one day in advance and refrigerate overnight for best results.

You can prepare the caramel a day or two ahead of baking.

I think these are best baked in a water bath, so you will want to have a roasting pan or other shallow pan that can fit your mini muffin pan inside it.

Caramel 

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • seeds scraped from one vanilla bean
1. Bring the cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and corn syrup to a simmer over medium high heat in a small saucepan.  If you’re using a vanilla bean, cut the bean lengthwise and scrape seeds out with the back of a knife.  Put the scraped seeds into the cream and whisk to distribute the seeds.   Set aside.
2. Combine the sugar and water in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, pouring the sugar into the center of the pan to prevent the sugar crystals from sticking to the sides of the pan.  Cover and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, uncover and continue to boil until the syrup is thick and straw-colored, about 7 minutes (it will register 300° on a candy thermometer).  Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook until the sugar syrup is golden and just begins to smoke, 1 to 2 minutes (it will be 350°).
3.  As soon as the sugar syrup reaches 350°, or it reaches that golden color & begins to smoke, remove it from the heat, pour about half of the cream mixture into it, and let the bubbling subside.  Add the remaining cream mixture and whisk until the sauce is smooth.  If using vanilla extract, add it now.
Move caramel to a heat-proof container and allow to cool.  If you're doing this ahead of time, once it's cooled, cover and refrigerate until ready to use in the cheesecake.


Cheesecake
Preheat oven to 350°

Crust:      
  • 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
I usually crush my graham crackers in a gallon sized zip top freezer bag.  (1 1/2 cups is equivalent to about 12 large graham crackers, or 1 pkg + 3 more crackers.)  Then mix the sugar into the crumbs inside the bag.  Add melted butter, zip the top and smoosh around until butter is thoroughly mixed in.  Line 24 to 48 muffin cups with cupcake liners. (You'll need to do this a few times.) Place about one teaspoon of graham cracker mixture into each cup.  Using something flat bottomed that will fit the bottom of your muffin cups (I used the handle of my knife honing tool), press the crust mixture somewhat firmly into the bottom.  Set aside while you prepare the filling. 

Filling:
  • 4 8oz. cream cheeses @ room temperature
  • 4 large eggs @ room temperature
  • 1 cup caramel (recipe above)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
1. Heat about 4-5 cups of water to a simmer or boil while you prepare the filling. Make sure your oven is getting hot.
2. Cream cream cheese until smooth.  Add caramel &  mix until smooth.  Add eggs & mix until smooth.  Add cream and mix until smooth.   
3. Now, there are a few ways you can get the cheesecake batter into the muffin cups:
A. Pour batter into a spouted container, like a large Pyrex measuring cup or a pitcher, and pour into muffin cups; B. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop batter in; or C. (my favorite) Pour batter into a gallon-sized zip top bag, cut a 1/4 inch corner off and carefully pour/squeeze batter into muffin cups so that cups are filled to within 3 millimeters from the top.
4. Place muffin pan into a large roasting pan and carefully pour hot water into the bottom of the roasting pan so you have about 1/3 of an inch of water in the bottom. Be careful not to splash water onto the cheesecake batter.
5. Carefully move roasting pan to the preheated oven and bake cheesecakes for 9-10 minutes, or until centers are set and only bounce slightly when bumped. There should be no liquidy jiggling when bumped.
6. Remove from oven, and with a spatula, carefully remove the muffin pan from the water bath. Set pan on a dish towel to drain. Allow cheesecakes to cool for about 5 minutes before removing them from the pan to a wire rack to finish cooling (I use a small offset spatula for this job). 
7. Repeat the whole process until all of your crust and batter are gone.
8. Allow cheesecakes to cool completely and refrigerate loosely covered overnight. 

9. Before serving, spoon remaining caramel sauce over the tops of the cheesecakes, about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per tiny cheesecake.
Top with whipped cream (or stabilized whipped cream), if desired.  I also topped these with crushed toffee bits.

Makes about 100 tiny cheesecakes.


4 comments:

  1. Luv these mini cheesecakes! They turned out so pretty and the perfect portioned sized for a decadently sweet dessert. Just lovely. :)

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  2. Those are gorgeous. I would never be able to accomplish what you did. Kudos! I'd love to dive in, right now...

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  3. I just made these soooo. Delicious I halved the recipe and got 48 mini cheesecakes.
    Thanks for the recipe! CM

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    Replies
    1. Awesome! Thanks for letting me know! :)

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