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Chocolate Cheesecake Minis

Year in and year out, cheesecake is one of the two most popular desserts I make (truffles are the other). You bake these miniature cheesecakes in foil baking cups for standard-sized muffin tins; the foil cups can either be placed in muffin tins or set on a baking sheet (baking time doesn’t seem to alter with one method or the other). It’s important not to overbake these; they’ll lose their lovely creamy texture if you do. Incidentally, do use foil baking cups here; I haven’t tried baking these in paper muffin cups, so I’m not sure if that will work.

These are not difficult or complicated to make, and they’ll sit happily in the fridge for at least a week, if stored airtight. Like most cheesecakes, they freeze well. These would be a great dessert for almost any informal occasion. If you want to dress up these minis, make your favorite chocolate ganache glaze, and top each cheesecake with a spoonful or so (just enough to cover the top with a thin layer). Before the glaze sets, sprinkle on a few miniature semisweet chocolate chips. Make a point to serve these with the chill off; the flavor comes through much more readily when they’re not refrigerator-cold. Allow them to stand at room temperature, loosely covered, for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

4 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, very finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Few grains of salt
2 eggs, graded “large”, preferably at room temperature
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Place chopped chocolate in small heatproof bowl. In small saucepan, heat cream until very hot; remove from heat. Add about half of hot cream to chocolate. Allow to stand about one minute, then stir or whisk gently until smooth. Add remaining cream; stir or whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size, 12-cup muffin tin (the cups are 2-1/2 inches in diameter at the top) with foil baking cups. Additionally, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil; have ready an additional 6 to 8 foil baking cups. (Alternatively, line two baking sheets with aluminum foil, and set out twelve foil baking cups on one and eight on the other, or ten on each.) Note: it is not critical to line the baking sheets with aluminum foil, but if you tend to spill batter when you portion it out, you’ll be glad you did!

In medium bowl, combine softened cream cheese (cream cheese must be very soft but not melted), sugar, vanilla, and salt. With powerful handheld electric mixer, beat at medium speed about one minute. Scrape down bowl and beater(s) with rubber spatula. Continue beating cream cheese mixture at medium speed just until it is perfectly smooth. At a low speed, add eggs, one at a time, beating after each until incorporated. Scrape bowl and beater(s) after first egg is incorporated to be sure batter continues to be smooth.

Check temperature of melted chocolate mixture. It may be warm but must not be hot. All at once, add to cream cheese batter, blending in partially at lowest speed. When chocolate is partly mixed in, stop beating. Add miniature chips; with rubber spatula or large spoon, stir or fold in gently until color of batter is even and chips are well-distributed. Don’t overmix or overbeat the batter, as you don’t want a lot of air in it. Batter will be quite thick.

Using a large tablespoon, fill foil baking cups so that each is a bit more than 3/4 full. This batter always makes 19 cheesecakes for me, but a friend who has tried the recipe tells me she ends up with between 18 and 20. Place one sheet or muffin tin of the mini cheesecakes into the preheated oven (the other sheet can wait at room temperature).

Bake 6 minutes, then turn back-to-front. If you see an obvious, large air bubble in any of the cheesecakes, prick it with a toothpick or the point of a sharp knife. Bake 5 minutes longer, then check the appearance of the cheesecakes. They will have risen slightly, and the outer edges will look dry and puffed; they may also display a small crack or two. If the pan is tapped gently (be careful doing this!), the centers of the cheesecakes will still appear uncooked and quivery. If necessary, bake a minute or so longer, but do not overbake. Remove to cooling rack (place the other baking sheet in the oven so the rest can bake now). Gently and carefully remove the individual mini cheesecakes to a cooling rack. If they were baked in a muffin tin, try carefully grasping the foil baking cup at the very top in two places and lifting the cheesecakes that way; if the cheesecakes were baked on a baking sheet, slip a broad-bladed metal spatula under them and lift off the baking sheet onto the cooling rack (if necessary, cover one hand with a pot holder and maneuver each mini cheesecake against that hand so you can slide the spatula blade under it).

Allow baked cheesecakes to stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes (they will probably shrink slightly while cooling), then chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Store airtight in refrigerator (place a sheet of paper towel over the top of the cheesecakes before sealing the container to absorb any condensation that might form) for up to a week; freeze for longer storage (defrost, still in wrappings, in the refrigerator). Allow cheesecake minis to stand at room temperature, loosely covered, for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

18 to 20 cheesecakes

© Stephanie Zonis

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