Recipe for Four Flavor Miniature Savory Cheesecakes
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I concocted this recipe on a weekend just a little before a Thanksgiving where I was on appetizer and dessert detail. I thought it might be a nice twist to do cheesecakes before the meal, as an appetizer, but I wanted to keep things savory and not make people feel like they'd already eaten dessert. Since I couldn't dig up any savory cheesecake recipes online that looked tempting, I figured I'd wing it. These are the results.
I started with a basic moist cheesecake recipe, and tweaked it a little.
For the crust:
For the cheesecake base:
For the garlic parmesan cheesecakes:
For the dill salmon cheesecakes
For the blue cheese cheesecakes
For the curry cheesecakes
Preheat your oven to 325F.
Start by making the crusts. Combine the crushed wheat crackers and melted butter, and divide evenly among your mini-muffin pans (jewel tins.) I used 2 12-muffin nonstick pans, each muffin cup held 2 tbl.) Press lightly into the bottom only of each cup, and place tins in the freezer to firm up.
In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the base except the eggs and mix well, being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated. You'll have about 2 1/2 c.of base, which you should divide into 4 equal parts (5/8 c. each.)
To the first part, add the parmesan and garlic and combine well.
To the second part, add the parmesan and chopped dill, and combine well.
To the third part, add the blue cheese and horseradish, and combine well.
To the last part, add the curry powder and half and half, and combine well.
Remove the muffin tins from the freezer, and spoon the fillings into them. Each mixture will fill 6 (2 tbl.) cups to the very top. The fillings are not free-flowing, so be sure to fill all the voids in the cups.
Put a kettle of water on the stove to boil. When the water reaches a boil, put the two muffin tin pans into a single sheet pan, and put the sheet pan on the middle rack of your oven. Fill the sheet pan to just below it's lip with boiling water (you're making what is essentially a bain marie.)
Bake at 325F for 14-18 minutes. When done, the edges will be set, the centers may still jiggle very slightly. Be careful not to overcook. When they are cooked, turn the oven off, and crack the door to the oven. Leave in for an hour or until cool. When cooled, transfer the muffin tins to the freezer and let the cheesecakes freeze firm - they will be easier to remove from the pans this way. You may need to work a thin knife around the edge to help them out. Let them soften (in the refrigerator) before topping and serving.
While waiting for things to bake, you can make toppings, which are described below.
No topping is needed for the garlic-parmesan cheesecakes (although a little drizzle of basil-infused olive oil might be nice.)
For the parmesan dill cheesecakes, cut 6 rounds out of the salmon the same size as your muffin tops, using a cookie cutter (snacking on the extra is purely optional.) Put one round on each cheesecake, and decorate with a little more fresh dill if you're so inclined.
For the blue cheese cheesecakes, top with caramelized onions. To make, put the olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat, and sauté the onion (the pinch of salt will help draw the moisture out of the onion.) Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well a deep mahogany brown - but be careful not to burn them (the onions should just barely sizzle while cooking - they'll take about 15 or 20 minutes.)
For the curry cheesecakes, the topping is a spicy cranberry sauce. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved, making a simple syrup. Add the cranberries, and simmer just until the berries start to pop open. At this point, reserve 12 or so berries that are still in good shape, and return the rest to the heat. Cook until the berries break down (help them out by mashing them,) then mix in the remaining ingredients. Use more or less chile paste to suit your heat tolerance. Press the sauce through a mesh sieve to remove chile seeds and the fibrous parts of the cranberries. Top each cheesecake with the sauce and 2 or 3 of the reserved whole berries. (A big batch of this sauce, double or triple the recipe, is great over pork or chicken.)
Serve as an appetizer. Makes 2 dozen (6 of each variety), more than enough for 8 or 10 people.
Observations on the first batch: the basic cheesecakes have a nice texture, although I think letting the batters sit for a little while might help let the flavors blend a little bit more. I think cutting the sugar entirely would be fine - I left some of it in this time around because I wasn't sure what removing it would do to the texture, but after this round, I don't think it brings anything to the party. The curry cheesecakes could probably stand another tablespoon of half-and-half - the extra moisture will be absorbed by the spices in the curry powder. Might even be worth it to bloom some of the curry in the half and half. I'd also use a stronger blue cheese next time - I used Great Hill Blue this time, which is nice and creamy (and local for me,) but very mild as blues go. I think I'd also use a little more salmon to top the parmesan dill cheesecakes (not because you couldn't taste it, just because I love smoked salmon.) I bet if you put the cranberry sauce and berries on a base with just parmesan or sharp cheddar added to it, they'd look almost exactly like those little cherry cheesecakes everyone makes...
Other combinations that might work might be: ginger/wasabi topped with sushi-grade tuna and a little soy sauce; sharp cheddar topped with bacon; mix in some minced basil and grated parmesan, topped off with a little sun-dried tomato; or with just a mixture of fresh chopped herbs mixed into the base.
You should also be able to do this in 4 small spring form pans (4" or 5", probably about a half hour of cooking time,) or, if you mix up the entire base as one variety, as one big one (8" spring form, probably about 50-60 minutes cooking time.)
Second batch: based on my notes from the first batch, I eliminated sugar from the recipe entirely, added a little more half and half to the curry variety, and switched to a more robust blue cheese (roquefort.) I don't think the texture suffered at all without the sugar, and the flavors were more decidedly savory than sweet for this batch. I updated the master recipe on this page to reflect these changes, and I think I'll stick with the recipe as is for future batches.
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