Sunday, August 7, 2011

Orange Cheesecake Bites

Here's a great summer one-bite dessert that's ideal for passing around at summer BBQ's and parties.  I love making tiny cheesecakes, particularly in the summer, because they cook considerably quicker than a large cheesecake.  Granted, filling each little mini-muffin cup does take a bit of time, but it's time that can be spent without the oven on.  The brief oven time also means that the filling doesn't have much of an opportunity to dry out.

Another reason I love cheesecake?  It's about as versatile as a little black dress: It can be flavored with dark chocolate, coffee, berries, and even savory flavors.  My go-to flavor is orange, which lightens the richness of the filling; and it's also slightly reminescent of a Dreamsicle.  This version uses three different orange flavors:  orange juice, orange zest, and orange essence.  The bright, citrusy flavor is also the perfect stage for a topping of berries macerated in sugar, like the blueberries I picked last week down in Charlotte VT (another post about that coming soon).

Orange Mini-Cheesecakes
Makes 48
Click here for printable recipe

48 mini muffin cups (I prefer the aluminum ones, but paper works if you can't find them)
1 large sheet pan

8 graham crackers, crushed finely (about 1 cup)
1/4 c. sugar
5 T. unsalted butter, melted
pinch salt

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sour cream
3/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 t. orange extract
2 t. finely grated orange zest
2 T. fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange muffin cups on sheet pan in 4 rows of 12.  In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and a pinch of salt.  Stir with a fork until all crumbs have absorbed the butter.

Spoon 3/4 t. of the graham cracker filling into each muffin cup.  Tap it down into a flat crust, using the back of a pestle or your fingers.  Bake the crust for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl combine softened cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, eggs, and orange extract, zest, and juice.  Beat on medium speed with stand or hand mixer, until all ingredients are well incorporated.  Spoon the filling on top of the crust in each muffin cup, filling to about 2/3 to 3/4 full.  Transfer to the oven and bake an additional 10 - 12 minutes, until filling is firm.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  Chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving.

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