Nom Rating: ***** (5/5)
There are two things that you should know about Mr. Torres. Number one- Mr. Torres is a very smart man. Number two- Mr. Torres loves cheesecake. Put these two facts together and *voila* mini cheesecake pans show up in the mail!
These are small springform pans – not to be confused with these cute super mini cheesecake pans, which are a lot like muffin pans.
Mini cheesecake pans mean an excited wifey who promptly comes up with all kinds of ideas for making mini cheesecakes. An excited wifey with all kinds of ideas for making mini cheesecakes means lots of cheesecakes that need to be eaten. Lots of cheesecakes that need to be eaten mean a very happy Mr. Torres. Mini cheesecake pans are 100% pure win-win situation in the Torres household.
For the first round of cheesecakes, I wanted to keep it simple and find a delicious traditional cheesecake recipe to try. In the end, I went a recipe from Simply Recipes titled Perfect Cheesecake. The title was an appropriate description of the end product.
The ingredients are easy and I happened to have all of them on hand except for the heavy whipping cream. I used milk instead and everything turned out just fine. More than fine, actually. Everything still turned out perfectly.
Although I am not a cheesecake expert (yet), there is one thing that I know about making cheesecake (thanks Mama K!). The key to really creamy, really smooth, super delicious cheesecake is in making sure that all of the ingredients are room temperature before you start baking. That’s it, that’s the secret. Everything else is just throwing stuff in the mixer!
Once you get things all mixed up and ready to go into the pans (or maybe this should be done beforehand…), the next step is to decide what kind of crust to use. Since I was working with four little cheesecakes instead of just one big one, I decided to try out a couple of different options. I ended up choosing two delicious options- cinnamon graham crackers and cinnamon toast crunch.
Simply crush about 2 cups (1/2 cup per mini cheesecake) of whatever your selected crust ingredient is and mix with 5 tablespoons of butter. Creativity is always encouraged in the kitchen, so if you’re feeling up to it, add some spices or coconut or other add-in while you’re mixing it all together. I kept the graham cracker crust plain, but added mini chocolate chips to the cinnamon toast crunch. Then, cover the bottom of each springform pan and press it down. Some recipes encourage you to bake the crust for about 7 minutes before adding the cheesecake batter. I haven’t tried this yet, so I suppose I can’t knock it, but I’ve never missed having a baked crust and it cuts out a step from the recipe. I’m always up for simplifying things!
All that’s left now is to pour in your perfectly prepared cheesecake batter and stick them in the oven! Well, there is one more thing you have to decide on.
In many recipes, it is suggested and even demanded that the cheesecake be baked in a water bath. Now, Mama K happens to make what is most definitely one of the best (if not THE best) cheesecakes known to mankind. It’s a rich and creamy, dense and dreamy chocolate chip cheesecake and it’s really only possible to eat about three bites before the richness of it overpowers you and you have to set your fork down. Fortunately, I’ve trained myself so that I can eat a whole piece and then finish off any lightweights that happen to be eating a slice because they could only handle three bites. All this to say, Mama K makes a mean cheesecake. Mama K has also never baked a cheesecake in a water bath. Therefore, you understand my hesitancy in going to the trouble of placing my little springform pans in a pan of water in the oven. It seemed unnecessary and simpler to do without.
Unfortunately, I was curious. And I had four little cheesecakes. The perfect number to do a little experiment with.
Two cheesecakes went into a water bath, one was wrapped in aluminum foil beside the water bath and one poor little cheesecake spent his time on the far side of the oven with no aluminum foil. The results were surprising.
First and foremost, all four cheesecakes came out of the oven in fine form. Water bath or no water bath, the cheesecakes were more than delicious. But if you’re going for PERFECT cheesecake, baking in a water bath is the way to go. The two cheesecakes that spent their cooking time in the hot tub were absolutely beautiful…perfect, I would say.
As you can probably guess, the left and top cheesecakes were baked in the water bath, far right was aluminum foil near the water bath and the bottom cheesecake (bless his heart) was foil-less and water-less. I guess it has to be said, wrapping springform pans in aluminum foil and setting them in a pan of water may be a step in the wrong direction when it comes to simplifying, but it’s a definite step towards perfect cheesecake!
One of the hardest parts of making cheesecake is waiting the hours and hours that it takes for them to cool before they’re ready to eat. Fortunately, the smaller the cheesecake, the shorter the cooling time. I still left these little guys in the fridge over-night, but I suspect they could be ready to eat after a couple of hours.
It is during the cooling time that you have one last decision to make…what to put on top! Plain cheesecake is good, but in the Torres household, we’re all about extras!
Two of the cheesecakes ended up with a cinnamon dulce de leche sauce on top and the other two were topped with Nutella and chocolate.
Verdict: This cheesecake recipe definitely lives up to its name! It tasted like Perfect Cheesecake! Making cheesecakes in mini springform pans makes it easier to justify the indulgence. Mr. Torres and I don’t need a full-size cheesecake in our refrigerator, but a mini cheesecake is just perfect for the two of us to split for dessert. No leftovers, no guilt! (Well, the recipe does make FOUR mini cheesecakes, but you could cut the recipe in fourths and just make one or give the other three away to people you love. They will love you for it!) Water baths are now a must. Both sauces were delicious! Oh, and cinnamon toast crunch does not make a good crust. The texture is weird and it tastes a bit burnt. Stick to graham crackers!
Maybe one day I’ll get to try out this super mini cheesecake pan!
Nom Rating: ***** (5/5)
- For the crust: 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 5 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
- For the filling:v4 pkgs cream cheese or neufchatel cheese(8 oz each), room temperature
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream or half and half
- Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a pan that is half full of water in the oven while pre-heating.
- Mix graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom of each springform pan.
- Wrap the outside of each springform pan in aluminum foil. This is to insure that water does not leak into the cheesecake while it is baking in the water bath.
- In mixer, mix the cream cheese and sugar for about four minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and mix.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one. Add sour cream and beat for one minute before adding the whipping cream.
- Scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl to make sure that all ingredients are fully incorporated into mixture. Beat for one more minute.
- Pour mixture into springform pans.
- Place each springform pan (wrapped in aluminum foil) in the water bath and bake for 40-50 minutes.
- Allow to cool and then place in the refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight.
- Top with fresh fruit, hot fudge, sour cream and powdered sugar mixture or one of the following toppings.
- Dulce de leche topping: Combine 1/4 cup evaporated milk with 8-10 caramels (caramel sauce could also be used) in a saucepan over medium low heat.
- Stir to combine until completely melted.
- Add 1 Tbs of cinnamon, mix and pour on top of chilled cheesecake.
- Nutella Sauce: Combine 1/4 cup evaporated milk with 1/4 cup Nutella and 1 tsp cocoa powder in a small saucepan over medium low heat.
- Stir until completely melted. Pour over mini cheesecake.
- Melt 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in microwave safe container.
- Spoon melted chocolate into a snack-size ziploc baggie and pipe over the top of the Nutella sauce.