When I first baked a cheesecake, I didn’t know I was stepping on what is considered to be a slippery slope. I first baked it for my husband on his birthday because it is his favorite. Honestly, not knowing that it's a recipe that might fail more than succeed helped because I just followed the instructions, put it in its water bath and let it bake. And it came out just flawless. Later on when I was hoping to bake something other that the classic version did I encounter the horror stories. Cracked tops, collapsing middles and still wet insides. There seemed to be so many things that could go wrong. After having read that, the next time I attempted to bake a cheesecake I added some fear. And this despite having read troubleshooting tips from my trusted baking bloggers’ list. It came out of the oven with a crack on the top pretty much like the Mercedes logo. I laughed aloud at the coincidence and didn’t bother covering it up. It did make me want to find a daunting free cheesecake recipe.
My husband pretty much expects a cheesecake for his birthday and doesn't care for cracks and such. And one time round, I wanted to mix things up from the usual Classic. As far as flavors goes, there’s lots and lots of cheesecakes out there. This time round I wanted to nail it. Crack free, great rise, velvety smooth, the works. I saw these cheesecake tartlets first a couple of years ago and at that time mini-desserts were quite the hype. That’s when I thought, I can bake wee cheesecakes and there’s no limitations to toppings too.
His birthday was in the 30’s which is why I thought I should have three flavors for the day. The classic cheesecake should be one, no doubt. Around that time I had bought my first tub of fleur de sel solely for making salted caramel. It’s something else that he loves. So salted caramel popcorn cheesecake would be the second version. I knew the popcorn would get too soggy had I assembled these beforehand. I made popcorn on the stove right before serving and warmed my day old salted caramel. I picked out the cheesecakes that had sunk a tad bit in the center. They’re perfect for holding a pool of caramel and stacked popcorn without budging.
Then there was Nutella. It’s as simple as swirling it into the cheesecake batter. I considered chocolate chips but wasn’t sure how they would while baking. I was planning on arranging the cheesecakes in his birthday numbers and experimented with chocolate chips on one lone cupcake. While I thought they would sink to the bottom, they actually rose to the top and melted into the batter. A bit of a brown mess. Aesthetics always matter to me so in that regards, the Nutella swirls won in the elegance round.
I’d say if you’re a bit skeptical about tackling a full sized version of a cheesecake, this would be a great place to start. I’ve seen quite a few no-bake cheesecake recipes too but I’m not a fan of gelatin based desserts. My favorite bit about these tartlets is how they are completely customizable. Stir in a vanilla pod for a fragrant, seed flecked cheesecake. Top off with a berry reduction or dot with blueberries for a fruity flavor. You could try Oreo for crusts. Or swirl in peanut butter. Or spread freshly scooped passion fruit. I told you, endless options.
These are perfect for an Iftar gathering and won’t fail to impress. Of course, size matters when it comes to cheesecakes. No worrying about cutting out slices (and hoping the knife goes through the chilled crust as well), which makes them perfect for little children. With this petite portion, your guests can stop right at one or indulge in a few. To each their own.
Recipe adapted from Crazy for Crust
- Digestive Biscuit Crumbs - 1 ¼ cup
- Melted Butter - 5 tbsp
- Brown sugar, packed - 3 tbsp
- Cream cheese - 8 ounces, room temperature
- Sour cream - ¼ cup, room temperature
- Egg - 1, room temperature
- Sugar - ¼ cup
- Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
- Salted Caramel
- Fresh berries
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Line cupcake tin with liners.
- Stir biscuit crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar together.
- Put the crust mixture into the liners and press down firmly.
- In a bowl or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese till it becomes light and fluffy.
- Add the sour cream and beat well.
- Beat the egg, sugar and vanilla extract well till it's smooth and almost lump-free.
- Spoon the cheesecake mixture into each liner.
- If using Nutella, add a dollop directly into the batter and swirl it using a toothpick.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until they just begin to brown at the edges.
- Cool completely and then refrigerate them for at least 3 hours or overnight.
- Serve as is or get creative and top to your delight.
- You could top them with popcorn with salted caramel spooned on top.
Have a good food day.