Sometimes a dish comes along that you fall head over heels in love with. For me that was cheesecake. I remember the time I first tasted it, I was sitting with my family in a booth at a Marie Calendar’s in Auburn, CA waiting for highway 80 to open so we could get up to our ski cabin. Up to the moment I tasted it, the best thing in the world to me was the powder day we would inevitably have the next morning, cheesecake changed that one bite later. I think my brother ate his entire piece in three minutes flat. I on the other hand I savored mine. It was the perfect combination of flavors, sour from the cheese and sweet from the sugar and the texture was unlike any other I had tasted. Love at first bite. Although I have since learned that there are many better cheesecakes than Marie Calendar’s that is still one of my favorite food memories.
For a long time I was so infatuated with restaurant cheesecake that I never dreamed it could be made at home, from scratch. One summer my Mamma had her friend Carlyn up to stay with us in Maine for a few weeks. Carlyn made the most delicious strawberry cheesecake I had ever had, and introduced me to the (dangerous) idea that your favorite restaurant desserts can indeed be made in your very own kitchen. Turns out the hardest part of cheesecake is finding a springform pan.
Fast forward several years and I wanted to make my favorite dessert into an easier to eat (and bake) treat. Enter cheesecake cupcakes, or mini cheesecakes, my new favorite (and impressively easy) dessert for when the boyfriend and I have company over for dinner.
8 graham crackers, processed in the food processor to crumbs
1/2 stick of butter, melted
2 packages cream cheese, softened
2/3 -3/4 of a cup of sugar, depending how sweet you want the cheesecake
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin by mixing together the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together in a bowl. Press 1 teaspoon of the mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner and bake for 6 minutes to set. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a regular bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer) add remaining ingredients. Beat until light and fluffy. Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the cupcake holders and bake for 15 minutes or until set.
Cool on the counter, and chill for at least 4 hours. Top with strawberry balsamic reduction, recipe follows.
Unfortunately I don’t really have a recipe for this one, I cook strawberries (or raspberries if I don’t have strawberries, I bet blueberries would work too) with balsamic vinegar until it reduces, the fruit breaks down and it forms a lovely thick sweet-tart sauce. It is incredible poured over ice-cream, and as we discovered the other night, a great accompaniment to cheesecake!