It’s Christmas therefore there must be cheesecake. ‘Tis the law. Down at the Apple Chapel it is anyway. This year’s inspiration comes from two things – firstly my brand new mini bites tin from Lakeland and secondly, from the ever irresistible Lotus biscuit. Being the indecisive Piscean I am it was perhaps inevitable I would eventually not be able which cheesecake to make next. It has become a bizarre Christmas tradition for me to come up with a new recipe each year and even more bizarre that I don’t seem to bake a cheesecake at any other point in the year. It is like chocolate – I reserve unmeasured enjoyment for the most wonderful time of the year only. The rest of the time, I may rarely allow myself to order a slab for dessert when dining out but I somehow feel it to be too naughty to make on just an ordinary day. I know, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of sweet treats hanging around the rest of the time! I am super weird!
Let’s talk about the tin first. It is like Lakeland’s rather marvellous mini Victoria sponge tin and has loose bottoms for each of the dinky 4.5cm diameter cakes. Plus they have created the cute little plungers you can see in the photo above that you can use to tamper down biscuit or pastry bases with ease, into such tiny wells. It really helps make light work of making 20 miniature cheesecakes although they are sold separately (cheeky beggars!). If you can’t or don’t want to purchase a special tin then I recommend using a mini muffin pan (not a petit four pan – that’s far too small) lined with mini paper cases. If you don’t have this pan either, can I recommend these mini baking cups from Iced Jems? No tin required, just pop on a baking tray and carry on! Having asked my followers on Facebook what their favourite cheesecake flavours were, I was no closer to picking just one flavour to capture the essence of Christmas 2014 so instead went with the idea of making a vanilla cheesecake batter, dividing into four to which I would add one extra thing to make four different flavours in one batch. All in all, it takes about 30-40 minutes to get the cakes in the oven but they only take about 12 minutes to cook so a little bit of extra prep time will yield indecisive dessert lovers with a quad of vanillary, creamy full-stops to munch on. Of course, being so very small, you are entitled to have at least two if not one of each per siting… It is Christmas after all 😉 Hungry Hubby and I had a wonderful time sharing and sampling these off one little plate when I came up with the recipe.
Lotus biscuits are so devilishly moreish, with their caramel and speculoos spicy loveliness. Digestives are more classic for cheesecake bases in the UK (like Graham crackers in the States) but the spiced warmth of this Dutch cousin to gingerbread and pumpkin pie makes them seasonally appropriate alternatives. I left the first row of the baby cakes vanilla and simply adorned the second row by swirling in some salted caramel. Easy peasy. Only one large jug required. Next just had to be peanut butter. Having made some heavenly honey roast peanut praline for the truffles in my last post, it seemed a shame not to use the leftovers to sprinkle on top along with some crushed salted peanuts. There is something about the saltiness of peanut butter that works so extremely well to balance a sweet cheesecake that I think I am willing to go out on a limb and say the PNB cheesecakes were my favourite flavour. Well. That was until I tried the last flavour – Nutella. I was concerned this would be completely over the top rich but as it turns out, in miniature, it’s pretty damned spectacular. If I hadn’t had masses of cooking and baking left to do I would have caramelised some blanched hazelnuts to go on top, ooo…
Being so tiny, these richly flavoured little cheesecakes are the perfect sweet full-stop after even a typically over-the-top Christmas meal. For those who hate Christmas pudding or can’t face such a filling dessert when there is so much else to eat around, one of these could be just the thing to finish the sentence of your Christmas dinner. A drinks and nibbles party crowd would be thrilled to see you pass through the merry makers with a platter of these little cakes to chose from. They freeze in a tupperware box for up to three months and defrost quickly in the fridge so you can make them well ahead of the festivities. Somehow, it just doesn’t feel like you’ve had a real celebration if it isn’t finished by a sweet full stop.
- 18 Lotus (Biscoff) biscuits
- 25g soft butter
- 200g sour cream
- 3 medium eggs
- 280g full fat cream cheese
- Seeds of a vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp plain flour, rounded
- 120g caster sugar
- 50g caster sugar
- Fat pinch sea salt (1/8-1/4 tsp) – very much optional
- 3 tbsp peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
- 3 tbsp Nutella
- Lightly grease the sides of the tin if using a loose bottomed mini bites tin, as per the one from Lakeland in the blog post. Alternatively use a mini muffin pan lined with paper cases to help you get the mini cheesecakes out when cooked OR use stand alone baking cups. Find a link to these in the blog post itself.
- Make the biscuit base by blitzing the biscuits and butter in a food processor. Use a packed tbsp of buttery crumbs per cake and compress it well against the base. Put in the fridge to chill.
- Make the caramel by heating the caster sugar with a splash of water until it bubbles then watch very closely as it changes colour to a deep golden brown. Take off the heat and stir in the sea salt, if using. I actually prefer it without any salt. Leave to one side off the heat source until needed.
- Put all of the ingredients for the basic vanilla batter into the cleaned out food processor and blitz until very well incorporated. Transfer to a large jug for ease and pour into 10 of the prepared tin wells, stopping just shy of the top. They don’t rise too much so you can be bold.
- Swirl about a ½tsp of the (salted) caramel into 5 of the cheesecakes. Any leftover caramel can be warmed and served alongside when ready to eat.
- Now take half the remaining basic vanilla batter and gently beat in the peanut butter. I do this in a pint sized jug. Pour into another 5 wells of the tin.
- Beat the nutella gently into the remaining batter and pour into the remaining wells.
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC – I like to put a large oven proof dish filled with cold water into the bottom of the oven when I preheat it for cheesecakes as the steam helps create a very velvet-like set on the cheesecakes. I normally use a water bath for a large cheesecake but that’s too tricky with a tin like this!
- Bake the cheesecakes for 10-12 minutes until the centre just wobbles.
- Turn off the heat and leave in the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature on a baking rack before refrigerating until very cold. The mini cheesecakes should release very easily from the greased, loose bottomed tin – just make sure to remove the bases before serving.
- Any remaining biscuit crumbs can be used to garnish the finished cakes, along with any remaining caramel. Some crushed salted peanuts or caramelised hazelnuts would be superb on the peanut butter and nutter ones respectively.
- Once fridge cold these cheesecakes can be unmoulded and frozen in an airtight tupperware box for upto 3 months. They will defrost well within 8 hours in the fridge.
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