Bring it on! Summer is here this weekend. What better way to celebrate the new season than with cheesecake and seasonal fruit? There’s no need to slave over a hot stove or buy those pre-packaged larger cheesecakes with frozen fruit on top. It’s time to do it yourself and give this dessert a fresh twist in the comfort of your kitchen.
Cheesecake comes in a variety of forms. Baked New York cheesecake includes sour cream but is dense and dry. Philadelphia Cream Cheese makes a creamy and light French cheesecake. No eggs are used in the unbaked (refrigerated) cheesecake, and it can be sweetened with sugar and topped with fruit.
Years ago, during my starving student days in San Jose I recall one day I put together a no-bake cheesecake. In a modest upstairs apartment nestled by trees, I didn’t have a blender, mixer or ramekins (nor did I know what these little white dishes are). I spread the lumpy mixture into a rectangle shaped metal ice cube tray and popped it into the fridge.
Later that night during the heat wave, friends paid me a visit. I mentioned I made cheesecake. They said, “Can we have a slice?” I dodged the question because although it was semi-edible it wasn’t pretty. They persisted and I answered, “It’s not perfect.” But they didn’t care. I dished up rectangles of the semi-firm “cheesecake” and placed each one on graham cracker squares and served them on paper napkins. It was doable but my culinary skills have morphed through the years.
Callie’s French-Style Mini Cheesecakes
Graham Cracker Crust
7 graham crackers, very fine (use a blender)
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup European style butter, melted
In a bowl, mix cracker crumbs, sugar and butter. Press mixture firmly against the bottom and sides of 3 or 4 buttered ramekin dishes. (You can also bake mini cheesecakes in cupcake pans with liners.) Bake 10 to 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Set aside. If there is extra, it makes a nice garnish.
1 cup whipped cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup granulated sugar (or less if you prefer)
½ cup whipped cream (I used extra creamy Cool Whip)
In a mixing bowl, blend cream cheese and sour cream. Add vanilla and sugar. Once there are no lumps, fold in whipped cream. Put into graham cracker lined dishes. Place in refrigerator (I used the freezer) till firm for a few hours before serving. Take a knife and circle each cheesecake along the sides of the dishes. Place plate over top; turn back over onto dessert plates (graham cracker crust on the bottom). Serves 3 or 4.
Mix a bit of sour cream with confectioners’ sugar for a nice consistency. Spread lightly on top of cheesecakes. Garnish with fresh fruit, sliced (peaches, blueberries, strawberries). Instead of a glazed fruit topping, try enjoying sweet fruit solo (I used juicy yellow peaches) and there’s no need for more sugar. You can also use leftover cookie crust.
Mini cheesecakes, like these, are easy to make, and a welcome on warm days. They have a nice appeal to the palate as well as fun to plate in many ways, including chocolate shavings, nuts, a dollop of whipped cream or simply as is. Because they are rich, less is more. They freeze nicely. Not only are they perfect for one but can be a nice sophisticated dessert for family and friends.
Motto: It’s the season to savor cold foods and enjoy the heat out of the kitchen.
Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. Her website is www.calorey.com .