Mini Vanilla Bean Cheesecakes with Holiday Cranberry Topping
YIELD: 14 mini cheesecakes
- 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 pound (2x 8-oz packages) cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half and seeds scraped
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 16-oz can organic whole-berry cranberry sauce (or make your own)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cupcake pans with 14 paper liners (or use 1 pan plus 2 standalone wrappers).
For the crust:
In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Stir together with a fork until well blended and all dry ingredients are moistened and look like wet sand. Press 1 tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Bake until just set, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
For the filling:
In a medium bowl beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed with an electric mixer just until smooth. Beat in sugar until well incorporated. Mix in the salt and vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Be careful not to over-mix.
Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of the cheesecake batter over the crust in each cupcake liner using an ice cream scoop or two spoons.
Bake until the filling is just set, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 4 hours before topping and serving (preferably overnight). (Make these for Thanksgiving up to 4 days ahead of time – store in airtight containers and dollop cranberry sauce on the day of serving).
For the topping:
In a small saucepan whisk together the cornstarch and orange juice to combine, making sure there are no large clumps. Pour in cranberry sauce, stir, and bring mixture to a boil over medium to medium-high heat for one minute. Cool for 10 minutes before topping a dollop on each cheesecake. Can be made up to a week ahead of time. Store in fridge and bring to room temperature before dolloping on cheesecakes. Leftovers for Thanksgiving or on sandwiches, crackers, muffins, pork chops, chicken, the options are endless.