Day Five: Mini Bacon Cheesecake

This one’s a keeper. Ohh yeah. 

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While yesterday’s brownies were definitely good, these single serving bacon cheesecakes are amazing. I never expected these to be gross before making them, but I certainly never expected the flavors to meld together so well together. The almond crust, the cheese, and the candied bacon are all perfect complements and they balance each other out perfectly. The saltiness of the bacon goes well with the sweet, creaminess of the cheese and the almond crust gives everything a nice nutty finish. I might even prefer this cheesecake to a normally flavored one, like a blueberry cheesecake. For those of you who still have doubts about this, I urge you to give it a try. It’s impossibly easy to make, and it tastes ridiculously good. The fact that they’re in small servings makes these perfect for a party or to just help control yourself (because I tend to control myself better after telling myself i’ve already eaten five cheesecakes). My mom absolutely agrees with me, so come on, what more convincing do you need. Go makes these now! 

Rating: 11/10 (I’m even throwing an incomplete fraction out there – I’m breaking all the rules today!)

Bacon Cheesecake (Adapted from the Food Network)

Makes 10 muffin sized cheesecakes

1/2 cup almonds (this does not have to be blanched, nor does it have to be fine)

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 strips bacon

brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 F

2. In a food processor, grind the almonds, sugar, and salt together. Once the almonds are ground into a powder, pour in the butter and mix well.

3. Scoop around a tablespoon of the almond mixture into the muffin cups, and using the back of a spoon, pack it tight.

4. Bake for 12 minutes, or until the crust has hardened (keep in mind that it will harden as it cools), and let it cool at room temperature. Turn the oven down to 325 F.

5. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and the cream cheese together using the paddle attachment until smooth. Add the egg, lemon juice, and heavy cream and mix until everything is incorporated, while scraping down the sides with a spatula.

6. Pour batter into the prepared muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes. If the center of the cheesecakes no longer jiggles when you move the pan, they are done.

7. Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, and refrigerate for 4 hours before adding the bacon.

8. In a saucepan, cook the bacon 3/4 way through. When it’s almost done, sprinkle brown sugar and let it caramelize. Remove from the pan, and let it cool without touching each other. 

9. Cut the bacon up into segments, and place on top of the cheesecakes. Serve with gusto.

 

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Ricotta Cheesecake, with homemade ricotta

I know many people who aren’t the biggest cheesecake fans, and personally, I never really fell in love with it either. They (generally New York cheesecakes) were always a little too rich, too dense for my taste. That all changed when in Italy, a waiter highly recommended their cheesecake to us. I originally wanted to go for the tiramisu (it seemed a lot more Italian to me than cheesecake), but thank god I listened to the waiter. The cheesecake was light, with a fluffy but smooth texture, unlike anything I’d had before. I immediately demanded kindly asked our waiter what the cheesecake was made of, and he told me “ricotta”.

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So that was the secret. Ricotta cheese. Here I was, thinking cream cheese was the only way to make cheesecake.

That was two years ago. Up until know, I’d never successfully made a cheesecake (nor had one) like the one in Italy. I had tried making a cheesecake with store-bought ricotta in place of cream cheese – it turned out dense, wet, and grainy. I tried beating the egg whites. Nothing worked and I was still here without my cheesecake. On a trip to New York, I made sure to pay a visit to Veniero’s, whom I heard made a killer ricotta cheesecake. On the day of, I was so excited I got cheesecake for breakfast. Yes, for breakfast. And it was a horrible let down. Like the cheesecakes I made, it was wet and grainy, and had none of the light fluffiness the Italian cheesecake had.

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At this point, I thought my only option was to fly back over to Italy and demand the waiter give me the recipe. Per favore. But before such drastic action was taken, I thought back to the store-bought ricotta. The ricotta itself was grainy. Instead of using store-bought ricotta, I tried the cheesecake again using homemade ricotta (which is incredibly easy) and voila, out of the oven came this large, fluffy, cheesecake. Sure, it shrank a little coming out, and the surface was covered with cracks, but it was glorious in my eyes. And it tasted even fluffier than it looked (if you haven’t noticed, fluffy is the keyword here). Finally, after two long years, I was reunited. And that darn store-bought ricotta has been at fault all along – Veniero’s, take note.

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Ricotta Cheese, adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

Makes 1 cup of ricotta

3 cups whole milk

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons lemon juice or white vinegar

1. In a saucepan, mix the milk, heavy cream, and salt. While continually stirring, bring the milk up to 185 F. The milk should be almost simmering.

2. Remove the pan off the heat, and add in the lemon juice/vinegar. Stir to mix, then let the mixture sit for a couple minutes. You should be able to see the cheese curds and whey separate (and if this is your first time making cheese – I know, I felt like I belonged in the Swiss Alps, yodeling and herding cows up the mountains, too).

3. Line a colander or bowl with cheesecloth, and pour in the mixture. Strain out the whey by either letting it sit in the colander for about an hour or so (if you’re using a colander), or hang up the cheese curds by the ends of the cheesecloth and let gravity do it’s work. I made a contraption out of a fishing pole and two chairs, with a bowl underneath the cheese to catch the whey. It should be the right consistency in about 1-1.5 hours. Now, you can either eat this ricotta (I wouldn’t blame you if you did), or you can go ahead and make the cheesecake, which I highly recommend. If not using the ricotta immediately, store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

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Ricotta Cheesecake

Makes 1 8-inch cheesecake

1 package cream cheese (8 ounces), room temperature

8 ounces ricotta cheese, room temperature

4 eggs, separated and at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 F

1. In a mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together the ricotta and cream cheese until smooth. Add in the egg yolks, one at a time. After mixing thoroughly, add the yogurt, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Mix well.

2. In another clean bowl, beat the egg whites and vinegar until large bubbles form. Slowly add in 1/2 cup sugar, and continue beating until soft peaks form.

3. Fold in 1/3 of the meringue with the cheese mixture until fully incorporated. Add in the rest of the egg whites, folding gently without deflating the meringue but thoroughly. Pour the batter into an 8-inch springform pan. Wrap the bottom completely aluminum.

4. Place a larger baking pan (one that the 8-inch pan can fit into comfortably) that is filled halfway with water into the oven first. Then, place the 8-inch pan into the waterbath, making sure no water can get into the cheesecake. The waterbath helps minimize the cracks on the surface of the cheesecake.

5. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the cheesecake is browning too fast, turn the heat down to 300 F. As another measure to minimize cracking, let the cheesecake cool in the oven, with the door slightly ajar.

6. If everything fails, and the surface of your is covered in rifts and cracks, you may choose to serve your cheesecake, battle scars and all, with a fruit sauce on the side, or you can cover it up with some artfully placed fruit. I went with the former, and decided upon a raspberry coulis. (Which was secretly just raspberry preserves piped onto the plate. Shh)