25 August 2015

Summer Food: Raspberry Almond Cheesecake Tartlets

Photo by Helana Brigman  --  Instead of cheesecake, try Raspberry Almond Cream Tartlets.
       Photo by Helana Brigman

From Denny:  Do you enjoy cheesecake but want an easier way to make it?  Then this recipe is for you.  I like cheesecake too but find it too large for just two of us to eat and too time consuming to make unless I plan on entertaining a hungry crowd.  

A springform pan is an absolute must to make a proper cheesecake - and the patience of a saint to leave the oven door cracked open as it slowly cools down for hours so you can hopefully avoid it cracking straight down the middle like an ugly scar.  Usually, I've been pretty lucky over the years.  Of course, when I wasn't lucky it was evident that a wonderful fruit topping like blueberry or strawberry could hide a multitude of sins just like gravy on a screwed up dinner. :)

Well, this recipe from food writer Helana Brigman is for the cheesecake challenged and the impatient.  You make this cheesecake in mini tartlets pans that are individual portions in just bite sized pieces rather than a huge honking slice of 6,000 calories like you get served at the Cheesecake Bistro.

What's involved in this recipe is to first make a simple graham cracker crust you crush up in your food processor or blender.  If you don't have that available then resort to the manual method of crushing graham crackers between two pieces of waxed paper using a pastry rolling pin.  

If you are really desperate just use a heavy jar of applesauce or canned "something" to roll over the waxed paper.  Yes, I have been wildly creative over the years, especially when the weather was too yucky to run out and get an ingredient that was missing or the electricity went out.  During hurricanes it's easy to get bored so you start working on what you can for a meal until the electricity comes back on to finish it.

The cheese filling could not be simpler:  cream cheese, vanilla, sugar and lemon zest.

The fruit glaze is made with fresh ripe strawberries, sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice that you heat up in a nonstick pan.  If you don't like nonstick pans like I don't then use a double boiler.  Just place medium high heated water in bottom pot that is turned down to a slow simmer and place a smaller pot or even a pasta bowl on top to heat your ingredients.  Just be careful as you remove the cooked fruit glaze from the bottom pot because the steam can burn you.

Assemble by lightly spraying your tartlet pans with oil or rub with a little soft butter.  Press the crushed graham cracker crumb mixture until you line the sides well.  Bake the crust.  Make your cheese filling and spread over the cooled crusts.  Make your fruit glaze, cool it, and then spread onto the tartlets.  There will be leftover fruit glaze you can enjoy on your pancakes or ice cream.  Rinse your raspberries and arrange in the center of the tartlets with sprinkles of sliced almonds all along the outside edges in a ring.

Now contain yourself and any sticky fingers in the house!  Chill the assembled tartlets for three hours before serving.  If you plan to keep them overnight - or if they survive that long at your house - then be sure to cover with plastic wrap to prevent them from losing moisture or absorbing any possible refrigerator odors.

Yes, you can enjoy making cheesecake at home with this easy recipe!  Try it with different fruits like blueberry or peaches...

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Photo by Helana Brigman  --  Instead of cheesecake, try Raspberry Almond Cream Tartlets.
                                                            Photo by Helana Brigman 

Raspberry Almond Cheesecake Tartlets

Makes:  6  (4.75-inch) tartlets

From:  Helana Brigman, a regular contributor to The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Check out her stellar food blog here for daily recipes!

6 sheets graham crackers, broken up and crumbled
3 to 4 teaspoons water
2 Tablespoons vanilla
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Cooking spray

1 (8-oz.) package regular cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest

Fruit glaze
2 cups strawberries, hulled
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups raspberries
3 Tablespoons sliced almonds


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Process broken graham crackers in food processor until the consistency of crumbs.

3. Add water, vanilla extract and melted butter to graham cracker crumbs, pulsing to combine.

4. Lightly coat six 4.75-inch tartlet pans with cooking spray. Spoon 3 tablespoons graham cracker crust into each pan. Press down with a tablespoon, making sure that the bottom is properly lined and so are the sides.

5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool completely.

6. Prepare filling: In a standing mixer, mix cream cheese with sugar, vanilla and lemon zest. Spread evenly over crusts.

6. Prepare the fruit glaze: Quarter strawberries and purée in a food processor. Transfer strawberries to a nonstick skillet, mixing in sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Warm glaze over medium-high heat until simmering, whisking the entire time. Remove from heat and cool.

7. Spoon strawberry purée over tartlets and smooth. Use leftover purée for ice cream or another dish.

8. Wash raspberries and arrange over the tartlets. Take almonds and sprinkle along the sides (outer edge) of the tartlets. Refrigerate for three hours before serving or removing from tartlet pan. The tartlets keep well overnight, but make sure to cover in plastic wrap so that they don’t lose moisture.

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