Petite, sweet and creamy

One of my favorite ways to enjoy the taste of Shavuot is to make luscious sweets in smaller sizes.

Cheesecake (photo credit: Thinkstock)
(photo credit: Thinkstock)
One of my favorite ways to enjoy the taste of Shavuot is to make luscious sweets in smaller sizes. A good way to do this is to make cheesecake cupcakes. These miniature cakes have advantages over full-size cheesecakes: They are easier to serve and bake more quickly. Unlike typical cheesecakes, cupcakes need only about 20 minutes to bake.
In her new book, 150 Best Cupcake Recipes, Julie Hasson makes several kinds of cheesecake cupcakes. Her basic cheesecake cupcake reminds me of my mother’s cheesecake – it has a graham cracker crust, a cream cheese and sour cream filling and a sweetened sour cream topping added for the last few minutes of baking.
Other tempting mini cheesecakes made by Hasson include lemon cheesecake cupcakes flavored with lemon zest and topped with lemon curd. (The recipe is below.) Chocolate cheesecake cupcakes have a chocolate sandwich cookie as the crust of each one; it bakes inside a cheesecake batter flavored with melted chocolate and chocolate liqueur. The same liqueur flavors the sweetened sour cream topping.
Another way to introduce sweet cheese to cupcakes is to make a cream cheese icing, as Hasson does for her white coconut rum cupcakes. Ginger cream cheese icing, flavored with ground ginger and chopped crystallized ginger, makes a tasty topping for chocolate cupcakes. To embellish her carrot zucchini cupcakes, Hasson frosts them with orange cream cheese icing flavored with orange zest and orange liqueur.
A DESSERT that I find as enticing as cheesecake is creamy cheese mousse, which is also easy to bring to the table in individual servings. When paired with a colorful selection of seasonal fruit, the French-style mousse makes a delicious holiday treat and is much easier and faster to prepare than cheesecake. I make mine from creamy white cheese beaten with sugar, lightened with whipped egg whites and flavored with kirsch (clear cherry brandy) or orange liqueur. I use the chilled mousse to top a fresh fruit medley, such as strawberries mixed with peaches, melon, bananas and apricots.
Deborah Madison, author of Seasonal Fruit Desserts, makes several kinds of cheese mousses. For her cream cheese mousse, she blends the cheese with cottage cheese, sugar, vanilla and cream and recommends serving it with succulent figs or any roasted or sauteed fruit. To accompany her citrus-scented ricotta mousse, which is enriched with creme fraiche and flavored with lemon or orange zest and orange Muscat wine, she serves fresh summer fruit compote or prunes simmered in red wine.
Such mousses, notes Madison, can be made in any quantity. She often makes half of a recipe or even less when she’s preparing it for only a few people. For a sweet treat for the holiday, this may be a practical solution.
Besides, you can spoon such a mousse over ladyfingers or slices of unfrosted cake moistened with sweet liqueur, and consider it a no-bake cheesecake.
Faye Levy is the author of Fresh from France: Dessert Sensations and of Aruhot Halaviot, dairy meals (in Hebrew).
This mousse is very easy to prepare.
Use white cheese of any degree of richness that you like.
If you prefer a richer mousse, substitute 1⁄2 cup whipping cream for the egg whites. Chill the cream well, whip it with the sugar in a chilled bowl until stiff and fold it into the cheese. Instead of using whipping cream, you can stir 1⁄2 cup sour cream or plain or vanilla yogurt into the cheese.
Makes 6 servings.
For the fruit salad: 1 kg. (2 pounds) mixed soft fruit such as strawberries, peaches, apricots, melon, plums, grapes, bananas, oranges, mango or kiwi juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste
White Cheese Mousse:
1 cup smooth white cheese, whole milk or low-fat
1 to 2 Tbsp. cherry or orange liqueur or 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
5 to 6 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste 3 egg whites
For the fruit salad:
Peel and cut the fruit into slices or cubes; leave grapes whole. Put fruit in a serving dish, preferably a clear one. Sprinkle with lemon juice and sugar and mix gently.
Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
A short time before serving, make the mousse: Beat the cheese with the vanilla and half the sugar. In another bowl whip the egg whites until medium- stiff peaks form. Add the remaining sugar while beating and continue whipping to stiff, shiny peaks. Fold beaten whites gently into cheese mixture.
Taste and add more sugar if you like.
Pour mousse over fruit and serve cold.
This recipe is from 150 Best Cupcake Recipes. Author Julie Hasson notes that the lemon curd topping on these mini cheesecakes is a perfect complement to the creamy cheesecake. For an extra-luscious treat, you can spoon a small dollop of whipped cream over the lemon curd before serving.
Hasson notes that you can freeze the baked and cooled cupcakes without the topping. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and store them in re-sealable plastic freezer bags for up to 4 weeks. Top them with lemon curd after you thaw them.
When making cheesecake cupcakes, writes Hasson, use foil cupcake pan liners and not paper liners, which get soggy and the cheesecake sticks to them.
To make the crust, Hasson calls for graham cracker crumbs. I find that plain cookies work well too.
Makes 12 cupcakes Crust:
3⁄4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 7 graham crackers)
40 gr. (11⁄2 ounces or 3 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
Filling: 350 gr. (12 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
3⁄4 cup lemon curd, store-bought or homemade (see recipe below)
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Line a cupcake pan (for 12 cupcakes) with foil liners.
Crust: In a small bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar. Press crumb mixture into bottoms of prepared baking cups.
Filling: In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, pulsing until smooth. Add sour cream and process until smooth. Add eggs and lemon zest, pulsing until smooth (you don’t want to over-process the mixture, you just want it to be smooth).
Scoop filling over crust in baking cups. Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 22 minutes or until the centers of cupcakes are firm. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Before serving, place a dollop of lemon curd on top of each cupcake and swirl lightly with back of spoon.
Author Julie Hasson considers this topping, which is a snap to prepare, “nectar of the gods.” You can keep it, covered, up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
Makes about 11⁄3 cups:
1⁄2 cup superfine sugar (see Note below)
1 tsp. cornstarch 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1⁄2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 4 egg yolks, room temperature 85 gr. (3 ounces or 6 Tbsp.)
unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
In a heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in lemon zest and juice and egg yolks until well combined. Whisk in butter and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for 6 minutes or until lemon mixture is thick enough to hold marks of whisk. If mixture curdles slightly, strain into a bowl and let cool.
Transfer to a bowl, placing plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until cold.
Note: If you don’t have superfine sugar, process regular sugar in a food processor until very finely ground.