OK, now it’s Christmas season. I went Black Friday shopping for the first time in recent memory. I’ve been listening to Straight No Chaser’s Christmas albums on repeat for two days. I have a full box of decorations ready to be set up around my apartment. I’m planning my finals studying strategically to allow plenty of time for Christmas shopping.
And, despite the fact that I made them for Thanksgiving, I have my first truly Christmas-season recipe for you all!
This time of year, desserts should be rich and indulgent. Mini cheesecakes fit squarely in that category. Add some salted caramel topping, and they are ideal for any kind of party you could be having in the next month, straight through New Year’s.
Except maybe a party with 7- to 9-year-olds. They were less than taken with them. For that scenario, just make the caramel sauce and have some ice cream on hand. I speak from experience.
Anyways, start by crushing the graham crackers in a bag into a fine powder. Use a fork to mix with the sugar.Add the melted butter and mix with fork until moistened.Divide evenly between 12 lined muffin tins (about 1 heaping tablespoon in each) and press into the bottom using your fingers.Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes and then remove from oven to cool slightly while you make the filling.
In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and flour.In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese and sugar mixture on low to medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add vanilla, sour cream, and heavy cream, blending until just combined. You may want to do this with a rubber spatula to ensure everything is mixed in. Tap mixing bowl against counter 30 times to remove some of the air bubbles. This step will annoy anyone who happens to be in the adjacent room watching TV. Ignore it – they’ll appreciate you later.
Spoon batter evenly into the muffin cups with the graham cracker bottoms. Fill to the top of each cup.Bake at 350°F for 20-23 minutes, until just starts to turn golden at edges. If they’ve begun to crack, take them out quick – they’re done! Allow to cool completely at room temperature, about an hour. Cover loosely and transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours before serving.
Meanwhile, make the caramel sauce. I’ve made lots of varieties of caramel on this blog, but this one could be the most stressful and also most delicious. There’s a lot of time-sensitive steps that may result in minor burns, but, as I said above, this was my little cousins’ favorite part, so it’s worth it.
First, whisk together the sugar and water over medium-high heat until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture begins to boil. Whisk constantly throughout this process, and have everything on hand for the rest of the process.
Once it starts to boil, stop whisking and let it boil until it turns a dark amber color. Make sure to swirl the pan every once in awhile to prevent burning.
It will feel a little bit like a watched-pot-never-turns-amber type of situation, but don’t fall into this trap. Looking away is how you end up with black sticky burnt sugar stuck to the bottom of your pan and plain mini cheesecakes.
Once it does reach the dark amber color, add the butter and whisk until it just melts. Then, remove from heat, wait three seconds, and pour in the heavy cream, whisking constantly the entire time.The heavy cream will bubble ferociously and the steam will burn your hand if you aren’t careful (I wasn’t). Power through, though, and you’ll end up with some delicious caramel.
Pour into a glass cup to cool.
When you’re ready to serve dessert, spoon a bit of caramel onto each of the mini cheesecakes and sprinkle with sea salt.Serve immediately. Otherwise, keep chilled in the fridge – the salted caramel will run off the tops if they aren’t flat, so keep that in mind as well.
Salted Caramel Mini Cheesecakes
- 8 graham cracker sheets, crushed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons salted butter, melted
- 2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
Salted Caramel Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- sea salt
- Use a fork to mix together crushed graham crackers and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar.
- Add melted butter and mix until moistened.
- Press into the bottom of 12 lined cupcake tins, about one heaping tablespoon of mixture per cup.
- Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes and remove from oven to cool.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup sugar and flour.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together cream cheese and sugar mixture on low to medium speed until smooth.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Add vanilla extract, sour cream, and heavy cream and blend until just combined.
- Tap bowl on counter 30 times to remove air bubbles.
- Spoon batter into the cupcake tin, filling each cup to the top.
- Bake at 350°F for 20-23 minutes until edges just begin to turn golden. If they start to crack, take them out immediately.
- Allow to cool in muffin tins for an hour before covering loosely and putting tin in fridge to chill at least 2 hours.
Salted Caramel Sauce
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together sugar and water until sugar completely dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Whisk constantly until boiling.
- Allow to boil until mixture turns dark amber, swirling pan occasionally.
- Add butter and whisk until butter melts.
- Remove from heat and wait 3 seconds.
- While whisking vigorously, add heavy cream and continue to whisk until incorporated. Mixture will bubble and sizzle – keep whisking.
- Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a glass jar to cool completely.
- Top mini cheesecakes with caramel just before serving, and sprinkle with sea salt.