Happy Saturday, friends! We made it! Virtual high-fives all around! Today's snack is the perfect thing to help usher in the weekend. It's sweet, it's simple, and it involves the classic combination of chocolate, cream cheese, and cherries.
Today's recipe comes from the little treasure trove that is Ratatouille: What's Cooking? (A Cookbook for Kids). We've baked from this book before, and, although it's labeled as a cookbook for kiddos, it's not just that. Kids could definitely help create the dishes found in the book, but if you're a kid at heart, this one's for you, too. As I've mentioned in the past, I purchased this cookbook from the beloved Writers' Stop in Disney's Hollywood Studios back in 2012. And I'm writing this from one of my favorite quiet spots in Hollywood Studios right now, so it's warm fuzzies all around. Hooray for Hollywood!
Today, we'll be diving right into the desserts section of the cookbook to whip up Cherry Cheesecakes. I feel like the name of the recipe is somewhat misleading, however. We're making so much more than cherry cheesecakes. We're creating mini chocolate cherry cheesecakes. And, better yet, we don't even have to fire up the oven to welcome these creamy individually-sized desserts into our weekend. Could this get any better?
Before we continue, if you're new here at Saturday Snacks, welcome. I'm so glad to have you here at our virtual kitchen table. We meet here every Saturday to help welcome a little Disney magic into our kitchens. If you'd like to catch up on the recipes we've made thus far, click here.
As with most Saturday Snacks recipes, I kicked things off with a bit of research. I wanted to take a peek into the whole of no-bake desserts just to see what others have done. As I dug through accounts of no-bake adventures, a question arose in my mind that would impact how our little cheesecakes turn out. You see, one of the first steps that we'll be asked to do calls for us to press a chocolate graham cracker crumb mixture into the bottoms of a muffin pan. If the crumb mixture goes into the pan, it should come out in the end, right?
Well, from what I read, the odds were not ever in our favor that that glorious graham cracker crust would hold together without the use of cupcake liners. I made the decision to split the difference. I would do a little Home Ec experiment and make six of the cherry cheesecakes without liners, and six with liners. And we'll just see what's what. And, if the crust decided not to stick together, the recipe wouldn't be a complete failure. I'd at least have six mini cheesecakes to enjoy.
The ingredients for today's recipe didn't call for anything too far out of the box. We'll be incorporating lemon rind into the cream cheese mixture, so be sure to grab a fresh lemon, and since the big box store from which I was gathering the ingredients didn't carry pre-made chocolate graham cracker crumbs, I grabbed a box of chocolate graham crackers. I'd do the work myself and enjoy an extra graham cracker or three at the same time. Win-win!
To start things off, pull your 12 ounces of cream cheese out of the fridge and let them soften on the counter for a bit. You'll also want to melt your 1/3 cup of butter or margarine. I was short on butter, so I opted to use margarine. Margarine isn't always my favorite, but the recipe said that we could use either, so I went for it. A quick zap in the microwave had the margarine nice and melted. And it popped as it melted, so keep an eye on it. You'll be cleaning your microwave if you don't. Ahem.
I next grabbed a gallon-sized zip top baggie out of the pantry, tossed seven chocolate graham crackers inside, and smashed them with a butter knife handle and my hands, and also ran them through my blender. If you have any pent-up frustration, this step serves therapeutic purposes. We all take it where we can get it these days, right?
Our next step calls for us to grab a medium-sized bowl out of the cabinet and toss in our 1 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs, along with the 1/3 cup of melted butter or margarine, and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
Grab a good spoon and stir everything to combine. You want to make sure that all of the crumbs are coated with the melted butter/margarine.
We've now come to the point at which the recipe asks us to press the crumb mixture directly into the muffin pan or a 9 x 9 pan. And the lovely color picture in the cookbook has beautifully intact crumb cracker crusts without liners, so just pressing them into the pan(s) should work, right? Oh, if only that were true.
I grabbed six cupcake liners, popped them into the muffin pan, and proceeded to press the crumb mixture into them. I did the same with the six unlined muffin spots, too. After the crumb mixture is pressed into the pan, place the whole thing into the fridge to chill while you whip up the cream cheese mixture.
Now's the time to get your 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon peel off of that lemon. Wash it up and run it across a fine grater until you get to the white part of the lemon rind (the pith).
Once you reach the pith, move to the next yellow spot and keep going until all of the yellow peel is gone. One lemon should give you two teaspoons of grated lemon peel with some left over.
Into a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer), toss the 2 teaspoons of lemon peel, 12 ounces of softened cream cheese, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Turn the mixer speed to medium high and let the good times roll. You're trying to get that cream cheese mixture to a light and fluffy state, and it'll take a bit of speed and a few minutes to get it there. While the recipe said to beat the mixture for 2 minutes, it took just north of 3 minutes for my mixture to get to the point where I'd call it light and fluffy.
When things are fluffy, grab your container of whipped topping and fold 2 cups into the cream cheese. Remember that folding in an ingredient calls for us to be gentle; just turn that spoon and work the whipped topping into the filling.
Once everything's fully combined, grab your muffin pan out of the fridge and fill the spots with the cream cheese mixture. The recipe doesn't tell us exactly how much filling to heap onto the crusts, so I went with my gut. More is more, right?
Even though I filled them generously, I still had cream cheese filling left over. Which, of course, wan't a bad thing.
After loading in the cream cheese filling, you and I are asked to spread the ready-made cherry pie filling onto each cheesecake. Friends, don't skimp here. That's not who we are here at Saturday Snacks. Load those little babies up to your heart's content and just know - spoiler alert - that your efforts will be rewarded in the end.
I must admit that I used the entire can of cherry pie filling. This was a decision that I did not regret. Not. In. The. Least.
The recipe calls for us to refrigerate the cheesecakes until ready to serve, which, in my mind, is pretty vague. In a note below the recipe, it's mentioned that the cheesecakes can be made after school to be enjoyed after dinner, but in the research that I did regarding no-bake snacks, I was advised to let them chill overnight. Now you and I both know that waiting for snacks to chill is not my strong suit, but I kept my eyes on the prize and kept those cheesecakes in the fridge.
Guess what I had for breakfast the next morning? Yep, you guessed it: chocolate cherry cheesecakes. And guess which cheesecakes didn't come out of the pan in one piece? Yep, the ones made without cupcake liners. We've learned our lesson: use the liners.
We've also learned another lesson: when the cheesecakes don't come out of the pan, take a fork directly to the pan. It's the weekend and we're grown ups; we can do as we please.
The cakes made in the liners lifted out of the pan perfectly. Gently unwrap them and enjoy every morsel.
That fresh lemon rind that you and I added to the cream cheese? Goodness gracious. It adds the brightest, most lovely citrus notes to the filling and pairs beautifully with the cherries.
The chocolate graham cracker crumb mixture is so very yummy, and everything all together combines to be one classic, delightful, delicious snack.
These delicious and rich mini cheesecakes are the perfect thing to snack on while you and I wait for the opening of Remy's Ratatouille Adventure in EPCOT. Remy would want us to savor the combination of flavors found in these simple and incredibly yummy treats, after all.
What have you been whipping up recently? Please let me know in the comment section below what your favorite flavor combo or recipe is these days.
I hope that your weekend is a great one. You've got this, friends. Soak up a little sun, savor a laugh or two, and eat something delicious.
Ready to invite a classic flavor combination into your kitchen? The recipe is below:
- 1 1/4 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided
- 1/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups whipped topping
- 1 20-ounce can cherry pie filling
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and the butter or margarine, mixing well. Firmly press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a muffin pan or 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill while you make the cheesecake filling.
- In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, lemon peel, vanilla extract, and the remaining quarter cup of sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Fold in the whipped topping, then spread the mixture onto the chilled crust.
- Spread the cherry pie filling over the cheese mixture. Chill the cheesecake in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes nine servings.