Maple and Ginger Mini-Cheesecakes

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  24 individual cheesecakes
Prep Time:  30 minutes Chilling Time:  4 hours Cook Time:  22 minutes

Maple and Ginger Mini-Cheesecakes

Just in time for fall and winter, these lively, spiced individual cheesecakes are great party fare and easy to make ahead; in fact, they are best the second day.

Ingredients

Crust:

15 to 30 (180 grams) gingersnaps (see Kitchen Tips)

½ cup (80 grams) maple sugar  

1 stick (½ cup/113 grams/8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted  

2 teaspoons (4 grams) ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon (1 gram) ground ginger

4 scrapes nutmeg (see Kitchen Tips)

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Filling:

1½ cups (240 grams) maple sugar

1½ pounds (680 grams) cream cheese, softened

½ cup (120 grams) crème fraîche or double cream, room temperature

¼ cup (33 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons (40 grams) pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon (16 grams) vanilla bean paste 

½ teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

Instructions

  1. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line 2 (12-cup) muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Place the gingersnaps into a food processor or blender and process to make crumbs, or place them in a sealable plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin until ground evenly. You should have about 1½ cups.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the gingersnap crumbs, sugar, and butter until the crumbs are moistened evenly. Press about 1 tablespoon of the crust mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup.
  4. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes, until the crusts just begin to firm up. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes; the crusts will continue to firm up as they cool. Reduce the oven temperature to  300°F.
  5. Meanwhile, make the filling: Pour the maple sugar into a blender or spice grinder and process until powdery (it will have the consistency of confectioners’ sugar; see Kitchen Tips).
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or if you are using a handheld electric mixer, in a mixing bowl), combine the softened cream cheese and ground maple sugar and mix for 5 to 6 minutes at low speed until smooth and fully incorporated. Add the crème fraîche or double cream, flour, maple syrup, vanilla bean paste, and salt and  mix just until combined. Add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next. Mix until completely smooth.
  7. Pour enough water into a roasting pan or casserole dish to come 1 to 1½ inches up the side. Place the pan on the bottom rack of the oven (see Kitchen Tips).
  8. Place the cooled crusts, still in their muffin tins, onto 2 rimmed baking sheets. Spoon about 3½ tablespoons of the filling into each (see Kitchen Tips). Place the filled muffin tins, still on their sheets, onto the other 2 oven racks, and bake for 20 to 22  minutes, until lightly browned on top and just slightly wiggly in the centers. They won’t be completely firm, but should not be liquidy.
  9. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Cover each muffin tin loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled thoroughly, at least 4 hours.  These cheesecakes can be made up to 3 days in advance but are best on the second day.

Kitchen Tips

  1. The number of gingersnap cookies you’ll need for this crust will depend on the size of the cookies. You will need enough to make 1½ cups. You can weigh out 180 grams, or simply eyeball it; start with the number of cookies that looks right, make the crumbs, and add more cookies or subtract some crumbs until you have the required amount.
  2. Nutmeg is available ground, but if you buy the whole nutmeg and grate it or scrape it with a sharp knife yourself, the flavor and fragrance will be much, much stronger. Look for it in specialty spice stores, good supermarket spice sections, or online.
  3. Blending the maple sugar for the filling until it is powdery and soft ensures that it will not be too gritty to blend smoothly into the filling.
  4. A muffin tin with cups that hold ⅓ cup is just right, but the recipe will  work nicely with standard muffin tins.
  5. Cheesecakes are typically baked in a water bath—that is, the cheesecake pan is placed directly into roasting pan filled with enough water to come halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. This protects the outside of the cheesecake from direct heat and allows for even baking. During the baking process, the water turns to steam, which keeps the cheesecake creamy and lessens the chance that it will crack. For these individual cheesecakes, placing the water bath under the muffin tins performs much the same function, without the risk of water entering the shallow muffin tins.   

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