Jul 27, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

In just a few days (July 30), we will celebrate National Cheesecake Day, otherwise known as The Cheesecake Factory's busiest-day-of-the-year. 

Commercialism aside, it's my favorite cheesecake holiday and should not be confused with White Chocolate Cheesecake Day on March 6, Cherry Cheesecake Day on April 23, Blueberry Cheesecake Day on May 26 or Pumpkin Cheesecake day on October 21.  (Yes, those are actual holidays - I couldn't make this stuff up.)

And so even though I recently posted Dana's cheesecake bar recipe, I thought I'd share my twist on an older recipe from Hershey's.

I will preface this by saying I am not a huge fan of flavored cheesecakes (apparently other people are big fans, given the aforementioned proliferation of flavored cheesecake holidays.)  I will go on the record as a cheesecake purist, and affirm that my belief that cheesecake IS a flavor all by itself. And while I love flavors like pumpkin, strawberry, turtle and anything that has the word "chocolate" in it, I usually aim for the plain, simple cheesecake when I have the choice.

That said, these little chocolate bites are pretty tasty. I was introduced to the original recipe from Hershey's by my mom many, many Thanksgivings ago...late '80s or early '90s.  (Hopefully she's reading this and can give us a more precise timeframe.)  The recipe in its original form is doubled from what I've listed here and it makes one big honkin' chocolate cheesecake.  But I found these were handy for office potluck days or anytime I'm serving buffet-style.  And somehow, having several little bites just feels more virtuous and less fattening than eating a whole slice.  (Just work with me here, okay?)

Chocolate Cheesecake Bites

Crust Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup vanilla wafer crumbs (about 25 wafers) crushed finely
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Filling Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk (chocolate, light or plain)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 packages cream cheese, softened
2 eggs

Heat oven to 300. Create crust by mixing crushed wafers, powdered sugar and t tablespoons cocoa with melted butter. (This recipe pre-dates the introduction of crushed Oreo cookie crumbs - which can be substituted if you can find them.) Divide crust among mini muffin pans (this recipe will make 24 cheesecake bites.) press firmly into bottom of each muffin cup.

For filling, melt 1 tablespoon butter and add 3 tablespoons cocoa powder; stir well. (Once again, the recipe is showing its age - now you can substitute one pouch of Nestle pre-melted unsweetened chocolate.)

In mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and slowly add cocoa/butter mixture; beat well.  Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.  Divide among muffin tins. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until center is set (do not overbake.)  Carefully remove from muffin tins; cool and refrigerate if not serving immediately.

Note:  To make a full-size cheesecake, double the recipe ingredients and use a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes; the full recipe makes 12 servings.

Happy baking!