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January 26, 2013

Three Little Cheesecakes Sitting on a Plate

Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes with Myer Lemon Curd
Back in the '80s when I was a spunky teenager with a penchant for Joan Jett and baking, my mom would always let me pick out a magazine or two on our bi-weekly grocery expeditions. While she'd be checking the eggs, I'd be flipping through the pages, looking for recipes.

One day, as I was flipping along, I came right to a heart-stopping, head-swelling, mouth-salivating photo of the most exquisite chocolate cheesecake I had ever seen. When I showed the picture to my mother, she snatched it from my hands, exhaled a few 'oohs' and 'ahs' and expertly did a 180 with the cart and took off in a flash to the dairy aisle. Then I watched in awe as a shadow swept over her face and she tossed brick after brick of cream cheese into the cart before heading to the baking aisle.

My mom was a metabolic marvel. She routinely put away family-sized bags of malted milk balls and M&Ms™and pounds of black licorice. When Christmas rolled around, she would start her baking just after Thanksgiving and by Christmas Eve, there were at least 2 dozen different kinds of confections from divinity and fudge to spritz cookies, Congo bars and everything in between. While most kids were being raised by parents who monitored their sugar intake, my mom seemed to be taking an entirely different approach. She loved to bake and when I showed an interest, she would buy all the sugar and flour in the world to help me pursue my talents.

Somewhere, I still have the crumpled, torn and chocolate smudged original recipe for that cheesecake. To say it was decadent is an understatement; it was over-the-top. We couldn't eat one piece, it was too rich, so we did what any good mother and daughter duo would do: we took it out of the refrigerator periodically throughout the day and sliced away tiny, thin silvers--just enough for one rich mouthful--then we would put it back into the refrigerator and push it as far back on the shelf as possible, hiding it from anyone who may discover it. We worked that cheesecake over, all the way to the very end, my mother and I alone in the kitchen, pushing the last of the cookie crumbs and remnants of cheesecake into the tines of our forks, laughing and giggling over our good fortune of stumbling upon such an incredible recipe. We would make that cheesecake over and over again, through the rest of my high school days and into my college years.

Over time, though, as often happens, my palate changed. It craved tangy, dense, and barely sweetened cheesecakes. While others clamored for cheesecakes filled and topped with every imaginable ingredient, I was on the hunt for the opposite. While I like to substitute half the cream cheese for goat cheese in a recipe, this recipe is a simple cheesecake recipe and when baked in a mini cheesecake pan, results in the perfect little bite of cheesecake; I've come a long way from the days of multiple slivers and bites. But, I still have a penchant for Joan Jett.

Mini Vanilla Cheesecakes

3  8 oz packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
3  Jumbo eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
2 tsp Vanilla bean paste (it has little black specks in it that 'make' the cheesecake)
1/3 cup of Organic heavy whipping cream
1 tsp Grated lemon zest (I used Myer lemon)

Blend the cream cheese on low speed until it's softened and smooth. Add the sugar and blend on medium speed until the sugar is incorporated--about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, thoroughly blending after each addition. On low speed, blend in the heavy cream, vanilla bean paste and lemon zest. Pour into prepared pans/crust and bake at 350º until center is set; let cool and then refrigerate until serving.

Crust

You can make any crust recipe you'd like for this recipe. I used a package of Goya Palmiers (elephant ear cookies), some toasted coconut, toasted pecans and coconut oil. Once you have your crust ready, push the crumbs into the mini cheesecake pans and then fill with the cheesecake batter.

For extra deliciousness goodness, I topped my mini cheesecakes with Myer lemon curd.

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