Monday 27 July 2015

Upon Her Turning 12: Mini Crême Brûlée Birthday Cheesecakes (gluten free)

Birthday Cheesecake.
Say what? 
You want me to make Mini Cheesecakes for your birthday?

okay. sure.

16 oz of Cream Cheese--softening; awaiting transformation into my daughter's celebratory Birthday Cheesecakes.
Today we celebrate my 1st born's 12th birthday.  For this auspicious occasion, I thought back to the many birthday cakes I baked for my two children and decided to ask her what she would like me to make. Remember the epic Ariel's Underwater Castle Cake I made for Bebe's 5th bday? While walking through the cake-decorating section of Michael's, I had asked her what she wanted me to bake her for her 5th birthday party. She stopped in her tracks and pointed to a huge box at her eye level.  It was the Wilton Castle Cake kit. I had a 40% off coupon and just thought, heck...why not? It wouldn't be that hard.  It's just a cake.
Ariel's Underwater Castle Cake: Bebe's 5th bday cake...just in case you weren't around this blog back then
Okay, I admit that for my second child, I was not so ambitious...and I had hidden the Castle Cake Kit Box by that time--far in the dark recesses of a cupboard inaccessible to preschoolers lest she decide that she wanted one too, like her big sister.

ahh. those days are over when I could dedicate a couple weeks to planning her birthday and bake her cake.

"I doesn't matter" she says in response to my query the other day about what she'd like me to bake.

My trusty KitchenAid making short work of beating the cream cheese until smooth
My eldest child is not a sweet-tooth (like her daddy.)  She is a savoury-girl.  In the past 12 years she is gradually showing her personality and preferences.  Do you remember a time when you chose her clothes; the foods she would eat in a restaurant and decided what she would play with by filtering things for her?
After adding the eggs one by one and beating until smooth, we're ready to go
Well.  Bebe's not into cake.
Truly not.
I know!
Such a shame!
I was slightly disappointed but my 2nd child has a sweet-tooth so no fear, she'll inherit my bakeware.
Meanwhile, the Gluten Free Graham Cracker Crusts have come out of the oven and are cooling on my counter.  We made the mini crusts by pulverizing store-bought GF Graham Crackers and combining with melted butter. Then we pressed into my mini cheesecake molds.
Thus, when I pressed her for an answer again, "well, what should I bake for your birthday?"

She replied with a smile and eyes-popped-wide-open, "mini cheesecakes!"
Any excuse to use my trusty "batter pen!"  I filled the batter pen with cheesecake batter and then squirted the batter evenly between the cheesecake molds. I didn't spill a drop of batter on the pan's sides as I usually do when I try using a spoon, ice-cream scoop or spouted measuring cup. 
So here it is, with a brûlée crust.  When brûléed just before serving, you get a crunchy candy crust. If you refrigerate the brûléed cheesecakes overnight, then you get a lovely caramel sauce (just like crême caramel) the next day.  So this would make for a great make-ahead dessert for any occasion if you love crême caramel cheesecake.
After refrigeration, the crunchy brûlee crust turns into a lovely drippy, sticky caramel sauce. 
I embraced her differences and respected her wishes and gave her what she really wanted.  I didn't try to guide her towards another choice I thought she would appreciate better (as I am apt to do.)  I just sucked it up and let it go.  A birthday cheesecake.  Well, actually a whole bunch of mini birthday cheesecakes.  There would be no cutting of the cake. That's okay.  And it was vanilla. She doesn't really like chocolate.

I know!
You think that was easy to accept for me? I mean my mom and I (and the 8 yr old too) love chocolate.  What happened here with this one?  Let's say I went back and forth several times these last few years to make sure she was sure she didn't really like chocolate.   Lots of Godiva chocolates were ingested to ensure this fact. We consistently entered chocolate stores whenever we were in malls--just to "browse"--and because sometimes they give out free samples.
I started this blog while I was on maternity leave with my first born.  My intention was to create an archive of recipes for my child.  Today she's 12.  wow.  Don't worry. That's my espresso. 

I always mis-time capturing the candle blow-out! Here's Bebe's chin after blowing out her bday candle. 

Mini Vanilla Bean Cheesecakes (gluten free) with caramel topping 

The brûlee dissolves into a caramel sauce that drips down the sides of the mini cheesecakes.  Serve with fresh local ripe berries like we did.  
adapted from Williams Sonoma recipe on the back of the bakeware box

For the Crusts:
  • 1 cup (114 g) Gluten Free Graham Crackers, crushed or pulverized in a food processor
  • 2 T sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 T unsalted butter, melted
For the Filling:
  • 16 oz (500 g) cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup (125g) sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped into the cream
  • pinch of salt
For decoration:
  • I used fresh seasonal strawberries or berries
  • organic evaporated cane sugar, for sprinkling on the cheesecakes; to brûlée
  1. Have all the ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat the cups of the 12-cup cheesecake pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. To make the crusts, in a small bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs, sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and stir until combined. Divide the mixture evenly among the cups and using your fingertips, press it evenly into the bottom. Bake until the crusts are set, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Reduce the heat to 300°F.
  3. To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cream and vanilla and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and salt and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Pour the batter into the crusts, dividing it evenly among the cups. [NB. I used my "batter pen" by filling it with the cheesecake batter and squirting the batter evenly between the mini molds.] Bake until the cheesecakes are set, about 20-30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  5. Using a small teaspoon, sprinkle organic cane sugar evenly over each cheesecake (while still in the cheesecake pan).  Using a brûlée torch, caramelize the sugar until golden brown.   
  6. To unmold, gently push up from the hole in the bottom of the mini cheesecake pan to remove the cheesecake from the cup. Use a small spatula or butter knife to remove the cake crust from the metal bottom. If the cheesecakes are sticking to the pan, gently run a toothpick around each cheesecake to loosen it before pushing it out of the cup. 
  7. If you would like a caramel sauce instead of the brûlée, simply place the unmolded brûléed cheesecakes into a container with a lid and refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, you will notice that the brûlée crust has melted into a lovely oozy sticky caramel sauce.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and fresh ripe local berries.
  8. Makes 12 mini cheesecakes.

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