If you've ever wanted to make cheesecake but have been intimidated by the whole endeavor because you aren't in possession of a springform pan, cannot be bothered to create a water bath, or are simply grossed out by the amount of cream cheese involved, this My Name is Yeh recipe for mini ricotta and parmesan cheesecakes is an easy way to get into cheesecake making. The combination of ricotta, parmesan and lemon zest creates a cheesecake that is lighter and brighter than traditional cheesecakes, but is equally, if not more, delicious. And no fussy techniques or kitchen gadgets are required -- you can even mix the cheesecake batter by hand, though it will be not as perfectly smooth as it will be if you run it through a food processor (lesson learned, see tiny lumps in cheesecakes below, but then again if someone points out that the mini cheesecake you are about to bestow upon them has tiny lumps, they should be shown the door immediately).
The hint of parmesan makes this cheesecake recipe a great blank canvas that can be taken in a savory or sweet direction. Ever since Alyna's rosemary chocolate chip cookies, I've been on the lookout for ways of incorporating rosemary into desserts, and I think adding rosemary to these cheesecakes has been my favorite so far. Mini grapefruit cheesecakes will be in order as we enter grapefruit season, and now that I'm in cheesecake brainstorm mode, little cannoli cheesecakes will have to happen, too.
Mini Rosemary Ricotta-Parmesan Cheesecakes
Adapted from My Name is Yeh
Makes 12 mini cheesecakes
For the crust:
9 large rectangles of graham crackers
a good pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
15 oz whole milk ricotta
zest of half a lemon
juice of 1/4 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary (and some extra sprigs for garnish)
2 large eggs
Make the crust:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a standard-sized 12-well muffin tin with paper cups and set aside.
In a food processor, process graham crackers. Add salt and process a bit more. With processor running, drizzle in melted butter and process for a few seconds until mixture clumps together.
Distribute graham cracker crust mixture evenly among the 12 muffin wells, and then use the bottom of a drinking glass or a 1/4 cup measuring cup or a spoon to press it down firmly and evenly. If crust mixture is sticking to your glass, measuring cup or spoon, grease it with a little melted butter.
Set the muffin tin in the fridge while you prepare the cheesecake filling.
Make the filling:
In a large bowl, add flour, sugar, salt, and parmesan, and stir until thoroughly combined. Then add ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extracts and rosemary, and whisk until smooth. Then add the eggs, and continue whisking until fully incorporated and the batter is smooth again. Note: The original recipe instructs you to blend everything in a food processor, which no doubt would give the cheesecake batter a much smoother consistency; I mixed everything by hand only because the ingredients wouldn't fit in the tiny food processor I own.
Assemble and bake cheesecakes
Distribute cheesecake filling mixture evenly among the 12 muffin wells. Since these will not rise, it's fine to fill the wells up almost to the top.
Bake for 20 minutes, until outer edges are set but centers are still a little jiggly. Then turn the oven off, open the oven door about halfway, and let cheesecakes remain in the oven for about 45 minutes. After this time, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely at room temperature. Before serving, chill the cheesecakes for an hour or two, or overnight.
Garnish with extra little sprigs of rosemary.
These mini cheesecakes will keep in the fridge for up to a week. They can also be stored in the freezer and whipped out to impress anyone who's been suddenly struck by a cheesecake craving.