Hooray! It's October, and that means it's time, once again, for The Power of Pink Challenge. I am so glad Jen is hosting this event for another year, as I think it's a great (and fun!) way to remind yourself to stop and think about breast cancer. Do you have a loved one that has been affected by this disease? Maybe you have been affected? Are you doing your monthly self-exams?
I've been slacking a bit on creativity in the kitchen, so this was a very welcome exercise in cooking or baking. I desperately wanted something naturally pink (as opposed to using food coloring, etc), but my first thought when it comes to pink is strawberries. Not only did I use those last year, but October really isn't the height of strawberry season. Two aisles over from the pathetic looking strawberries at the grocery store - the answer was obvious: cranberries!
I absolutely love all things cranberry, and was so excited to come up with something new. Once again, I was stuck on cheesecake this year. I couldn't get it out of my head. I decided to go a different route from last year, and the ideas eventually evolved into these super cute mini cheesecake bites.
This cheesecake is not too dense, but rather has a light, almost whipped (heavenly!) texture. They are packed with cranberry and orange flavor, complimented by a rich oreo cookie crust (how can you go wrong with oreos?), and dipped in creamy white chocolate. The combination of flavors is incredible, and I can't wait to make these again!
Think Pink! Cranberry Orange Cheesecake Bites
Adapted from here and Christine Avanti
Yield: 36 bites
For the cranberry puree:
6 ounces fresh cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from about 1/2 of a large orange)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients except vanilla in heavy large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and the cranberries start to pop. Allow to cool slightly and transfer to a food processor to (carefully!) puree, or use a hand blender to puree in the pot. Stir in the vanilla extract. Transfer to a bowl, covering with plastic wrap, pressed down on the surface to avoid forming a skin on top of the puree. Refrigerate to cool completely, at least 4 hours. Makes about 1 cup of puree.
For the crust:
1.5 cups crushed oreo cookies (from about 15 oreos)
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
For the cheesecake filling:
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (regular or 1/3 less fat), at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon orange zest (from about 1/2 of a large orange)
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 cup sour cream
2/3 cup cranberry puree
30 ounces good quality white chocolate bar, chopped fine
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan by lining with a sheet of foil matching the width of the pan, and extending out over two opposites sides of the pan. This will be used to lift the cheesecake out of the pan after it has cooled, for easy slicing. Spray foil and exposed inside edges of pan with baking spray.
To prepare the crust - combine all crust ingredients in a small bowl. Dump out into baking pan and press down into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 8-10 minutes, then remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cheesecake filling is ready.
Beat 8 ounces of cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese and sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Beat in the orange zest and juice, then the sour cream just until it's completely blended. Stir in the cranberry puree until the batter is as uniform or marbled as you like.
Pour batter evenly over partially baked crust. Set pan inside a larger one (my 9x13 pan worked great for my 8x8 pan) and add water to the larger pan, about 1 inch deep. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake cheesecake for 35-40 minutes until set and slightly puffy, or until the center no longer jiggles when the pan is gently shaken. Remove the pan from the water bath, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours. Cover the pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. At this point, you can remove the cheesecake, slice into bars as you see fit, and enjoy them that way. Otherwise - you can carry on and enrobe them in white chocolate!
Slice cheesecake into 36 squares. Place on a parchment lined sheet and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Over a double boiler, carefully melt white chocolate, taking care not to scorch it. Stir constantly and remove from the heat before all the chocolate is melted - continuing to stir will melt the rest.
Remove a few cheesecake squares at a time from the freezer. Have another parchment lined sheet ready. Working quickly, dip each side of the cheesecake square in white chocolate. I found that with frozen squares, I could hold it with my index finger on top and thumb on the bottom, and rotate all 4 sides through the white chocolate. The coating would harden in just a few seconds, then I could dip the top, and finally the bottom of the squares by holding the sides. The square could then be placed on the parchment lined sheet to finish hardening. If you want to adorn the tops of the squares with something like sanding sugar, have it ready and be prepared to work quickly if you want it to stick! Repeat with remaining squares, rewarming the white chocolate as necessary.
Store cheesecake bites in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a up to a week, or well wrapped in the freezer for up to a month.