Sunday, February 21, 2010

Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes...

We were going to be having a few guests over tonight and we wanted a dessert that was all set to serve without having to pay much fuss to it when it was time. Bars or cookies would have been good, except for the fact I have made plenty of those lately. Cheesecake was the next sweet that came to mind, though I wanted it to be a bit more tailored and personable. Miniature, yet substantial... and I found that in these Individual Peanut Butter Cheesecakes!

Peanuts make the play in these cheesecakes three ways - in the crust, in the cheesecake itself and as a crunchy spike on top. Instead of using crackers or cookies for the crust, we simply used the cleanest peanut flavor - peanuts themselves! We took the nuts and ground them down with a few scoops of brown sugar in our food processor - with a drizzle of melted butter, the crumbles fused together, creating a mass that held together when pressed down in the baking cups. To set the crust, it needs to bake by itself for a short time and then cooled before being filled.

Speaking of those baking cups, I used silicone muffin cups because I wanted to easily pop the baked cheesecakes right out of their holder without having to fumble around to get them out or deal with any sticking. You can use a regular muffin tin if you don't already have these cups, but I would suggest lining them with paper cups rather than just using cooking spray for the best results.

While the crust was off cooling, an ordinary filling was prepared in a snap by mixing together cream cheese, sugar, the best vanilla you can get your hands on and an egg, plus one extra yolk for richness. Leave the cream cheese out for at least a couple hours before using it - this way the filling will be silky smooth without having to beat it to death. What sets the filling apart from being too plain is what gets buried inside - good 'ol natural peanut butter! You know, where the ingredients are simply peanuts and salt. Half the filling goes onto the crust, a scoop of the nut butter goes in the center, which is then hidden by just enough to cover.

Since this isn't a large cheesecake, we didn't bother with a water bath - however, just like a large cheesecake, checking for doneness is the same. The edges should look set, but if you tap the pan, the centers of each should still have a wiggly jiggle to them. After they have baked and cooled, you'll want to let them hang out in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours - overnight would be best if you can (I made these last night to serve this evening).

That's two ways with peanuts, the third comes in the form of an edible garnish - a crunchy peanut brittle! The brittle is sugar and water, along with a pinch of cream of tartar and salt, that is brought to a rapid boil and allowed to cook until color darkens to a robust dark amber. Peanuts are stirred in and then the mixture is quickly (but carefully!) poured over a baking sheet. If the peanuts tend to settle in one spot, you should have a minute or two to try and even them out before the hot syrup starts to set.

Breaking the solid sheet of brittle into uneven shards, we topped each individual cheesecake with a piece or two as the finishing touch. When assembling the cheesecakes, I thought about swirling the filling the peanut butter together to ribbon the flavor throughout the batter, but I'm glad I didn't. Breaking into what looked like "plain" cheesecake to find that puddle of creamy peanut butter was not only dazzling, but a bit unexpected by our guests! If you are left with any extras, you can freeze them without worry (I snuck a couple in our freezer... I have visions of sticking a popsicle stick in the center and then dipping them in chocolate for an over-the-top cheesecake lollipop) - just keep the brittle off until just before serving.


  1. The cakes sound absolutely delicious, the photos are beautiful and the inspiration is overwhelming (in a good way)! Bravo!

  2. I've never heard of this dessert before. But it looks fantastic! I'm going to have to try it when my peanut-butter loving friend comes over next time.

  3. Good golly Miss Molly, why do I find these recipes when I am out of town and unable to immediately go out and get the ingredients for this.


  4. These are gorgeous! Another job well done.

  5. Christina - Thanks!

    PR - Thank you!

    DC - I hope you find time to give the cheesecakes a try!

    Debbie - Hee hee!

    DannyB - Thanks!