Monday, October 12, 2009


When I'm looking for a dessert that's quick to prepare and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, cheesecake's at the top of my list. It's creamy, rich, and the ideal medium for a host of flavors. One of my favorite cheesecakes is a simple, lemon-scented one topped with strawberries. No gooey cornstarchy gel topping, just sliced strawberries macerated in a little sugar. I also like to make this cheesecake in individual portions, in muffin cups. No slicing, no sharing. Bliss in a cup.

Strawberry-Topped Cheesecake Cups

Makes 12 servings
Storage: refrigerated, in a covered container, for up to 3 days.

Graham Cracker Crusts:
1 cup (4.2 oz/120 g) graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon (.4 oz/12 g) granulated sugar
4 tablespoons (2 oz/57 g) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake filling:
12 ounces (340 g) cream cheese, softened
3/4 (5.3 oz/150 g) cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup (120 ml) sour cream

Strawberry Topping:
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut lengthwise into quarters
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Make the crusts:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugar until blended. Stir in the melted butter. Divide the mixture among the muffin cups and using your fingers, pat it into an even layer on the bottom of each cup. Bake the crusts until they are very lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Cool the crusts on a wire rack while you make the filling. Make the filling:
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at low speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat for another minute, until well blended. Blend in the vanilla extract, lemon zest, and salt. Add the eggs and yolk, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary and mixing until well blended. Add the sour cream and mix until combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir the filling a few times by hand to make sure it is smooth and well blended. Ladle the filling into the muffin cups, filling it to the top.
4. Bake the cheesecake cups for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops begin to crack and the centers are set. Set the pan on a wire rack and cool completely (the cheesecake cups will sink slightly in the center as they cool).

Make the topping:
5. In a bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
6. Arrange about 4 strawberry pieces, cut side down, on top of each cheesecake cup and spoon some of the remaining liquid on top. Serve the cups immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.