Nostalgia is such a thick feeling. Tightness in the throat. Joy. Heaviness. Rose colored glasses. A multitude of opposing feelings that collide together all at once and all encompassing. It usually involves vivid memories of things you didn’t really notice as they were happening. Things you never expected to remember, or maybe are discovering for the first time through retrospective glasses. And as wonderful or terrible, exciting or dull these memories may be, there is a beauty in things long past. 2015 is over. It’s not our current chapter anymore, and we’ve turned the page in our lives. But 2015 will forever be one of the most beautiful years of my life and will hold a host of my most precious memories. I married a man who will forever be my person; my very best friend. In a leap of faith we moved to a new state, and are now surrounded by family. Our career’s have taken beautiful new turns, and we have grand plans for our life together. The feeling of his hand brushing my hair behind my ear as the preacher reads our promises to one another. The sound of seagulls on the air. The taste of salt coming off the sea and babies breath scattered along the dock. As we move through the slowness and the frost of January I am full of beautiful Nostalgia.
January is known, in cliche fashion, to be the month of motivation. Everyone rushes off to the gym, and lives and breathes by a set of, often short-lived, New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never been one to run in the same direction the mob is going, but I must say, there are good fundamental reasons we feel motivated in January. We’ve gone through a melee of holidays and by the time we take our New Year’s Even sip (or gulp) of champagne, our energy levels have been depleted. We need those first few weeks of January to shut down, and when we get back up again we’re charged for something new and exciting. Or perhaps the previous year didn’t treat us well and we are ready to hit the new year running to show it who is going to be in charge this go round. Or maybe we’ve just consumed so very many cookies, that a fruit smoothie and a mouth full of spinach is calling to us at a cellular level. Regardless of the reason, (and I’m pretty sure mine had to do with the cookies) I feel the January motivational pull. Because I’m falling out of such a beautiful year, I am floating into January in a state of calm resolve to get things done and make big things happen. And to help me it all going, I brought a little piece of 2015 Christmas with me into 2016 in the form of mini gingerbread cheesecake with gingersnap crust.
This recipe is a combination of my own love for gingersnaps and all things mini, and an allstar, can’t be beat (duh) Martha Stewart recipe. I made this on a cold, frosted January afternoon in my kitchen, accompanied (as usual) by Walter. Winter doesn’t really start in Tennessee until mid-January. The light turns a sparkly blue, and everything is coated in ice crystals. The wood floors are cold, but wrapped in knit blankets, I baked a dessert specifically designed for coziness. I feel alive when I’m creating, so with a table full of pencil shavings, sketchbooks, and my brand new, never been touched, gorgeously gold spiraled planner, I began my baking/photographing adventure. Can you tell pretty office supplies make me happy too? I’ll warn you with this gingerbread cheesecake – it doesn’t fit into any juicing diets. But if you need something thick and delicious and sweet and warmly spiced, then this is one to remember. Every bite triggered a full faced reaction with closed eyes and slow motion enjoyment. The recipe has a lot of room for creativity, in that it makes a ton, and you can choose to make anything from a full cheesecake in a springform pan, baked for 60 – 65 minutes, or tiny cheesecakes in a lined muffin tin baked for 25 – 30 minutes. Let your January motivational creativity take over, and make it your own. In a gluttonously delicious decision, I chose 15 oz corning ware bakers for the mini gingerbread cheesecakes photographed for this post. No matter the size, they make me happy just remembering how warm and cozy the flavors were.
Mini Gingerbread Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart
2 Cups Gingersnap Cookies – Finely Chopped
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter – Melted
1 3/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
2 lbs Cream Cheese – Room Temperature
1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
4 Large Eggs – Room Temperature
1/4 Cup Unsoldered Molasses
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
1/2 Teaspoon Finely Grated Lemon Zest
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
If not yet ground, pour about half a bag of gingersnap cookies into your food processor and pulse until finely ground. When you have two cups of ground gingersnaps, pour them into a medium size bowl. Add butter and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix until combined. Cookie crumbs should be moist and slightly darker in color, but not wet or soggy. Press firmly into three 15 oz, oval corning ware bakers (you can really use any baker any size, OR a single spring form pan for a normal cheesecake, OR even a muffin tin with liners – simply adjust your baking times to ensure your cheesecake bakes all the way through). You should have a thin layer of crust on the bottoms and up the sides of your bakers. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes – or until set. Let these cool thoroughly on a wire rack.
Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add room temperature cream cheese and beat 3 minutes, or until fluffy and smooth. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until incorporated. On low, beat in 1 egg at a time, ensuring that each is combined, until all 4 have been added. Add molasses, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and lemon zest, beating until incorporated. Pour cheesecake filling into each baker until 3/4 full. You will have leftovers, which can be sealed and refrigerated to make more mini cheesecakes.
Place your bakers in a large roasting pan, and add hot water until it reaches half way up the bakers. Bake until set at the edges and very slightly wobbly in the center. This will vary depending on your choice of size and baking vessel, so stick around the kitchen and keep an eye on your cheesecakes to prevent over baking. Once baked through, let them cool totally on a wire rack. Then refrigerate uncovered for 8 hours. Top with crumbled gingersnaps if you’d like and serve!