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Mini Gingerbread Cheesecakes with Gingersnap Crust, gingerbread cheesecake, gingersnaps, gingersnap crust, Holiday Cheesecake, Mini Cheesecakes, Gingersnap Crust

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.

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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.

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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.

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Mini Gingerbread Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart

 

Ingredients

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

 

Directions

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!

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I know I know.  The holidays are over and we’re all scrambling to find our dusty, lost in the closet juicer that will help us fit back into our pre-Thanksgiving jeans.  But the abandonment of all things deliciously baked every January makes me a little sad.  I know it’s time to get back on track, but what if we just cut back on our baked favorites? Not buying it? Going for an all out cleanse? Fine.  But I MUST post this.  If nothing else, save this recipe for next Thanksgiving, and enjoy some lovingly created pie photography.  This is yet another recipe created by the goddess Sally over at Sally’s Baking Addiction.  She is my guru as you know, and this recipe nails down that love.  I wasn’t nearly as successful in the shaping of my pie crust as Sally is, but that’s why I love her recipes.  I have a chance to learn SO MUCH from one baking adventure. Before this pie – get ready – I didn’t like pumpkin pie.  It’s true.  I thought it was bland.  And had an unappetizing texture.  I decided to try this, because my family is pumpkin pie obsessed, and I wanted to satisfy, so it was a leap of faith.  Let me tell you that this pie is SO flavorful, SO fluffy and creamy, and SO comforting, that I’ll be making it for years to come.  Enjoy.

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The Only Pumpkin Pie You’ll Ever Need

Recipe Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction 

 

Ingredients

2 Pie Crusts – Use Sally’s Recipe – It can’t be beat.

1 Can Pumpkin Puree – 15oz

3 large eggs

1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon Cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger

1/4 teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

1 cup Heavy Cream

1/4 cup Milk

1 large egg – beaten with 1 teaspoon of milk

1 Tablespoon cinnamon sugar mixture for sprinkling

 

Sugared Cranberries

1 cup Fresh Cranberries

2 cups Granulated Sugar

1 cup Water

 

Homemade Whipped Cream

8 oz Cream Cheese

1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream

 

Instructions

Please read entire recipe before starting, as some steps must be done in advance!

 

Pie Crust –

Make pie crusts using Sally’s recipe.

 

Sugared Cranberries –

Place cranberries in a large bowl.  Pour water and 1 cup of sugar into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat and allow syrup to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.  Pour syrup over cranberries, stirring to coat. Move bowl to the refrigerator to chill overnight.

After cranberries have chilled for at least 6 hours, and the syrup has thickened considerably, drain the cranberries to remove excess syrup, and add 1 cup of sugar.  Stir to coat, and pour out onto a large piece of parchment paper.  Spread cranberries into one well-spaced layer and allow to dry 2 to 4 hours.

 

Pumpkin Pie –

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, eggs, and brown sugar.  While whisking, add cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, heavy cream, and milk.  Continue to whisk until fully combined.

If making Sally’s beautiful pie crust leaves, take out one ball of chilled pie dough, and roll out on a well floured board or countertop.  Dough should be about 1/8 inch thick.  Use leaf cookie cutters (or a paring knife and lots of creativity) to cut out leaf shapes.  Score the tops of the leaves with veins for detail.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and place the pie dough leaves in a single, well spaced layer. Coat leaves with the egg and milk mixture, and sprinkle lightly with cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until golden.  Cool on wire rack.

Preheat oven to 375.

On a floured board or countertop, roll out the 2nd ball of pie dough into an even 12 inch circle.  Allow dough to rest for 5 minutes.  Delicately lay your pie dough in a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate.  Trim any extra pie dough, and either leave plain, crimp, or tuck your pie dough edges.  Brush the edges of the crust with remaining egg and milk mixture.  Fill pie dough with pie weights and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove pie weights, and fill your partially baked pie crust 3/4 of the way full with the pumpkin pie filling. Sally recommends using any leftover filling to make mini pies later!  Place pie back in the oven for 60 minutes.  After 20 or 30 minutes (and a nicely golden pie crust) cover the crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil to prevent over browning.  When done, the pie should be set at the outer 2 inches, and slightly wobbly in the center.

Allow pie to cool for a minimum of 3 hours after baking and before decorating with the, now dried and ready, sugared cranberries and pie crust leaves.

While pie is cooling, make homemade whipped cream.  Beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice on low until fully combined.  Beat on high for 1 full minute until whipped and smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk chilled heavy whipping cream to stiff peaks.  Add cream cheese mixture to this and beat on low until the ingredients are just combined.  Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until pie is ready to be served.