Mini Cheesecakes with Cranberry Topping & Chocolate Crust

makes about 8 mini cheesecakes, depending on the size you cut them.  You can also just serve this in the pan, and just cut them into bars.  You can also make this recipe in a regular 10" springform pan.

This cheesecake needs ample time to chill in the refrigerator before cutting. You can make this the day before and let it cool overnight in the refrigerator.

you will need about a 3" round cutter

1½ cups ground chocolate graham crackers (about 12 whole sheets)
⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons butter, melted

5 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
3 Tablespoons flour
1 8-ounce container sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons orange liqueur, like Cointreau or Triple Sec

¾ cup sugar
4 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tablespoons water
1 bag fresh cranberries (12 ounce bag)
2 oranges to zest (for the topping) and peel (for the garnish)

Make crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°.  Grind the chocolate crackers and the sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Add the butter and pulse until blended.   Line a 9x13 pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray (I use nonstick foil so I don't have to do this).  Press the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan, using a flat cup of some kind. Bake for about 10 minutes to set crust.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Make the filling:
Lower the oven heat to 325°.  Beat the cream cheese in an electric mixer until soft.  Add the sugar and blend well.  Add the flour and then the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg well before adding the next.  Add the sour cream and the vanilla extract and orange liqueur.  Blend. 

Pour the mixture on top of the crust in the pan.  Flatten with a spatula.  Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, just until set.  Remove from oven and allow to cool and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. 

Make the topping:
Stir sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.  Add the cornstarch mixture and bring to a simmer.  Add the cranberries and cook until they begin to pop, about 3 or 4 minutes.  Stir in the zest of one orange.  Remove  from heat, place in a bowl and cool completely in the refrigerator. 

Assemble cheesecakes:

Spray a 3" round cutter with cooking spray or run under water.  Cut out a cheesecake, making sure to press cutter all the way down through the crust. With a spatula, remove the cheesecake.  Wet a spoon with water and remove the cheesecake from the cutter by gently pressing with the wet spoon.  The cheesecake comes out better if you press it out from the crust side.  This is a very sticky process and you may need to take the wet spoon and fix any damage to the crust.  Turn the cheesecake right side up on your serving plate.  Fix any ragged edges. Clean the cutter and cut the rest of the cheesecakes. 

When all the cheesecakes are cut out, top with the cranberry sauce and garnish with fresh orange peel.

(Save all the "trimmings" for future snacking - they keep well in the fridge for several days.) 

 The Italian Dish