Friday, November 2, 2012

Mini Lemon Meringue Cheesecakes

I was ready. 

I had the freezer packed with bags of ice. There was a flashlight in my pocket and extra water and peanut butter in the kitchen. I changed the batteries in the clock radio, charged the phone (several times), and put a toothbrush in my handbag. I had the harnesses on the dogs and a bag packed with family photos, the title to the car and emergency chocolate. Then I sat and waited for the worst to happen.

And it did.

Just not in my immediate vicinity.

Sandy passed by with little to show for it at our house. The lights flickered a couple of times but we never lost power. There wasn't even a drop of water in the basement. Only a couple of small branches fell from the trees, just what might come down in a normal rainstorm. Many others were not as fortunate. From Georgia to New England and over to the Great Lakes Sandy brought death and destruction with wind, water, fire and ice. My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling in the aftermath of this, as my sister would say, 'storm of biblical proportions'. Maybe I haven't seen the sun in a while or maybe I'm coming down from a serious stress high, but I'm craving some lemony goodness in my life right now.

Willow Bird Challenge #5, the Cheesecake Challenge, is giving me the opportunity to squeeze some lemons. This cheesecake is supposed to reflect our baking style or somehow relate something of ourselves. So why did I choose Lemon Cheesecake?

I might've chose Ricotta Cheesecake, I grew up on my Mom's humble yet flavorful version of this Italian dessert. Or maybe Munich Cheesecake, I had to make this for my first job as a baker. Or maybe Brownie Cheesecake, or Amaretto or Chocolate Chocolate Chip. I'm no stranger to cheesecake. But at the end of the day, or rather at the end of the week I choose Lemon Cheesecake. Whenever I found myself closing the restaurant on a Sunday night, after the last table finally left and the money was counted and the floor was swept and the pots were washed and the trash was taken out, a slice of Lemon Cheesecake was the treat I packed up for myself (and a couple of brownies and a diet coke for Kenny) to take home. I don't know why, but it just seemed like the right thing to do. 

I made them mini this time and added lemon curd and meringue just to put a twist on it. Cheesecake is something I just don't want to over eat and these little guys are the perfect size for an intimate, ethereal, sweet-tart indulgence. 

Mini Lemon Meringue Cheesecakes 

lemon curd

5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon rind
1 tablespoon butter

Mix all ingredients, except butter, in a medium metal bowl. Place bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Cover directly with plastic wrap and chill.

lemon cookie crust

1 cup lemon cookie crumbs (I used Pepperidge Farm Lemon cookies and a Cuisinart)
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a medium bowl stir melted butter into crumbs just to combine. Line a mini cupcake pan with cupcake papers and press about  1 & 1/2 teaspoons of crumbs in each cup. Makes enough for about 32-36 minis. Set aside.

lemon chiffon cheesecake 

1 pound cream cheese (at room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon rind
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the cream cheese and add the sugar. Beat on medium just until everything is combined, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the eggs and beat on low until incorporated. Add the sour cream, lemon rind and vanilla extract. Mix on low, scrapping the bowl as needed and just mix until everything is combined. Do not over mix! Scoop the cheesecake batter into the prepared cupcake pan, about a tablespoon in each one. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool at room temperature. When cool, top each with a teaspoon of lemon curd. Makes enough for 32-36 minis.


3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

You can easily toast the meringue with a propane torch. If you don't have that  preheat your oven to 450 degrees or use your broiler. Whip egg whites on medium and add sugar and cream of tartar. When everything is mixed beat on high until thick. Pipe meringue on top of cheesecakes and use your preferred method to brown the meringue.

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  1. I'm so glad to hear that Sandy passed you guys by quietly--I had so many friends in the area, and it's crazy to hear just how much damage has been done in some places! These cupcakes look absolutely delectable; it's great that you were able to bake despite the storm, and I'm just such a huge fan of lemon curd...

    1. Thanks! I was in the kitchen all last Sunday, the day before Sandy made landfall. It was total nervous energy. Made chicken soup, raspberry cookies and banana bread. Kitchen therapy :-)

  2. These look amazing! So the meringue on top. :)