I don’t know if you got the memo but spring is here. Didn’t you notice? The sun is out, flowers are blooming, and the days are longer. Once March rolls around, I’m ready to burn my winter coats and lock my rain boots up. Springtime in Sacramento (and probably all of California) is picturesque, almost painfully so. Being stuck in a windowless cubicle feels like torture, and I keep petitioning to take my work outside but the superiors aren’t going for it. I guess I will have to settle for spending the rest of my day outside with a glass of iced tea and a pile of books with my name all over them.
When my nose isn’t stuck in a book (or in front of the computer screen), I’m spending my evenings out with my friends, gathering over good drinks and tasty food. While some people live for summer gatherings, spring potlucks and parties are my favorite. Soft lights, comfortable chairs, easy laughter, good food. Scouring the web, I found this Lemon Curd Cheesecake recipe. Don’t you just love the internet? How else would I find such a handy recipe during my lunch break? There is no way I’d lug around my favorite cookbooks. God love them, but they weigh a ton. Plus, it would look a little weird if they saw me in full on research mode.
Anyways, back to spring potlucks… My office had one to perk up the employee morale since we all were suffering from a bit of stress and frustration. Nothing perks an office up like mini lemon curd cheesecakes, that’s for sure! I thought about bringing some kind of cupcake since I wanted to experiment with frostings and decorations, but light, fluffy cheesecakes seemed more appropriate.
I’ve mentioned that I have a hard time with graham cracker crusts and, without fail, I had issues with this crust. I don’t know what my deal is; they tend to turn out way crumbly. One of these days, I will conquer my war with graham cracker crusts. Till then, you will have to forgive my depressing attempt.
Another issue with these cheesecakes was their size. I love all things mini, and if you are a faithful reader here, you know that about me. When going to potlucks or parties, I bring mini dessert servings so everyone can sample little bites without feeling committed to a fat slice of cake. But cheesecakes are tricky to get out without springform pans. My cakes started falling apart when I tried to pry them out of their pans. Silly me, I should have let them chill in the freezer but I got too impatient. Next time, I know to leave them alone.
The lemon curd deserves a post of its own; I could have eaten it on toast for breakfast every day. Tangy, sweet, and slightly creamy, lemon curd is made from warming eggs, lemon juice, sugar, and butter. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve and voila! You’ve got yourself some lemon curd. Without the lemon curd, these cheesecakes would have been rather boring. You absolutely need the tart lemon curd swirled in this cake. That’s an order.
Vibrant and flavorful, these cakes will look great at any spring potluck or Easter party. They also work for a party of one, watching old reruns of “Mad Men” at 1 a.m. on a Saturday.
For lemon curd:
● 1 tsp. finely grated fresh lemon zest
● 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
● 1/2 cup sugar
● 3 large eggs
● 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
● 1 1/3 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs (5 oz)
● 1/3 cup sugar
● 1/8 tsp. salt
● 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
● 3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
● 1 cup sugar
● 3 large eggs
● 3/4 cup sour cream
● 1 tsp. vanilla
Make lemon curd: whisk together zest, juice, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Add butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubbles appear on surface, about 6 minutes.
Force lemon curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a wide shallow dish, scraping bottom of sieve, then cover surface with wax paper. Cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Make and bake crust: put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter or use cooking spray on muffin pan to prevent cheesecakes from sticking to the pan. Stir together crust ingredients in a bowl, then press onto bottom and up sides of the muffin pan. Place springform pan in a shallow baking pan and bake 10 minutes, then cool crust completely in pan on a rack.
Make filling and bake cheesecakes: reduce oven temperature to 300°F.
Beat together cream cheese and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add eggs 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Beat in sour cream and vanilla until combined.
Pour two thirds of cream cheese filling into crust, then spoon half of lemon curd over filling and swirl curd into filling with a small knife. (Avoid touching crust with knife to prevent crumbs getting into filling.) Repeat with remaining filling and curd.
Bake cheesecakes until set 1 1/2 inches from edge but center trembles when pan is gently shaken, about 30 to 40 minutes. Center of cake will appear very loose but will continue to set as it cools. Transfer pan to a rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, then chill, uncovered, at least 4 hours. Be careful when removing cheesecakes from pan. I placed my pans in the freezer overnight before removing from the pan so as not to break the crust. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Cheesecakes can be chilled, loosely covered, up to 2 days. Cheesecakes must be completely chilled before covering to prevent condensation on its surface.