Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sweet (Cheesecakey) Relief

Welp, this blog post finds me another week into my thirties, and I still know how to use a computer! I only on occasion have referred to myself as Grandma, so I think I'm adjusting pretty well. Because you know what I have? A gift for baking myself any coping mechanism my taste buds desire. You can't be sad about being older when you're eating chocolate. This is just plain true. I decided after inhaling all that creme soda birthday cake that I wanted my next dessert to be mostly chocolate, but I also wanted some added sweetness and saltiness (I've got a complicated coping mechanism). The other trick in this hankering was, of course, that I could shovel said dessert into my mouth with reckless abandon because calories weren't an issue. I spent so much time coming up with a dessert that met all of these criteria only to be reminded by my husband that what I was actually craving was a chocolate-covered pretzel. Gotta hand it to men and their ability to simplify practically every convoluted thought process that spews out of the mouth of their wives. At least this is the case with my husband anyway. When the Thought Train starts rolling out of the station and makes its way to Mouth Central, my ideas are usually so complex that hidden within them is a functioning plan for world peace, so I need to be reminded that sometimes, the easier, the better. But if I had explained myself upon first dessert craving, I never would have come up with the following chocolatey, sweet, salty dessert: mini chocolate-covered cheesecake bites!
Don't let their size fool you; they are big on flavor.
Oh yes, that ooey gooey center is cheesecake filling, surrounded by a wall of chocolate with sea salt sprinkles (everything needs sprinkles. If you've read even just one other blog post of mine, you'd know this is my baking mantra). And no, I'm not lying when I tell you one cheesecake bite comes in at only 130 calories. Call it sorcery, witchcraft, or just my sheer will to eat dessert every night and still fit into my swimsuit, but I made sure it was possible to eat two of these bad boys at once without topping 300 calories. I'm seriously taking that with age comes wisdom bit in stride. I'm not going to lie to you, making your own chocolate candy is messy. But in a good "lick your fingers and reap the tastiness" kind of way. Will things be sticky? Most likely. Will they be melty? Most assuredly. Will it be drool worthy? Most definitely.
Bonus: you already have these things in your pantry!
When I said I spent forever coming up with a recipe for something chocolate, salty, and sweet, I mostly wanted to use a brick of cream cheese that had been staring me in the face every time I opened my fridge. Sometimes I'm not as complicated as I like to think I am. The ingredients here are quite basic:
  • Half an 8 ounce brick of reduced fat cream cheese at room temp
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2-1 tsp vanilla extract (I opted for 1 because I like a sweeter and less sour cheesecake)
  • 2 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • Sea salt
  • Optional: *2 tsp veggie oil to make the chocolate melt smoother. I didn't use it because, well, calories.
Now, you will also need a mini muffin pan, mini cupcake liners, and a paintbrush safe for using with food (a.k.a., not dripping with lead paint or anything). I've always been bothered by the fact that it's called a mini muffin pan, yet the liners are called cupcake liners. Shouldn't it be a cupcake pan? Or muffin liners? Maybe not the latter because that sounds like it's bordering on NSFW. Anyway...start by lining the cupcake pan and then measure out 1 1/4 cups of chocolate chips. Place in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30-second bursts at a lower power level like 5 or 6. Stir after each interval until chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. *If you are using the vegetable oil to help you smooth out the chocolate, be sure to add it in at the beginning of the microwaving process.
Since I'm just now mentioning this a no-bake recipe, I suppose I could clue you in on the upcoming crappy photo montage.
Take a 1/2 a teaspoon (literally, use a 1/2 teaspoon scoop)  of the melted chocolate and plop it into the bottom of one cupcake liner. Then, using the paintbrush, paint the chocolate up the sides of the liner until it reaches the top. Try to work in batches so you're efficient, speedy, and don't need to reheat the chocolate to get it melty and risk burning it. Chocolate is as temperamental (seriously) as it is delicious. I poured chocolate into 4 cupcake liners at a time, then I came back in and painted the chocolate up the edge of each cup.
Repeat this process until all 24 liners have a bottom and sides brushed with sweet, sweet chocolate.
 Now, take your pan and place it in the freezer for a half an hour. You want the chocolate to be completely set before adding in the filling and placing more melty-hot chocolate on top.
But by all means, use this time to make filling so you can lick the spatula.
 To make the filling, simply take the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla, and mix together in a medium bowl. Place this filling into a piping bag or plastic baggy. Snip the very tip of the bag and then set aside. Piping will be easier if you keep this filling at room temperature while the chocolate shells cool.
So smooth. So beautiful. But wait, don't eat these yet. We need to make it even dessertier.
Still not done making it more dessertier.
 Once the shells are completely solidified, pipe a small mound of cheesecake filling into each chocolate liner. Things will be a bit of a shapeless mess, but a solid tap or two on your kitchen counter with the pan will even things out:
Like so.
 Now, take the remaining 1 1/4 cup of chocolate chips and melt using the technique I mentioned above but am too lazy to type again.
So swirly. Kinda makes me want a chocolate dip cone from DQ. Texas problems.
 Once your chocolate is melted, take the 1/2 teaspoon scoop and plop 1/2 a teaspoon of chocolate on top of the cheesecake filling. Again, it is easier to work with these 4 at a time. Use your 1/2 teaspoon scoop to spread the new layer of chocolate completely over the top. You can finish up by swirling the teaspoon toward the center to create a nice little flair. Once you've swirled the tops of 4 chocolates, sprinkle with sea salt to your liking. I went with a level of sea salt best described as, "I want it to taste like chocolate and french fries at the same time." Repeat on all remaining candies until done!
Chocolate and salt: because if you've never dipped your fries at Wendy's into a frosty, you've never really lived a day in your life.
This is a little time consuming since you have to work so quickly and with so much chocolate. But once you've topped all your cheesecake bites, place them back into the freezer for an agonizing 30 minutes (unless you have those chocolate-covered pretzels to tide you over).
It's going to be the longest half an hour of your life.
 Once the chocolate has totally set, pop these out of the pan and place into a Tupperware. You will want to keep these in the fridge for their very short lifespan (you're going to devour the entire batch of 24 mini cheesecake bites in a startlingly swift amount of time). I recommend letting a few sit out at room temp for 10 minutes before eating so the chocolate isn't too hard and the filling is just starting to get gooey. And now you know how to make your own chocolate candies with assorted filling! I actually first tried out a chocolate candy recipe but with dulce de leche filling when I was still back in Clovis last year:

Back when I had poor plebeian Formica counters.
If memory serves me, I didn't want to share these with my husband. Or apparently anyone else because I completely forgot to blog about them. I just wanted them all to myself. So you see, you can choose whatever filling in the world you want, maybe a mini Reese's cup, some egg-less cookie dough, the tears of your's a winning chocolate candy recipe no matter how you shake it. But as for me, right now the cheesecake filling is hitting all the right taste buds. I've got my chocolate, sweet, salty trifecta, and boy do these babies ever make chocolate-covered pretzels look rather silly (but I'd totally still eat them, too). Leave those little logs of chocolatey pretzel for holiday gifting; you've got an ace up your sleeve, now. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
And that ace is filled with cheesecake.

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