I think cheesecake is our favorite dessert and it really wasn’t a difficult food to master. There are so many flavors and variations, but they are all baked in pretty much the same way. My latest craze is to bake them in jelly jars so they are portion controlled and easy to transport to parties. I think a little cheesecake is the perfect way to start a new year.
I made mini pumpkin cheesecakes first at Thanksgiving. I made three different new desserts that were all hits, but this one was a keeper. I usually make this pumpkin cheesecake for the holiday because it is a fan favorite here, I made it in individual jars this year and I think I will continue making it that way. My usual recipe made exactly 24 4 ounce jelly jars of cheesecake, with room for a sweet dollop of whipped cream on top.
My favorite part was that the portions were perfectly controlled so that if you wanted to try other treats on the dessert bar you’d still have room. Plus I didn’t have a bulky cheesecake to haul around that would only fit in a very large cooler. I didn’t have to figure out how to transport it after removing it from the springform fan either. It was a new, stress-free way to handle a traditional dish.
I started with 24 clean 4 ounce quilted jelly jars. I mixed together the graham crumbs, sugar and melted butter, then put ¾ of a scoop for crumbs in each jelly jar. Luck was with me, the guess at ¾ a cookie scoop divided the crumbs perfectly. No jar was left uncrumbed!
I used my amazing tart tamper that comes in handy in the most unusual situations. I only had to press it down with the tamper and I had my crusts all made. Then into the oven for 6 minutes to toast, and the jars were ready for their cheesecake.
I made my cheesecake as usual, beating together the cream cheese and sugars first until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
I added the evaporated milk, eggs and pumpkin and spices and beat it until it was creamy and smooth, about 3 or 4 minutes. I scraped down the sides occasionally to make sure it was all incorporated. I added the cornstarch and spices and beat again until smooth.
Then I spooned the cheesecake batter into the jars, filling them about 2/3 full. Again I was happy that it was exactly the right amount for the 24 jars.
I put the jars onto a sheet pan, slid them into the oven, then poured about an inch of water into the pan. I usually have a container with water in it when I bake cheesecakes to prevent cracking. None of the little jarred cheesecakes cracked, so it worked for the jars as well.
One caution note: my sheet pan now has the outlines of 24 jelly jars on the bottom, since the water caused them to leave marks. I am maniacal about keeping my pans spotless; we bought high quality sheet pans and I wanted them to remain in good shape. Now I have one with circles all over it and I’m disgusted. I’ll have to research to see if they can be removed now, I just haven’t taken the time to look.
I baked the jars for 20 minutes, then turned off the oven and let them set for 20 more minutes. Then I opened the oven door and let them cool until I was able to take each jar out of the pan. I set them on cooling racks and let them reach room temperature.
Then I simply screwed on the two-piece lids and refrigerated them overnight. They were SO easy to transport, tucked into small empty spaces in the cooler. At my sister’s house I removed the lids, spooned Cool Whip on the tops and they were ready to eat. No more finding dessert plates, cutting, or taking orders for large or small pieces. They took a jar and had a second one if they wanted more. I was able to check one item off my list of stressful Thanksgiving dishes that are difficult to serve. It’s now on the “I found a solution” list. Woot!
Pumpkin Cheesecake in Jars
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup margarine
3 -8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 15 oz can pumpkin
2 large eggs; room temp
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 tbs cornstarch
1 1/4 tsps cinnamon (or 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon and nutmeg)
1/2 tsps nutmeg
Melt margarine and mix with graham crumbs and 1/4 c sugar. Divide with a cookie scoop into 24 4 ounce jelly jars. Use a tart tamper to press the crust flat in each jar.
Beat cream cheese and sugars with electric mixer until fluffy.
Beat in pumpkin, eggs, and evaporated milk. Beat well.
Beat in cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Scoop into jars with a large cookie scoop. Place jars in a half sheet baking pan and slide into oven. Pour water into the pan just below the top.
Bake at 300°F for 30 minutes. Shut off oven and let sit for 20 minutes.
Open oven and let sit until they have cooled enough to handle, about an hour.
Remove jars from pan and set on counter. Carefully remove sheet pan and discard water.
Let jars sit until they are room temperature. Cover with lids and refrigerate.
Served topped with whipped cream.
Notes: Good Housekeeping 12/94