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These cute little 2- to 3-bite cakes are a perfect small-and-sweet ending to an autumn dinner party.
3/4 cup (3 1/2 ounces) gingersnap, chocolate wafer, or graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sugar
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter, melted
12 ounces cream cheese, softened 3/4 cup (5 5/8 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) semisweet chocolate, melted
1 cup (8 ounces) pumpkin purée
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces) diced crystallized ginger, optional
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease each cup of a mini-cheesecake pan.
To make the crust: Blend together the crumbs, sugar, and melted butter. Divide among the cups, using about 1 tablespoon for each and pressing flat. Bake till the crusts are set, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and reduce oven heat to 300°F.
To make the filling: Blend together the cream cheese and sugar. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, mixing till smooth. Remove 1/4 cup batter and mix with the melted chocolate. Set aside. Blend the remaining batter with the pumpkin purée and spices, including the ginger if you're using it.
Divide the filling among the cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Gently tap the pan on the counter to level the batter. Spoon the chocolate batter over the cheesecakes, or use a pastry bag to pipe faces onto the cakes by placing the tip just below the surface of the filling.
Bake the cakes for 16 to 20 minutes, until set around the edges with a dime-sized circle in the middle that still looks soft. Remove from the oven, and cool for 30 minutes or so before refrigerating. Cover and refrigerate for several hours before unmolding cheesecakes. Yield: 12 mini cheesecakes.