Cheesecake and fresh summer fruit is an amazing combination. The rich creamy custard is a perfect foil for the sweet, tangy, juicy fruits. But cheesecake has a bit of a reputation...
People, myself included, tend to think of cheesecake as a formal dessert. One that requires you to be dressed up and on your best behavior. I wonder why that is?
Does it have to do with the expense involved? Did it just become habit only to make cheesecake for special occasions? Even the casual cousin version of cheesecake in muffin cups tends only to be served at summer parties, not for a weeknight dinner dessert. How about a slice of cheesecake at the beach? UNheard of!
Well, thanks to our Pinterest pages, and our friends out there who love to share recipes, I came across the idea of baking cheesecake batter in heat-proof canning jars, individual servings that could be lidded up and taken anywhere. I was sold even before I started shopping for groceries.
I'm sure this method will be an old favorite for some of you, but I'm hoping that others like me will be thrilled with the new discovery.
I'm sure, too, that the photo above is just making you hanker for a good bite of cheesecake, so let's not delay any further – let's make Cheesecake in a Jar.
There's a huge difference in temperature, not to mention texture, between cream cheese straight from the fridge and cream cheese that's been at room temperature for an hour.
If there's one thing you can do to ensure a smooth batter for your cheesecake, it's taking the time to let the cream cheese warm up.
Prepare your favorite cheesecake batter according to the recipe directions. I used our Brooklyn-style cheesecake filling for its richness and perfect texture. Don't worry about tracking it down, I've reprinted it in the recipe.
In a small bowl, mix 1 cup graham cracker crumbs with 1 tablespoon sugar. Place 2 tablespoons sweetened crumbs in each of seven 1/2-pint Mason jars. Press down lightly.
One of the beautiful things about this method is that you never have to turn on the oven. Even the crust bakes in the slow cooker. If you like a richer crust you can add melted butter to the crumb mixture, but I happen to like the crumbs a little looser and crisp.
Place the jars in a 7- to 8-quart slow cooker. Can you see the messy jar I filled up in the back? Do try to be a little neater than I was.
Fill each jar 3/4 full with your cheesecake filling. I found pouring the filling from a pitcher with a spout to be a great help.
Cheesecakes bake best in a warm water bath, called a bain marie. With the temperature control of the slow cooker, the water stays at a constant temperature and the moist air keeps the cakes from forming a crust on top.
To fill the cooker with water, loosely place a lid on each jar to prevent water from splashing in. Pour warm water in until the level reaches at least halfway up the sides of the jars.
Remove the lids from the jars, cover the slow cooker, and set the cooker to high for 1 to 2 hours.
I know this seems like a very wide range of time for cooking, but slow cookers vary, cheesecake batters vary, so it's better to have a big window.
To test the cakes for doneness, insert a knife about 1/2" in from the outer edge. The blade should come out moist, but clean. The centers of the cakes should no longer be wiggly or jiggly.
Turn off the slow cooker and allow the cheesecakes to cool down for about 20 minutes before transferring them to a rack.
Allow the cheesecakes to rest at room temperature for an hour before sealing with lids and rings. Chill the jars in the fridge for several hours (or up to overnight) before serving. Store tightly covered in the fridge for up to a week.
I've never been a big fan of freezing cheesecakes, but I'm pretty sure these would survive well in the freezer for at least a month.
Pass the berries, cherries, hot fudge sauce, and whipped cream for a topping party. Each person can create his or her own favorite combination, then dig in with a long-handled spoon. Forget iced tea, this is the true reason to break out Aunt Elaine's set of silver spoons.
Tell us about your summer picnic experiences and your cheesecake triumphs in the comments below. It truly does mean the world to me and my fellow bakers when you share your joy of baking, food and, of course, eating!
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