FOOD
*MINI CHEESE CAKE

by Saghar Setareh

Una ricetta semplice e dolce.

I used to have a huge sweet tooth. Now it’s been a couple of years that it’s transformed into a moderate sweet tooth (possibly thanks to a more balanced diet). But I have a rule about pastries and sweets (and most other food really). They should look and feel natural. And by natural I mean edible.

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This was supposed to be a nice prelude to estate that I profoundly detest decorated cupcakes, designed cakes covered with sugar paste and stuff with bright blue, pink or green colors that look like all other objects in the world except from food. I don’t mind seeing them occasionally but I don’t like to eat them and I definitely don’t want to make them. I think food must be appealing to you because by seeing it you can imagine how it would feel and taste like. Not just when you eat it, but before that, when you touch & smell it. I’d like to imagine the softness of the cream that would caress my mouth, the gooey fruit that breaks apart with the first bite and the juices that run off everywhere. What am I supposed to imagine when you give me a bright blue cupcake with little red fish on top? The ocean? A sushi? No thanks, I just wanted a cupcake. Cake design these days is like craft making for a barbie house and inside that there’s nothing but dry tasteless sponge cake.

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So this is how I make mini cheesecakes. They look as natural as it comes. They’re quite healthy because I don’t use ready-made cookies for the base that are already full of fats and sugars and god knows what else. Making the crust from scratch using rolled oats and bran gives it a more coarse texture than a simple pie crust.

For the filling I use only some semi-skim ricotta cheese and some light Philadelphia cheese, a little maple syrup (the amount depends on how sweet you want it), some spices and fresh fruit of the season. During the summer I use berries with vanilla and peaches with cinnamon, and now in the Autumn I have used persimmon, poppy seeds and cinnamon. That’s it! Simple pretty and guilt-free.

My Take on Healthy Mini-Cheese Cakes

For the Crust
50 gram rolled oats
20 gram oat/wheat bran
80 gram Wholemeal flour
50 gram all purpose flour and more for dusting the surface
100 gram cold butter
30/40ml (2/3 tbsp) cold water
a pinch of salt

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For the filling*
130 gr ricotta cheese
130 gr light Philadelphia cheese
2 tbsp maple/agave syrup (if you like it sweeter feel free to add more, if you want it too sweet use muscovado sugar instead of syrup so that the filling cream won’t become too runny)
1 cup fresh fruit of the season, diced/sliced (use any fresh fruit in the season that is soft enough without cooking such as persimmon, bananas, berries, peaches etc)
A pinch of cinnamon
1 tsp poppy seeds
vanilla seeds/extract
dusting sugar for the top

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In a food processor blend the oats, the bran until refined but not too soft. We want to have some texture.
In a bowl mix the blended oat and bran with the flours and the salt.
Add little pieces of cold butter at a time and rub it between your thumbs and other fingers to make the flour to absorb it.
Do not knead this dough! Just bring everything together. Kneading will make the crust hard and chewy.
Add one tbsp of cold water at a time. You would need just enough to hold the dough together. Be careful. Don’t add too much water. Make a ball in the bowl and cover with clean film and fridge from 30 minutes to one hour.

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In another bowl mix ricotta and Philadelphia with the syrup and your spice of choice. (Persimmon, bananas & peaches would be great with cinnamon while berries would go great with vanilla).
Cut half of the fruit into dices and add to cheese mix. With the back of a spoon crush some of the fruit, but don’t mix it with all of the cheese. Just fold it into the cream once or twice so that the cheese would have some color and texture.
Preheat the oven at 180°C/300F°.
Dust your working surfing and the top of the dough and roll it out carefully.
For mini cheese cakes to bake in a muffin tray the dough should be max 0.5 cm thick.
Butter and flour/sugar dust muffin stamps.
Cut the dough in circles a little larger than the diameter of muffin stamp. Place each circle carefully in the muffin stamp to shape a little bowl.
Bake for 15-20 minutes (until golden and crisp). Take out of the oven and let it cool before filling. Don’t let them dry for more than 2 hrs as they may dry out. The moist from the cheese would keep them soft enough.
Fill each crust bowl with the filling of cheese and fruit. Add the rest of the fruit on top of each mini cheese cake. Cover with dusting sugar (optional).
Serve cool. keep in the fridge for a day or two.

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*The amount of filling can vary upon how full you’d like your cheese cakes and how much fruit you want to use. You can more use fruit and less cheese.

WEB* www.labnoon.com