I recently resolved to eat only homemade desserts in one of my various attempts to be healthy. Unfortunately, this has not had the impact I was expecting. NEVER in my life have I ever bought twelve oh-so-tempting mini cheesecakes at once - but by Saturday afternoon, I had twelve (and then... twelve minus six) of the previously-glorified homemade variety sitting in my refrigerator. TLDR: my sugar intake is spiking dramatically.
But it's worth it! I chose to use ricotta and mascarpone rather than cream cheese for a lighter, more delicate flavor because black sesame is quite strong and I wanted a balanced combination. For the crust, sticking with the Asian-inspired theme, I used a Chinese almond cookie, crumbled and mixed with clarified butter. The cheesecakes came out velvety without being too rich, with the filling providing an intense flavor bomb.
Pulverizing the black sesame seeds to make the paste was one of the most fun parts of this process! After an extended blitz, they start releasing oil and the texture completely changes, similar to what happens when making nut butter.
Slightly less fun is the process of scooping batter into muffin tins. Note to self: invest in one of these. In the spirit of airbrushing our social media experiences, I spent a ridiculous amount of time wiping my baking trays clean and bringing them back to a semi-photogenic state. I actually really envy bakers who can scoop cleanly and confidently. For example, Cupcake Jemma has the most nimble big spoon-little spoon method of attack that I imitate with far less success.
All in all though, this was one of my favorite recipes to make to date and I spent the rest of my weekend obsessing over other cheesecake opportunities. A savory cheesecake (ok, maybe that's just a quiche)? Cheesecake cookie sandwiches? Inside-out cheesecakes? Grilled cheese...cake? Google showed me that I am not the first to think of or attempt any of these, which makes me worry for the state of the American diet. Oh well :) Cheat days incoming!
Ricotta Mascarpone Cheesecake with Black Sesame Center Recipe (makes 12 mini cheesecakes)
- 8 oz whole milk ricotta
- 8 oz mascarpone
- 2 eggs
- 0.5 cups sugar
- 0.5 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp flour
- 3 to 4 oz black sesame paste (homemade recipe below)
- 1 large Chinatown almond cookie
- 2 tbsp of clarified butter (ghee)
Line a 12-muffin baking tray with paper liners.
Smash the cookie into powdery crumbs in a blender or with a rolling pin. Add the ghee and mix thoroughly. Not much additional butter is needed because these cookies (unlike standard crust bases like graham crackers or Oreos) are quite buttery to begin with. Press into the bottom of the cupcake liners and set in the refrigerator or freezer to firm up.
.If your ricotta looks very watery, drain it in a cheesecloth prior to use. In a large bowl, stir together ricotta, mascarpone, eggs, sugar, and vanilla until smooth, taking care not to beat air into the batter. Add in 2 tbsp of flour and mix until smooth and lump-free.
Spoon a small amount of cheesecake batter into the base of every cupcake liner atop the chilled crust. To fill with black sesame, take pinches of the paste (it should be very sticky) and form small pancakes to lay atop the cheesecake base. Top with more batter, filling the liners almost all the way to the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes, or until the sides have set but the centers are still a little wobbly. At this point, let the cheesecakes cool, but very gradually, in order to avoid cracks. First, turn down the heat completely and open oven door and let sit until the oven has come down to room temperature. Then, take the cheesecakes out and set aside until the tin is no longer warm. At this point you can garnish with whatever decorations you like - I chose black sesame seeds and almond cookie crumbs. Finally, move the cheesecakes to the refrigerator. Serve chilled.
Sesame Paste Recipe
- 2 oz black sesame seeds
- 2 oz honey
Toast black sesame seeds in pan until very fragrant. Sesame seeds are ready when they crumble easily into dust when pinched.
Blitz sesame seeds in blender until the seeds start releasing oil, stirring occasionally. Remove from blender and mix in honey. Add extra sugar as desired, but this was sweet enough for my taste.