The Holidays are officials in full swing – time to think about the next “big” event – Christmas. I don’t know about you, but in addition to this little blog, I’ve got Pinterest and Yumprint going on as both a way to store recipes I’ve collected and gather inspiration from others. I’ve noticed, under my Themed Food category; that there has been a great deal of interest in the Santa Hat Cheesecake Bites. Hum, something tells me it’s time to take this recipe out for a spin in my kitchen. The recipe isn’t new – it’s been floating around for at least a few years, yet it’s popularity has not diminished.
The holiday baking season is stressful enough without trying a bunch of “new” recipes for the first time the day you plan to serve them to “real” people. There’s the “real” people out there and then there are my guys. (My guys are my guinea pigs, and my biggest critics – as well as my biggest fans). Today a few cousins are dropping by the family farm, so it looks like I’ll have plenty of guinea pigs at my disposal. Yeah!
For my first taste-test of December, I thought it might be a great time to try my hand at Santa Hats. I could be wrong, but it seems the original recipe dates back to 2009, (yeah – THAT old), using strawberries and little brownie-bites. Check out santa hat brownie bites for the first posting of these delightful holiday treats. From there, the recipe made the usual rounds, twists, turns and adaptations, eventually finding its way to Cooking Classy. She transformed the brownies into cheesecake bites – and not just any cheesecake – but a white chocolate-cheesecake. Oh my – a girl after my own heart! (see below for a link to cooking classy’s original posting).
For my first attempt out of the gate, I stuck to Cooking Classy’s rendition, with one minor exception. Her kitchen has something my kitchen lacks – a modern microwave with the ability to set AND maintain various power settings. To recreate her white-chocolate cheesecake, I needed to use a double-boiler. As many of you may know from personal experience, when it comes to melting, white chocolate is very temperamental and heat-sensitive. If your microwave is older (like mine) and tends to have “spikes” in power, I highly recommend using a double-boiler. Just be sure the water is simmering and that no steam or little drops of water come into contact with the chocolate. Take your time and you should be fine.
Ho Ho Ho Cheesecake Bite Santa Hats
18 Oreos finely crushed to about 1 3/4 cups
2 1/2 Tbsp butter, melted and divided
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup + 1/3 cup heavy cream, divided (1/3 cup for the filling, 1/2 cup for the finished cream)
25 fresh strawberries (the smaller the better)
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Line an 8-inch square baking dish with two large sheets of aluminum foil (one horizontally with an edge on either side of the pan, the other vertically with the same overhang). Give yourself plenty of overhang so that the foil can be molded well to the shape of the pan without coming up short. Brush foil with 1/2 tbsp melted butter and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, using a fork blend together crushed Oreos and 2 Tbsp melted butter until mixture is well combined and moistened. Press the cookie mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared baking dish to form the bottom crust. Set aside until ready to fill.
In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-low speed, blend together cream cheese and granulated sugar until mixture is smooth.
To the sweetened cream cheese, add in eggs and vanilla extract. Mix well on medium speed, scraping down sides as necessary to incorporate cream cheese with eggs.
To melt white chocolate chips with 1/3 cup heavy cream, either place on a double boiler over barely simmering water until chips have melted completely stirring frequently or place in a microwave safe bowl, and heat at 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth.
Pour melted white chocolate mixture into cream cheese mixture and blend on low-speed until combined. Tap bowl against counter top about 30 times to release some of the air bubbles then pour mixture over prepared crust in baking dish. Tap baking pan gently to release additional air bubbles that may have managed to sneak into the pan.
Place cheesecake into the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes. DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR. Turn oven off and let cheesecake rest in the warm oven for 15 minutes to finish “baking”.
Remove cheesecake from oven and let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes. Once cooled, cover with plastic wrap. At this point, you can elect to freeze cheesecake for 3 hours or place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours before proceeding. (I let mine chill overnight. It’s also a great time to pop your mixing bowl and whip into the freezer to chill. A very cold bowl and whip helps in the aid of making perfect whipped cream).
Meanwhile, whip remaining 1/2 cup heavy cream on high-speed in your mixer until soft peaks from. Add powered sugar and continue to whip until cream can hold a stiff peak.
To assemble, cut cheesecake into squares that are slightly larger than your strawberries. (remember, you’ll be piping the “fur” trim of Santa’s Hats at the base of the berries with whipped cream.
Trim the bottom of each strawberry to create a flat bottom. Place one strawberry, flat-side-down, on each cheesecake square.
Fill your pasty bag with the whipped cream. Use a small pipe or small star fitting and pipe around the base of the strawberry. Add a little whipped cream to “top” the hat with a little ball.
NOTE: Plan to assemble hats an hour before serving to keep the berries “fresh”.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Hope you enjoy!