Recipe: Fresh Lemon Cheesecakes for Valentine’s Day

I made two super adorable treats for Valentine’s Day today. They came out so great, I am exercising some serious willpower right now in not devouring them all. Not only do they taste great, they’re also very cute.

First, I made my go-to mini cheesecakes. Except  instead of doing the usual glazed fruit topping, I channeled some more of that indoor sunshine craving and made my own lemon curd. Yow, that stuff is good! I’ve only had lemon curd once or twice before, but I am pretty addicted now that I’ve tried homemade. The name doesn’t do the gooey, citrus creme justice – “curd” just doesn’t sound nearly as appealing as this stuff tastes!

Here’s the cheesecake recipe (it’s very simple and easy):

Mini Cheesecakes

2 – 8 oz packages of cream cheese (you can use low-fat without losing much flavor)

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

3/4 cup sugar

18 ‘Nilla Wafers

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners (recipe makes approx 18 cheesecakes, in my family we use the shiny silver liners to glam up this dessert). Place 1 vanilla wafer cookie in each lined cup.

Mix ingredients (cream cheese, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice, and sugar) with an electric hand mixer until the batter is smooth. Fill each cup 2/3 full with filling. Bake 20 minutes. Let cool.

For topping the cooled cheesecakes, I usually use canned cherry pie filling. The glazed fruit looks pretty and fills the indentation that forms in the center of each cheesecake when they cool. However, I’m on a citrus kick and wanted to make a more seasonally appropriate dessert.

As a kid, there was a bakery in our town that made a delicious lemon cheesecake that my godmother would get for my brother’s birthday. It was a rich, dense cheesecake, frosted with a thin layer of cream cheese frosting and each slice was garnished with a piped swirl of lemon curd. Yum – the bright citrus flavor zinged across the tongue, cutting the richness of the cheesecake and leaving you craving more!

This thought was swirling in my head the other day when I caught the tail end of a Barefoot Contessa episode in which Ina Garten was making lemon curd. It looked so simple! So fresh and bright and delicious! So perfect for my citrus kick.

Her recipe is as easy as it looked. Here it is, reprinted from FoodNetwork.com (my notes are in italics):

Ina Garten’s Lemon Curd

3 lemons

1 – 1/2 cups sugar (I used superfine, because I knew I was going to have to make up for not having a food processor)

1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 extra large eggs

1/2 cup lemon juice (3 – 4 lemons)

1/8 teaspoon salt

Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar. (I don’t have a food processor, so I just used a microplaner to zest the lemons. The zest was superfine and it was quick and easy to do. I thoroughly mixed my zest with the superfine sugar.)

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined. (At this point, the mixture looks kind of frightening. The lemon juice will curdle the butter somewhat. Fear not, it will all smooth out once it gets heated up.)

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate. (I didn’t have my candy thermometer handy, so I just had to eyeball it. It took closer to 20 minutes to get up to temperature. I tested it by setting aside a spoonful for a moment. It thickened up as it cooled, so don’t worry if it’s not pudding-like when you reach the right temperature.)

You can use lemon curd in the place of jam on toast and pastries,  as a cake filling, or on cheesecakes like I did!
I made the curd ahead of time and let it chill in the fridge. Once the cheesecakes were cool, I carefully topped each one with a hearty dollop of lemon curd. I sliced clean, fresh strawberries into 1/4 inch slices and cut one heart out of each slice. I topped each cheesecake with a strawberry heart. I love the contrast of flavors between the rich cheesecake and the tangy lemon curd, as well as the contrast in colors between the pale dessert and the bright red strawberries. So festive!
Stay tuned for my next post on the other sweet treat I made for Valentine’s Day!
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About Ana

I'm just a girl who loves food!

13. February 2011 by Ana
Categories: Food, Recipes, Valentines | 1 comment

One Comment

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