Mini Orange Cheesecakes with Blood Orange Caramel

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For those of you who have seen Bridget Jones’s Diary (one of my all time favorite movies) you might remember a certain scene in the movie in which Bridget Jones has just become a “broadcasting genius” and is heading home to cook dinner for her friends because she has the “sneaking suspicion” that she is “also somewhat of a genius in the kitchen as well.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that to myself and had it go horribly wrong. (Here’s the clip I was talking about if you haven’t seen this gem!)

Yes, it’s true. Sometimes I get a little wee bit overambitious in my baking endeavors. For some reason, one of the things I have just never been able to get a handle on is anything that involves the stove top in the baking process. If I should be “simmering” cream, I burn it. Caramelizing sugar? Fuggedaboutit. But when I saw a recipe for orange macarons (which I had never made) with blood orange caramel, I was like “Psssh! I can do that!” I thought I was a culinary genius too, sigh.

This long, tragic tale ends with me not really being sure how my caramel concoction was supposed to taste…. but pretty certain it wasn’t supposed to be so bitter. I mean – blegh. It was strange. So in lieu of making the macarons (okay, fine, I just couldn’t take another failure after the burning-the-caramel-fiasco) I looked into making these tiny cheesecakes instead! I poured just a little bit of the failed caramel into each cheesecake cup before baking them, hoping that the bitterness would be balanced out by the sweetness and smoothness of cream cheese and sugar. And thankfully it worked!

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Ingredients:

For the mini orange cheesecakes (makes 12) (recipe adapted from here)

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • fresh squeezed juice from one orange
  • Zest of one orange

Crust

  • 1 c. gluten-cookie crumbs, finely ground (I used Lucy’s Holiday Sugar Cookies)
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter

Blood orange caramelΒ (recipe adapted from “Les Petits Macarons”)

  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/4 c. fresh squeezed and strained blood orange juice
  • 2 tbsp. blood orange zest
  • 2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Directions:

To prepare the caramel

1. Heat cream, orange juice and zest in a saucepan over medium heat until it is almost boiling, roughly 3-5 minutes.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat the sugar and lemon juice over medium heat, using a wooden utensil to blend the lemon juice into the sugar.

3. Cook until sugar syrup turns clear amber color and the edges start to foam. Do not stir. Supposedly this step takes ten minutes, it took me way longer. I don’t know if it was the poopy store brand sugar I used (I know, I totally didn’t think this would matter either… but the granules were pretty large!) or the pan or just my inability to make caramel, but if it takes you longer than ten minutes, don’t let it bubble up and go crazy like I did!

4. Remove caramel from heat and pour in cream mixture to stop the cooking. But be sure to pour it in away from you to avoid burning. Pour into a heat proof container and let come to room temperature for roughly 2 hours before refrigerating for a day.

For mini cheesecakes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with paper liners. Make sure cookies used for the crumbs are finely ground, preferably by food processor. Mix in the melted butter and press about a tablespoon into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Bake the crusts for five minutes until set.

2. In a mixer, beat the 2 packages of softened cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, orange juice and zest beating until just combined. Add the eggs and mix until incorporated, being careful not to over mix.

3. Evenly divide the filling into the cupcake tins with crusts. Here you can either save the blood orange caramel for topping, or drizzle a tiny bit over each cheesecake before putting it in the oven. Be sure to use a toothpick or knife to evenly distribute the caramel because it is heavy and can melt down into the crust during the baking process.

4. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until centers are slightly jiggly and edges are solid. Allow to cool at room temperature before refrigerating for a few hours until serving. Enjoy!

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