I’ll confess, when I’m going to hold a sizeable party for the Super Bowl or similar occasion where lots of milling around is anticipated, I like to have a selection of party foods to fill plates and stomachs with no pomp and circumstance. Food guests can eat at a table or on the couch without being unwieldy. It’s easier and more relaxed for the guests and candidly allows me to relax and enjoy their company.
I love ‘little bites’ for dessert at these types of gatherings, allowing a sampler of different options. This works well too for those watching their calories or just wanting a little sweetness but not a large piece of something leaving them feeling guilty for not finishing the whole thing (or sick from finishing it!).
I do love cheesecake but it’s a distant love. I would not fare well with an entire cheesecake in the house; too much drive by nibbling from everyone. Also the looming feeling of needing to finish the entire thing since no one will throw it away. My solution has been to make individual cheesecakes in 4 ounce jelly jars. They are perfect. Several delicious bites and it’s gone well before the lethargy and stuffed feeling from eating an entire rich piece sets in.
I love winter citrus and a true favorite are key limes. They are fortunately usually available in grocery stores around the U.S., often shipped up from Mexico. Compared to a Persian lime (the standard variety most people think of when they think of a lime), the Key Lime is smaller, round, with a yellow-green color, thin rind and distinct tangy flavor. If you’ve ever had Key Lime Pie you know what I mean. The juice is often sold in a bottle for cooking which after juicing a pound of them I say is a fantastic thing! Due to their diminutive size, juicing them is a bit tricky. Using a manual citrus reamer or a handheld reamer are your best bet. I found them too small and dense to easily juice them in my regular handheld squeezers.
The mini cheesecakes are made with both cream cheese and mascarpone cheese giving them a creamy, sweet and tangy flavor that compliments the tangy Key Lime Curd beautifully. I love having a bit of citrus after a meal to cut through the heavy feeling from richer foods. This recipe is simple to make and can easily be doubled with no trouble and extra time. They may be made the day before and stored, covered and refrigerated. Reusable canning jar lids are also available where canning jars are sold and may be used to truly turn these into individual, portable desserts.
Mini Mascarpone Key Lime Curd Cheesecakes in Jars
Ingredients for Key Lime Curd:
- ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
- 3 tablespoons Cornstarch
- ¾ cup Key Lime Juice (juice of 1 pound of key limes or store bought juice)
- ¼ cup Persian (common) Lime Juice
- 2 eggs
- 3 tablespoons Unsalted Butter , cut into small chunks
- 2 teaspoon Persian (common) Lime Zest
Ingredients for Mini Cheesecakes:
- 1 cup Graham Cracker crumbs , gluten-free or regular (I used Kinnikinnck S’moreables, ground in a blender to make crumbs)
- 1 tablespoon plus ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
- 4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter , melted
- 1 8- ounce package of Mascarpone Cheese , room temperature
- 1 8- ounce package Cream Cheese , room temperature
- 2 Eggs , room temperature
- ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- Zest of ½ Persian (common) Lime
- Supplies: 12 4-ounce jelly jars
- Optional Garnish: small berries , small fresh mint leaves
Instructions for Key Lime Curd (click here for step by step photo of making citrus curd):
- Mix sugar, cornstarch with grapefruit juice in a saucepan with lid. Whisk in eggs. Heat on medium to medium high until boiling, stirring constantly.
- Boil on medium until mixtures thickens to a custard consistency (about 2 minutes), stirring constantly careful to not let it scorch.
- Remove from heat and mix in butter and grapefruit zest. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard, cutting holes for venting (a bamboo skewer works great for this). Cover refrigerate at least 8 hours. Unused curd maybe be stored in the refrigerator, sealed, for two weeks or stored in the freezer for up to six months.
Instructions for Mini Mascarpone Cheesecakes:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray jelly jars inside with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a medium mixing bowl, add the graham cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the melted butter; stir to fully combine.
- Spoon crust mixture evenly into the twelve prepared jars (approximately 1 tablespoon per jar). Tamp crust down with the back of a dining spoon or a wine cork (something with a flat bottom) to evenly distribute crust on the bottom of the jars.
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, beat together the cream cheese, mascarpone cheese and remaining sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time; blend until incorportated. Add the lime zest and vanilla extract; blend until fully combined.
- Add the cheese mixture evenly to the jelly jars, filling to just below the lowest outer glass ring (approximately ¾ inches from the top of the jar; refer to photos).
- Place jars in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Fill the pan with hot water until the water level reaches hallway up the outside of the jelly jars.
- Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove mini cheesecakes from the pan and allow to cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.
Finishing the Cheesecakes:
- Spoon or pipe with a pastry bag and large decorative tip 2 1/2 tablespoons of lime curd on the top of each cheesecake. Chill before serving. Garnish with small berries and mint leaves (optional) before serving.