Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake Pots with Shortbread Cookies

Do you have a dinner party coming up? Do you want an amazing dessert that you can prepare ahead of time? One that will wow your friends and family? If so, these cheesecakes are for you!

Our friends Jeremy and Liane came over for dinner last week, for a revisit to the shrimp tacos. Considering that the dinner could be spicy, I wanted something creamy and luscious for dessert. (And I'd received these adorable dessert cups for my birthday and I wanted to try them out!)

I was also tickled to be able to use a tub of mascarpone from the dairy lady at my local farmer's market. (I'll try to get her name next time... although, the Dairy Lady has a nice ring to it!) Mascarpone is like an Italian cream cheese, and figures prominently in tiramisu. If you can't find any (or if it's marked up something crazy), you can substitute straight cream cheese or a mix of equal parts cream cheese to sour cream.

There aren't many ingredients to this dessert, so try to use the best you can get your hands on. Those seven (eight, if you include the rum - I didn't) come together easily. I only realized as I typed up the recipe that I neglected to cover the pan of pots with aluminum foil... my pots came out fine, but I'd be interested to see how they turned out if I'd paid attention. Evidently I was too interested in licking the contents of the bowl and less interested in the directions. Oops!

While the cheesecakes are rather tasty warm from the oven (what? like you wouldn't try one), they are MUCH better after getting their chill on in the fridge. Trust me. You could probably also divide the batter between six cups instead of 8, to make a bigger serving per person. I actually liked the smaller amount, because the cheesecake was really rich, and I found the eight or so spoonfuls to be the perfect amount.

Now, on to the cookies. I wish I had a spoon-shaped cookie cutter. I don't and I was too lazy to go tracing any spoons for these cookies... but I'm sure the triangles are just as delicious! The only hard part is waiting for the dough to firm up. When I want cookies, I WANT COOKIES! I made the dough and let it rest in the fridge overnight. I took the dough out the next day when I got home from work and it was really stiff - too tough to roll out. I let it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes before I formed the cookies. I waited to bake them until an hour before we had dessert (we were stuffed with tacos!) and they were done and cool by the time we wanted them. I only went for 25 minutes, and they could probably have come out a little sooner. I think I'd keep an eye on them if you go for the spoon shape - they'd bake even quicker!

These cookies were delightfully crisp. The corners of the triangles served as tasty little cheesecake-bearing utensils (too bad we can't eat more things on cookies, eh?) These cookies would be great for use as a sandwich cookie or for ice cream sandwiches, too. Def. saving these to my keeper file.

Topped with a dollop of whipped cream and accented with a crisp, tasty cookie, had with friends or snuggled in bed late at night (which is how the rest of them went) and you have a great night on your hands!

Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake Pots with Shortbread Spoons
From: Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O’Connor

The silky, rich flavor or Italian mascarpone cheese marries well with dark chocolate and makes for a sublime cheesecake, baked up smooth and buttery in little custard cups and eaten with crunchy, sweet, and delightfully edible shortbread spoons! Add a dollop or whipped cream and a few chocolate curls to the tops of these individual cheesecake pots for the perfect dinner-party dessert.

Serves 8.

1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
¼ cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon dark rum, brandy or grand marnier (optional)
Boiling water as needed
Sweetened whipped cream and chocolate curls, for serving
Shortbread spoons, recipe follows

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F.

In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat before the cream starts to boil and add the chocolate, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition until the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla, salt and rum (if using) and whisk to combine.

Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the mascarpone cheese mixture and whisk gently until smooth.

Put eight 4-ounce custard cups, ramekins, or small ovenproof coffee cups in an empty 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Divide the chocolate-cheesecake mixture among the cups.

Put the baking dish in the oven and carefully pour boiling water into the pan, adding just enough water to reach halfway up the sides of the custard cups. Cover with aluminum foil.

Bake until the tops of the cheesecakes appear solid but jiggle slightly when shaken, 30 to 40 minutes. The perfect consistency is a little soft, but not liquid. The cheesecake pots will firm up as they cool. Transfer the pots from the baking pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover each pot with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight before serving. The cheesecake pots can be prepared up to 2 days before serving.

Top each cheesecake pot with a dollop of whipped cream and a few chocolate curls and serve with a shortbread spoon.

Shortbread Spoons

From: Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey: Desserts for the Serious Sweet Tooth by Jill O’Connor
There is nothing more fun than these little cookie spoons. I was lucky enough to find a spoon-shaped cookie cutter, but you can also use a small, sharp paring knife to cut these spoons freehand from the rolled-out dough. Use a small spoon (I like the size of infant feeding spoons) on the dough to use as a template. Chill the cutout cookies until very firm and cold – they will hold their shape better as they bake.
Makes about 12 spoons
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt and stir together until the mixture forms a soft dough. Pat the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least hour and up to 1 week.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to ¼ inch thick and cut into 4-in spoons. Place the shortbread spoons on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until cold and very firm, 45 to 60 minutes.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300°F.
Remove the shortbread spoons from the refrigerator and immediately place in the oven. Bake until the edges of the cookies are a pale, golden brown but the centers are still very pale, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let cool slightly. Using a large metal spatula, transfer the cookies from the baking sheets to the wire racks and let cool to room temperature.
Store the cookies, tightly covered at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 2 weeks.


Sarah said...

These look super tasty and a great show-stopper of a dessert for company!

Brilynn said...

Everything I've seen made from this book looks wonderful I think it's been added to my "need to have" list!

Jessica said...

Anything with Mascarpone is fabulous!
Loved the pic you posted on tastespotting!

Deborah said...

I just have to say - since exchanging emails about this book, I think I have looked through it just about every day. These are definitely on my "want to make" list, along with just about everything else in the book! They look great! And I agree about wishing we could eat more things with cookies as the utensil!

Flanboyant Eats said...

ooh these look good, katie...
hmm. ive been thinking of how i could gift my girlfriends back at home...
how's the weather up there, anyway?

Karen said...

Okay, chocolate, mascarpone and shortbread cookies. Three of my very favorite foods in one dessert!

farida said...

ohhh, this looks heavenly yummy!

giz said...

Crunchy shortbread and creamy mascarpone cheese -ok already, twist my arm.

Kristen said...

These look fantastic. You can bet I'll try this soon.

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Thanks so much for checking out my blog! These chocolate mascarpone cheesecake pots look so delicious! I love the shortbread cookies with it too!