Thursday, May 28, 2015

Mini Pomegranate and Pistachio No-bake Cheesecakes

I've kind of been on a no-bake cheesecake spree these days. It all started innocently enough when I made mini peanut butter cheesecakes for my friends. Then, for my cousin's birthday, I made a nutella swirl no bake cheesecake. When the long weekend came around a few weeks ago, my parents were invited to a friend's house for dinner and asked to bring dessert. Even though I was scheduled to work the whole weekend, I had a few days off before it started and I asked my mom if I could make these mini cheesecakes for her to bring. She was more than enthused at the idea and agreed without any hesitation.

In my previous no-bake cheesecakes, I had used only whipping cream in the cake. However this recipe used gelatin instead and I was curious to see how it would turn out. Gelatin is great because it adds structure and shape to many desserts, but I am always cautious to use too much as it can also provide a bit of a slimy texture.

The original recipe called for cherry and pistachio flavors, but since I already had an open bottle of POM juice I decided to substitute it in. The cakes turned out quite cute and colorful, especially because I added a drop of gel-based food coloring. More importantly, they tasted great! My parents saved a few for me and my brother and I was impressed with how they turned out. Not only were the flavors of both the pomegranate and the pistachio pronounced, but my texture concerns were completely unfounded. These little cakes have a lot of potential to be featured again soon.

Mini Pomegranate and Pistachio No-bake Cheesecakes
Note: I used my mini cheesecake pan and was able to make 24 cheesecakes. I had a little extra and poured it into a few cupcake liners but unfortunately they didn't come well. If not making minis, the cheesecake could also be made in a larger, 9" size but would have to stay in the freezer longer to ensure that it sets properly.

For the crust:
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/6 cup sugar
Combine all of the ingredients and distribute evenly amongst the wells of the muffin/cheesecake pan. Lightly pat down the bottoms and bake for five minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Set aside to cool.

For the cheesecake:
  • 2 lbs (4 blocks) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 envelopes gelatin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup pistachios
  • Optional: red and green food coloring (to make the color stand out more)
  1. Finely grind the pistachios until they become almost like a paste. Set aside.
  2. Mix one envelope of the gelatin with ½ cup of the sugar in a small bowl. Bring one cup of water to a boil and add to the sugar-gelatin mixture. Stir well for about five minutes or until the gelatine is completely dissolved.
  3. Repeat the same process with the second envelope of gelatin and remaining ½ cup of sugar, this time using the pomegranate juice instead of water.
  4. Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until whipped and smooth.
  5. Divide the cream cheese in half. With one half, beat in the pistachio paste and, if using, a drop of green food coloring. Continue to beat until it is smooth and all the color has been evenly incorporated. 
  6. Slow down the speed and gradually beat in the plain sugar-gelatin mixture. Continue beating until the gelatin water has been completely mixed in. 
  7. Divide the batter amongst the wells of the pan, filling them halfway to the top. Place the pans in the freezer while finishing the pomegranate batter.
  8. With the remaining half of the cream cheese, beat in the drop of red food coloring, if using, and slowly mix in the pomegranate-gelatin mixture.
  9. Once again, divide the batter evenly amongst the wells, this time filling each completely to the top. Use a spoon or spatula to even out the tops, making them smooth. Return the pans to the freezer for about two hours, or until firm. 
  10. Once firm, carefully remove from the pans. The cakes can be stored in the fridge until ready to serve.

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