Vanilla Cognac Cheesecake Cups

Last night I was in the mood for something sweet but I wasn’t sure what I wanted. So I went to the grocery store and started searching the GF section and found these little 90 calorie packs of Chocolate Graham Cookies with Marshmallows and I was inspired. Cheesecake, I said to myself, but not a whole one, but nice bite size cupcake style. Now mind you it took all five packs in the box of the graham cookies to make the crust for these little morsels, but hey, you don’t have to eat all the cupcakes at one time. Plus as an added bonus, I added a little boozy-oozy to them to give them just a hint of something special without making them a drunken cupcake.

Vanilla Cognac Cheesecake Cups

For the Crust
1 cup finely ground graham cracker crumbs ( I used MI-DEL All Natural S ‘mores 90 calorie packs)
¼ cup sugar
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling
1 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
¾ cups sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
¼ cup Vanilla Cognac (but you can use Amaretto or Irish Cream)
2 large eggs
¼ cup Greek Yogurt (you can also use sour cream)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

To Make The Crust. In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and the melted butter. Toss with a fork until well blended. Drop a heaping tablespoon full of graham cracker mixture in each muffin cup and pack it down gently with your fingers. Bake 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the crusts to cool while you prepare the filling. Do not turn the oven off as you will need it shortly to bake your cheesecakes.

To Make The Filling, using an electric or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Add the vanilla cognac, eggs and yogurt and beat until smooth.

Fill muffin cups with cream cheese mixture until almost to the top. Place the muffin pan in a large, shallow roasting pan with enough hot water to come about 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Bake until the cakes are puffy and barely set in the center, about 35 minutes. When done, allow to cool for 2 hours and then transfer the cheesecakes, still in the pan, to the refrigerator and chill for 4 hours or overnight.

To serve, remove each one from the paper wrapper and place a dollop of fresh whipped cream on the top and garnish with a crystal-sugar coated raspberry.

 **recipe inspired and adapted from The Boozy Baker**

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Chocolate-Bacon Cupcakes

My friend at work Robb loves, loves, loves Bacon and for Christmas his granddaughter got him a book called I Love Bacon.  It’s a collection of recipes from some of America’s favorite chefs all having bacon in them.  It’s amazing that so many things can have bacon in them. Yay for bacon!

This is a pretty labor intensive recipe, but I think you will really enjoy its complex tastes that come through with each bit.  Make sure that you use a real maple syrup and not that kind that you use for your pancakes on Sunday morning – it will make a difference.  Also, watch your brown butter cooking, it can quickly turn to “burnt” butter – which I think mine might have gone a bit to far.

Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes

Maple-Brown Butter-Bacon Frosting
8 slices 1/4-inch thick bacon, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons crème fraîche (I used greek yogurt instead)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups confectioner’s sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup GF all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons old-fashioned oats

To make the frosting:
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 10 minutes.  Using a mesh sieve, drain the bacon bits by pouring the rendered bacon fat into the bowl of a mixer.  Set the bacon pieces aside.

In the same sauté pan:
Melt the butter and cook until it turns brown and gives off a nutty fragrance, scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally so the butter doesn’t burn.  When the butter is dark and begins to burn, immediately remove the pan from the heat, scrape all of the browned bits loose, and transfer the contents to the mixing bowl with the bacon fat. Refrigerate the bowl until the butter is cold. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the milk, cream, crème fraîche or yogurt, vanilla and maple syrup; set aside.

Attach your mixer with the paddle attachment.  When the browned butter is cold, cream it on medium speed with the salt until blended. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to cream at medium speed until fluffy, about 8 minutes. Slowly add the milk mixture and continue mixing until smooth and homogeneous. Refrigerate until cold.

Preheat over to 350 degree F. Lightly butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line it with cupcake lines, and set aside.

To make the cupcakes:
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Put the 1/2 cup of butter, the sugars, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, turn the speed to low, and add one-quarter of the dry ingredient mixture. When no trace of flour remains, add one-third of the buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Continue evenly alternating the flour mixture and the buttermilk, ending the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix in the chopped chocolate and oatmeal. Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups; each cup should be three-quarters full. Bake until a tester stick comes out clean – approximately 25 minutes.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, fluff the cold frosting until soft and spreadable but not runny. Place about 3 tablespoons of frosting on top of each cupcake, then sprinkle on about 1/2 teaspoon of bacon bits. Serve immediately or refrigerate the cupcake until the frosting is firm.

**recipe was adapted/copied from I LOVE BACON by Jayne Rockmill**

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