A Sweet Treat Memory, with a Cherry On Top

Over the years there are some ingredients or recipes that immediately bring back memories of a friend or family member. I’m sure we all have them. While looking through the remaining items in my refrigerator, I focused on leftover items wanting to challenge myself to use and not waste the partially filled containers and jars of various ingredients.

I wanted to make a little something sweet for my brother. He lives alone and I found out he was eating sandwiches or opening a can of vegetables for his meals during the stay home order. I just couldn’t let that go on, so I’ve been cooking and then bringing filled containers with prepared meals for his week. I usually make something sweet, like a homemade cookie or chocolate dipped strawberries, but this week I decided to let the items in the refrigerator direct me in this week’s small sweet bite.

Tucked in the back on the top shelf, I found a partially filled jar of Amarena cherries and a half filled jar of black cherry preserves. The cherries brought back a memory from several years ago, to a co-worker named Abbey. Abbey and her husband Murph had recently relocated to the New Orleans area from their home town in Boston. Knowing they were away from family, when the holidays rolled around I invited them to an annual Christmas tree trimming party I hosted. When they arrived Abbey presented me with a hat box filled with mini cheesecakes, each topped with a bright red cherry (from a can of cherry pie filling). The crust was made with graham crackers and the filling from cream cheese, sugar and sour cream; but it was that rich, bright red cherry on top that made these little bites both elegant and festive.

I knew I didn’t have any graham crackers, but I did have some chocolate biscuits (as the English call them). We all know cherries and chocolate are bosom buddies. I knew I had a bar of cream cheese and as I searched for the remaining ingredients, I imagined the black cherry preserves swirled in the batter and knew immediately what I would make.

Mini Chocolate 🍒 Cheesecakes

Makes approximately 16

20 chocolate biscuit (cookies) – other options are chocolate or traditional graham crackers or any other type of wafer cookie ( 1 cup of crumbs)

1/4 cup of butter (4 tbsp. melted)

1 8 oz bar of cream cheese (at room temperature)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

2 teaspoons of cherry preserves or jam

1 teaspoon of lemon zest (optional- but adds brightness)

Amarena cherries or cherry pie filling

Mini cupcake paper liners

Preheat over 350 degrees F

Break biscuits into pieces and pulse in a food processor until fine crumbs form. (You can also place in closed zip bag and crush with hands or a wooden spoon.) Add the melted butter until well combined.

Line a mini cup cake tray with paper liners. Using a tablespoon measure fill each cup with about 1/2 tablespoon of the crumb mixture and press each to pack down into the paper cup.

In a medium bowl cream together the cream cheese and egg with an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add vanilla extract until evenly combined. With a spatula fold in 2 teaspoons of preserves or jam. Test taste the filling for sweetness. I had honey nearby in case the filling needed to be sweetened, but the preserves provided all of the sweetness I wanted and so I did not add any of the honey. Fill each cup to the top with the filling. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the filling has only a slight jiggle.

Let cool for 10 minutes and then using a small offset spatula or butter knife gently lift each cup from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Allow to completely cool. Place on a plate or tray and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Just prior to serving top each with a cherry and it’s syrup.

Note: If you don’t have or like cherries, there are so many other options. Blackberry or fig preserves or jam is an option, even orange marmalade or lemon curd. Most preserves have chunks of fruit in the jar that you call use to garnish the top.

Take a peek in your own refrigerator or pantry and see if there’s an ingredient that captures a memory for you and recreate it!

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