Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes and Buffalo Chicken Rolls


A friend and realtor, Tetiana Althoff from Re/Max Preferred Choice, asked if I could create some appetizers for an Open House for a high-end home in town this coming Sunday at 12936 Prairiewood Drive.
Strawberry Cheesecake Tarts with Chocolate Pie Shell
Strawberry Cheesecake Tarts with Chocolate Pie Shell

Of course, appetizers are probably the largest list of foods in either my blog or website, so I could have so easily gone there for inspiration. Yet, I did not, for the same reason that I am relatively prolific in creating new recipes: mainly, that I love trying new recipes or tweaking old ones. I sat at my computer searching online for inspiration, because there is an awful lot of inspiration out there these days. I came up with at least 8 different ideas, some just sort of tweaks of others, but still. And one idea gradually seeped into my brain after seeing a photo somewhere of a chocolate graham cracker with some cheesecake "dip" and a bit of canned cherry pie filling on top.

The idea began when I thought of replacing the chocolate graham cracker and making my chocolate pie pastry, or some variation thereof. Okay. Then, I thought no problem on making a cheesecake filling. Yet once I got down to it, I realized I still had some pulverized freeze-dried strawberry powder in a little container, so I went the route of flavoring the filling with that. I originally thought of using the cherry pie filling for the top, but once I used strawberry powder to flavor the cheesecake, it seemed odd to then use cherry on top. SO.
Freeze dried strawberries made into powder
Freeze dried strawberries made into powder

The only complaint I have about these little tarts is the fact that the strawberry flavor was very hard to detect. It didn't harm the flavor at all - these little things are addictive! - but I plan to add more when making them for this coming weekend. One 1-ounce package of freeze dried strawberries, pulverized and sifted to remove seeds, results in a scant ¼ cup of strawberry powder. I only used 2 tablespoons of the powder in this first try, so I will be using at least 3 tablespoons in the next batch I make. This will leave about 2 teaspoons to make the little heart stencils on top.

Of course, if I have not previously made a recipe, I do need to test it out before using it for anyone else. And of course, being Superbowl Sunday, my husband was elated to test out my creations during his game watching. I toyed with the thought of putting a little chunk of fresh strawberry on top once they were ready to serve. I didn't have any on hand though. Instead, I cut a little heart out of a piece of paper and used it as a stencil. I set the cut out on top of each little cheesecake tart in turn, and sifted the strawberry powder on top. Carefully removing the paper, it left behind a perfect little deep pink heart.

Heart stencil on top of cheesecake tarts
Heart stencil on top of cheesecake tarts
These came together easily with only what I already had at home. Granted, everyone may not have the freeze dried strawberries, but aside from a yummy snack, they are great for coloring and authentic flavor.

Making and fitting the chocolate pastry shells
Making and fitting the chocolate pastry shells
The chocolate pie shells were ease itself. Just mix the dough (no added liquids) and it is so easy. I rolled little balls, pressed them flat to about a 3-inch diameter and fitted them into the mini tart wells. The cheesecake batter was also simple and the use of a little "ice cream scoop" (about 2 teaspoon capacity) made filling the shells a breeze.  

filling the chocolate shells
Filling the chocolate shells

Strawberry Cheesecake Mini Tarts with Chocolate Shell

Strawberry Cheesecake Mini Tarts with Chocolate Shell
Strawberry Cheesecake Mini Tarts with Chocolate Shell
Makes about 30 tarts 

1 cup all-purpose flour, less 2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 ounces cream cheese
¼ cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons)

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 (1-ounce) package freeze dried strawberries

Making Pastry: Measure the cup of flour into a mixing bowl. Remove 2 level tablespoons of the flour and return to the original bag or container of flour. Add the 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the scant cup of flour in the mixing bowl and stir to blend. Add the cream cheese and butter and cut in as for pie pastry. Gather the mixture with hands to bring all the stray crumbs together into one ball. Cut into 30 equal pieces and roll each piece into a small ball. Take one ball on the counter (no extra flour is needed) and press flat with your hand, or roll with a rolling pin into about a 3-inch diameter circle. Peel the round from the counter and set the circle over a well in a mini tart pan, pressing into the well and against sides. Repeat with all the balls of dough. Set pans in the refrigerator while working with the cheesecake portion of the recipe.

Making the Cheesecake:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. First make powder from the bag of freeze dried strawberries. Sift the powder through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any whole bits and all the seeds, discard the seeds. You should have approximately 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons. Set the 2 teaspoons of powder aside if making the stencil for the top.

In a mixing bowl, with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add and beat in the sugar and sour cream, then add the egg and vanilla and beat in. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons strawberry powder. Add to the cream cheese mixture and beat until no streaks remain.

Remove a tin of the mini chocolate shells from the refrigerator and fill each chocolate shell with about 2 teaspoons of the cheesecake mixture. Bake the mini cheesecakes for about 10 minutes, or until set.

Set them aside to cool slightly before stenciling the tops. I used a plain white square of paper, drew on a little heart about ½-inch diameter, then cut the heart shape out. If the cheesecakes are too hot, the paper will stick to the top, so they should be slightly cooled before stenciling. Set the paper over top of a little cheesecake and use the fine mesh sieve to tap a bit of the remaining 2 teaspoons of strawberry powder over the heart cut out. Gently lift the paper, tapping excess powder back into the bowl before placing it onto the next cheesecake. Repeat for all the mini cheesecakes. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Once I made these little gems, I was looking to make something savory and easy, so I made some Buffalo Chicken Rolls. This type of recipe is all over the place on the internet, but generally made with cream cheese only. I am one who loves blue cheese and so is my husband, so I added blue cheese crumbles to the mixture and these were absolutely delightful. My husband said they were at the high point of his heat tolerance level. To me, they were perfectly but lightly spiced. I used rotisserie chicken which made it very quick and easy.

Buffalo Chicken Rolls

Buffalo Chicken Rolls
Buffalo Chicken Rolls
makes about 24 to 27 (plus ends left for the chef!)

1 cooked chicken breast, finely chopped (about 1½ cups)
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces Buffalo Wing Sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
½ cup blue cheese crumbles
¼ cup chopped scallions
3 (6-inch) flour tortillas

In a bowl, mix together well all ingredients except the tortillas. Divide the mixture evenly between the 3 tortillas, spreading the mixture to the edges. Roll the tortillas, without pressing too hard on the filling. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 2 days. Slice off ends that will not make a proper roll, then slice across into ½ inch slices to serve.


My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest  at AHOFpin. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.