What To Eat Instead Of Mince Pies This Year
I sometimes feel that I am one of the one who doesn't like mince pies but there must be others who have a similar preference right? I have never really liked them and I think my experience was soured when I expected my first bite to be of a pie filled with meat! As a child, it really messed with my head. So during this time of year I try to make something different. This year I have made these cute apple and pecan cheesecakes. Instead of a biscuit base I have used pastry so it has a slight resemblance to the popular Christmas snack and so that it travels more easily. These cheesecakes are deliciously creamy with the added warm flavours of cinnamon and roasted pecans.
Choosing your apples
I usually make the applesauce for this recipe but you really don't have to, you can use shop bought. If you do make your own, you can choose any of your favourite apple varieties. All apples have different flavours and levels of sweetness so for this recipe you want apples that you love (although I would advise you not to use granny smith). For my sauce I used gala apples because, I feel, they have quite a balanced flavour, not overly sweet like pink lady and not as sour as granny smith or cooking apples.
Making the applesauce
You really don't need to make the apple sauce but it is a lot healthier. Most shop bought apple sauce is full of sugar and added extras that are necessary to give it a long shelf life. This recipe has a 1 week shelf life but it is pure apple with no unnecessary extras.
Peel and core 2-3 apples. Chop the apples and place in saucepan with 100ml of water. Cook the apples on a low heat for 30-35minutes, stirring often to make sure it doesn't burn. Cook until the apples are soft and easy to mash. Remove from heat and then use an electric blender to blend it into a smooth paste. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a heatproof container(this stage is a bit of a bicep workout). Allow to cool and then you can use it for this recipe.
How to store your cheesecakes
Keep these cheesecakes in the fridge and eat within 4 days. They are best on their first few days of being made.
Apples are full of antioxidants. The specific types of antioxidants found in apples have been found to help with heart health and can be helpful with weight loss. Apples can also increase prebiotic growth which is great for gut health.
Apple and Pecan Mini Cheesecakes
For the pastry
45g Caster sugar
140g Plain flour
3-4tbsp Cold water
Making the Pastry
For the pastry, rub the butter, flour and sugar together with the tips of your fingers until you get a breadcrumb texture. One tip for this stage is to shake the bowl from side to side. Any lumps left in the mix will rise to the top. Keep mixing until there are more lumps. This technique helps make sure that there are no large lumps of butter left in the bowl.
Add 3 tbsp of cold water and bring the pastry together(you may need to add more water, do this a teaspoon at a time until the pastry starts to clump together). Turn the pastry on to a well floured surface and knead it until it comes together into a smooth ball.
Rolling the pastry and lining the tray
Tip the dough onto a well floured surface and roll out to 1/2cm thickness. Using an 88mm diameter cutter, cut out 12 discs. Keep re-rolling the dough as needed.
Gently press the discs of dough into a 12 hole muffin tin and then prick each disc with a fork around the base and sides. Place the pastry in the fridge for around 30 minutes. Before removing the pastry from the fridge, preheat the oven to 220C/ 200C fan.
Partially Bake the pastry
Remove the pastry from the fridge and then line the inside of each pastry case with a small piece of parchment paper (scrunch the paper a couple of times to make this easier). Fill these with baking beads (or rice if you don't own any beads) and then bake for 15-18 minutes until the edges are golden brown. Because the cases will be going back in the oven, they don't need to be fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
For the Filling
100g Smooth apple sauce
180g Cream cheese
2tbsp Dark brown sugar
25ml Double cream
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp Plain flour
Make the Cheesecake
While the pastry is cooling, make the filling.
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Beat the apple sauce, cream cheese, sugar, cream and cinnamon together until it is thick and can create soft peaks. Add the egg and flour and then beat until is is fully incorporated.
Pour the filling into the cooled pastry cases, filling each to the very top. Place a pecan on top of each cheesecake and a little sprinkle of dark brown sugar.
Baking the Cheesecakes
Bake the cheesecakes for 20minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool in the muffin tray before enjoying. These are even better cold after being stored in the fridge.