2. canning jars of all shapes and sizes
And though I’m a ruthless clutter-killer in many ways, there are moments when my hoarding tendencies coincide in the perfect Venn diagram of interest and usefulness. I’ve had Shaina Olmanson’s cookbook, Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats that Shine, on my bookshelf since July. But it took me until last week, prompted by a big old basement project that forced me to relocate alllllll my canning supplies and jars from their cluttered sublevel shelving, to finally try a recipe from the 50 irresistible recipes featured and photographed in the book.
Though you may want to judge Desserts in Jars by its cover—adorably spiral-bound so it lays flat while you’re flipping through and messing it up with chocolate, butter, and flour—the breadth of the recipes inside will redefine what you can serve in a jar. From pains au chocolate and pull-apart cinnamon bread to mini peach bourbon pies, panna cotta, and even ice cream cakes, Shaina covers the full spectrum of desserts with explanatory instructions appreciated by both novice and experienced bakers.
Oh, and there’s cheesecake in a jar. The original recipe pairs orange zest with white chocolate in the cheesecake layer, but I happened to snag a Buddha’s Hand on my last trip to the market and wanted to take advantage of its intensely fragrant flavor. The Buddha’s Hand is a curious citrus fruit, composed only of zest and white pith, but with none of the typical bitterness that comes with a citrus rind. Because there’s no juice inside the creepy-cool fruit, cooks often chop or zest the fruit for infused liquor, salads and vinaigrettes, and desserts.
Really, any citrus will work splendidly here, mixing it up with the tart, jewel-toned fresh cranberry sauce topping the creamy cheesecake and brown sugared graham crust. (When made with crushed homemade graham crackers, the crust layer takes on a whole new dimension—but you’ll have to wait for my cookbook for that recipe.)
In addition to the usual suspects of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and local independent bookstores, I’m super envious that Desserts in Jars is also on shelves in my home away from home, Target (seriously, I was at Target three times this week. Is there a 12-step program for Bullseye co-dependence?)
Citrus-White Chocolate Cheesecakes with Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Desserts in Jars
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 5 hours, including chilling time
Makes 4 cheesecakes in 8-oz. jars or 8 cheesecakes in 4-oz. jars
- vegetable or canola oil
- 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
- 12 oz. (1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (2 5/8 oz.) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3 1/2 oz. (about 1/2 cup) white chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon grated zest from a Buddha’s hand, orange, or 2 Meyer lemons
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz.) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated zest from a Buddha’s hand, orange, or Meyer lemon
Preheat the oven to 325˚ and line a 9×13-inch oven-safe baking pan (such as a Pyrex dish or lasagna pan) with a thin towel or silicone trivets.
Pour a tablespoon or two of oil on a paper towel and lightly grease the bottom and sides of each jar.
Make the crust:
Whisk the graham cracker crumbs and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl. Add the butter and stir with a silicone spatula until the crumbs have fully and evenly absorbed the butter.
Divide the crumb mixture evenly between the jars and press gently with your fingers, a spatula, or a wine cork (Shaina’s brilliant idea) to form the crust layer.
Make the filling:
Fill a teapot with water and place over medium-high heat. Allow the water to come to a boil while you make the filling; if it boils before you’re ready to bake the cheesecakes, remove it from the heat and reserve.
Beat the softened cream cheese and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until the cream cheese has the consistency of fluffy frosting.
While the cream cheese is beating, bring the cream to a bare simmer in a small high-sided saucepan over low heat. When the cream starts to steam and just a few bubbles start to form, remove from the heat and add the white chocolate. Stir with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the chocolate has fully melted.
Add the chocolate to the cream cheese and beat for a minute more to incorporate. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Add the zest, vanilla, and salt, and stir to combine.
Divide the filling evenly between the jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space at the top of each jar.
Arrange the jars in the prepared baking pan, leaving at least 1 inch of space between the jars and making sure they don’t touch the sides of the pan. Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour the reserved hot water from the teapot into the pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the jars.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the center of the cheesecakes are nearly set but still slightly wobbly. (Timing may vary based on the insulating properties of the baking pan and the thickness of the glass jars being used.) Turn the oven off and let the pan remain in the oven for 15 minutes.
Make the topping:
While the cheesecakes bake, add the cranberries, water, and sugar to a high-sided 1- or 2-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and the liquid starts to boil. (If the berries are frozen, this will take some time.)
Once the liquid boils and the cranberries start to soften, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the citrus zest. Simmer for 7-8 minutes more, until the sauce thickens into a loose jelly. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.
Remove the cheesecakes from the oven and take them out of the pan onto a clean towel. Divide the cranberry topping evenly between the cheesecakes, smoothing the spooned topping evenly onto each cheesecake with a silicone spatula or spoon.
Refrigerate the jars for at least 4 hours to chill completely before serving.