May 17, 2014

Sprinkle Sticks and Mini Cheesecake Tarts

Today my beautiful baby girl graduated from preschool. It was fun and exciting and bittersweet and, because I was room mom, a little bit stressful. But everything went off without a hitch and I can check all that graduation planning stuff off my list. After an incredibly crazy (and rainy) morning...topping off an incredibly crazy week...I was pleased to come home, put everything away, put a show on for the kids, and change into sweatpants. Yay!

But before I completely check-out for the weekend, and since I had all kinds of recipe requests at graduation, I thought I'd share the recipes for the two desserts I brought to the graduation celebration: Sprinkle Sticks and Mini Cheesecake Tarts.

The Mini Cheesecakes I've been making since I was a kid...first with my mom and then on my own. They are super simple and are always a hit. I mean, who doesn't love a little taste of cheesecake without the commitment to a giant slice! And they are the perfect dessert to bring to a function like this.

The Sprinkle Sticks are a new addition to my repertoire, and we can thank Kate Pickle over at for this one. It's another super simple recipe and they were devoured at today's graduation. They make a great light dessert or a wonderful snack. Plus the recipe is super versatile.

So here they are, two delicious little recipes...

Mini Cheesecake Tarts
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
Vanilla Wafers
Pie filling or fresh fruit for topping
Mini cupcake tin and mini cupcake wrappers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini cupcake tins with mini cupcake wrappers. Prepare Vanilla Wafers to fit inside mini cupcake tins (these will be your mini cheesecake crusts). I use Nabisco Nilla Wafers and then just run a paring knife around the edge to trim them down to fit in the mini cupcake tin (sounds like a pain, but it's really simple). Place one trimmed vanilla wafer into each mini cupcake wrapper.

Then measure the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla extract into a mixing bowl and mix with an electric mixer until creamy and fluffy (this should take you a few minutes). Spoon cheesecake batter into tins on top of each wafer. Bake 5-15 minutes at 350 degrees, until cheesecake is set. Cool and then refrigerate. Just prior to serving, top each cheesecake with a dollop of pie filling (I use strawberry, blueberry or raspberry) or a little fresh fruit (like a slice of strawberry or a single blueberry)...or leave them plain. And enjoy!

Makes about 2-2 1/2 dozen tarts.

Sprinkle Sticks
2 sheets puff pastry dough
1 1/2 tbsp berry jam
1 handful frozen berries
Rainbow Nonpareils (or sprinkles of your choice)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line your baking sheet with a piece of baking paper. Lay out your two puff pastry sheets on a sheet of baking paper. If you're using frozen puff pastry dough, allow the dough to thaw before you begin. Shake sprinkles all over both sheets of dough, then, using a floured rolling pin, gently press the sprinkles into the dough so that they stick. Carefully flip over one sheet of dough (so it's sprinkle-side down).

Put a handful of frozen berries into a blender or food processor and chop into very small pieces (I used a mix of frozen strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries). Mix chopped berries with berry jam (I used an all-natural strawberry jam), then spread a thin layer of the berry mixture onto the sheet of dough that you turned sprinkle-side down, leaving a little space around the edges of the dough. Carefully lift the other sheet of dough and lay in on top of the jam so that the sprinkles stay on the outside.

Use a knife or pizza cutter to slice the dough into sticks (I used a pizza cutter and I sprayed it with cooking spray first so it wouldn't catch on/tear the raw dough). I sliced mine into 12 half-inch-ish strips and then cut those long strips in half the other way. Gently transfer the sticks to your baking sheet, making sure they are not touching each other. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until they are puffed-up and lightly browned. Let cool and serve.

Makes about 24 sticks, depending on how you slice 'em.

Note: You could also make these filled with Nutella or a chocolate spread, or a little melted butter and cinnamon sugar. You could even try them out with a savory spread, like simple butter and garlic or a thin layer of Boursin cheese. These were such a hit that I plan to try them a multitude of ways. Really, the sky's the limit here!

P.S. I made double recipes of both of these for this party and I came home empty handed, so plan accordingly!

Until next time, happy baking...and party on!

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