Recipe: Goat Cheese, Honey & Pistachio Mini Cheesecakes with Meyer Lemon Cream

Dessert Recipes from The Kitchn

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Looking for a romance-worthy dessert to impress your main squeeze? These individual goat cheese and honey cheesecakes with Meyer lemon cream are a delicious way to prove your culinary prowess and your love.

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Valentine's Day — whether you like it or not — can be a great excuse to whip up a delicious dinner that's beyond your everyday reach. Whether you are cooking for someone or with someone, use the holiday as an opportunity to expand your culinary horizons and attempt something you wouldn't ordinarily try. I've whipped up a number of fun meals over the years — from a tame-ish braised lamb shank over creamy polenta to a slightly-more-extreme hot pink beet and ricotta gnocchi — and have a few good memories to go along with them.

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This year I decided to tackle a new dessert, and bite-sized cheesecakes were the first thing that came to mind. (Chocolate may be traditional, but it's a bit predictable wouldn't you say?) After a decadent dinner for two, these light and lovely treats are just the ticket to keep you feeling light on your feet instead of too full to move.

This recipe isn't overly complicated per se — most of the work can be done in the food processor and the various components can be made ahead. Each and every component offers a specific flavor or textural element, which together will rival any cheesecake at a fancy dinner out. The salted pistachio crust provides a crisp, nutty contrast to the just-sweet-enough creamy filling. Goat cheese gives the cheesecake layer a soft and mellow tang, while a wisp of honey lingers through each and every bite. A dollop of Meyer lemon cream provides a bright and barely tart glaze to gussy up the sweets even more. And don't skip on the candied pistachios — they provide the pièce de résistance that takes this dessert from merely homemade to James Beard award-worthy.

While these cute sweets are the perfect way to end (or begin!) a Valentine's with your main squeeze, they are worthy of special occasions any time of year. (And a bonus for you gluten-free eaters — these are indeed gluten-free, provided all your nuts and other ingredients are certified gluten-free, of course.)

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Goat Cheese, Honey & Pistachio Mini Cheesecakes with Meyer Lemon Cream

Makes 12 bite-sized cheesecakes

For the pistachio crust:
1 heaping cup shelled, roasted, and salted pistachios (See Recipe Notes)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 (11-ounce) log mild goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) crème fraîche or full-fat sour cream, room temperature
2 tablespoons good-quality honey
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
Pinch of fine sea salt
3 large eggs

For the Meyer lemon cream:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons Meyer lemon zest
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice, from 3 to 4 lemons (See Recipe Notes)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt

For the candied pistachios:
1/2 cup shelled, roasted, and salted pistachios, finely chopped
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon hot water

For the pistachio crust, combine pistachios and sugar in food processor or mini chopper and process until it becomes a fine meal. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the melted butter; the mixture should resemble wet sand. Divide the dough evenly among 12 wells of an individual cheesecake pan (or a mini muffin pan filled with cupcake liners) and press firmly into the bottom.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. While the oven is heating, refrigerate the crusts until chilled. Bake the crusts for 10 to 12 minutes until set. Cool completely before filling.

For the filling, lower oven temperature to 300°F. Combine the goat cheese and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process for 1 minute. Add the crème fraîche, honey, vanilla, and salt and process for another 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed. With the food processor running, add the eggs through the feeding tube one at a time, and mix until just combined; do not over mix. (If you do not have a food processor you can whisk the ingredients by hand in the same order.)

Transfer the filling to a measuring cup with a pour spout and fill each cheesecake well almost to the top. Place the cheesecake pan on a sheet pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until cheesecakes are just barely set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill the cheesecakes for a minimum of 4 hours.

For the Meyer lemon cream, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the eggs and yolks and beat for 1 minute, until well combined. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and continue mixing until incorporated. (The mixture will become curdled and lumpy upon adding the lemon juice, but it will smooth quickly upon heating.)

Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 165°F on an instant read thermometer; the mixture should be just thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Transfer to another bowl and press plastic directly on the surface. Let cool at room temperature until ready to serve. (Lemon cream will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week. The texture thickens as it chills; you can whisk a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to thin if needed.)

For the candied pistachios, spread chopped pistachios on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or sheet of parchment paper. Whisk the brown sugar and hot water to dissolve. Pour the mixture over the pistachios and toss to combine. Bake in a 350°F oven until golden and toasted, 8 to 10 minutes. Once cool, crumble the pistachios for serving.

To assemble, remove the cheesecakes from the pan and remove metal rounds from the bottom. Bring to room temperature before serving. Drizzle with Meyer lemon creme and a sprinkle of candied pistachios.

Recipe Notes

  • If you only can only find unsalted pistachios, add 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the pistachios when grinding.
  • If you can't find Meyer lemons, use regular lemons and add an extra tablespoon or two of sugar.
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Per serving, based on 8 servings. (% daily value)
Calories
486
Fat
33.2 g (51.1%)
Saturated
14.3 g (71.6%)
Trans
0.6 g
Carbs
41.2 g (13.7%)
Fiber
2.8 g (11.2%)
Sugars
35.4 g
Protein
9.9 g (19.8%)
Cholesterol
211.7 mg (70.6%)
Sodium
62 mg (2.6%)

(Image credits: Nealey Dozier)

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