Let Chicago's beloved Eli's Cheesecake show you how to make the perfect dessert for one.
All photos by Farideh Sadeghin.
In our cooking series Quickies, we invite chefs, bartenders, and other personalities in the world of food and drink who are serious hustlers to share their tips and tricks for preparing quick, creative after-work meals. Every dish featured in Quickies takes under 30 minutes to make, but without sacrificing any deliciousness—these are tried-and-tested recipes for the super-busy who also happen to have impeccable taste.
Ah, who doesn’t love a good city food rivalry? New York and Chicago love to duke it out over everything from hot dogs to fine dining—and of course, cheesecakes. On a lovely summer day last year, Diana Moles, the R&D expert for Chicago’s beloved Eli’s Cheesecake, spent the afternoon with us in the MUNCHIES Test Kitchen, making the case to us New Yorkers that Chicago is a cheesecake force to be reckoned with. (Disclosure: MUNCHIES Supervising Producer Elana Schulman's grandfather is Eli Schulman, the inventor of the original Eli's cheesecake recipe, and her father runs the Eli's Cheesecake Company.)
But sometimes, your dessert cravings trump loyalty to either city. Sometimes, you get a little Veruca Salt-y and you want your cheesecake now.
Presenting for your needy, impatient sweet tooth: the no-bake cheesecake. Moles used her knowledge of Chicago-style cheesecake essentials to transform this classic dessert into a cute little snack you can make a lot quicker, and in individual portions to keep your snacking size under control. (Makes it a little harder to pull a Chandler in Friends and polish off a whole cheesecake on your own.)
In lieu of the traditional Chicago-style shortbread crust, Moles uses an almond streusel for the bottom of these “cheesecakes.” She combines butter, flour, sugar, and salt, then folds in almond slivers by hand to keep the almonds from breaking. She spreads the mixture out on a lined sheet pan and lets it bake until the almonds just start to turn golden brown, then sets the crumble aside to cool before finishing the dish.
To make the no-bake batter, she starts with blooming unflavored gelatin powder. While it blooms, she starts on a sabayon base, using a double boiler made of a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water. She whisks egg yolks and sugar in the bowl, stirring until the eggs reach 150 degrees (so that they’re safe to eat), then whisks in the gelatin.
Next, she beats cream cheese, sugar, crème fraiche, vanilla, and heavy cream in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until creamy and free of lumps. (No one likes a lumpy cheesecake.) She folds the cream cheese mixture gently into the sabayon.
MAKE THIS: No-Bake Cheesecakes.
While the batter is still warm and soft, she scoops it into a large pastry bag for piping into individual portions. She layers the almond streusel into the bottoms of several old-fashioned glasses and mason jars.
Using the pastry bag, she pipes the batter into the glasses until they are just about full. (You can use a pitcher or a spoon for this, but it looks nicer if you pipe it.)
These little delights chill in the refrigerator until the batter firms up and cools completely. In the meantime, we rummaged through the MUNCHIES rooftop garden for some berries and made a compote and added some candied lemon zest, but you can garnish with whatever you want.
That said, if you're determined to prove that any cheesecake can be a personal-sized cheesecake if you try hard enough and believe in yourself, then you can also watch Moles make Eli’s classic Chicago-style cake in the MUNCHIES Test Kitchen in our How To series: