I used to watch them all the time, and they really freaked me out. I was always on the edge of my seat, convinced that at any second, some otherworldly visage would float by the camera, call me by name, and tell me they were coming to get me.
My favorite was “A Haunting,” on TLC. I think I liked it because it was all recreated, so the likelihood of seeing an actual ghost or whatever on camera was slim to none. Even still, I’d find myself all tense and ready to run whenever I watched it.
It used to be on right around the time the hubster and the kiddo got home from work and school. This was back when I had a job outside the home, too, so it would be my day off. I’d be sitting there in our big old house (our last house was way too big for our little family…that much empty space is just asking to be haunted), all alone, trying not to pee my pants, and all of a sudden – right when the show would be at it’s scariest – the door would burst open and a noisy boy and his dad would come barreling in.
It took my by surprise and made me jump out of my skin every. single. time.
It’s a good thing they stopped making that show (and that I watched every, single episode), because I don’t think my nerves could have handled much more.
Here’s the kicker, though…
I don’t even believe in ghosts.
I’m just that much of a wimp.
I haven’t believed in ghosts since I was a kid. We’re not talking angels and stuff…I’m talking the scary stuff. The sad or mean spirit who stayed behind because of some mysterious reason, and they totally seem out to get every living soul they encounter. I don’t buy it. And yet, I’m the first one to wet the bed when I watch Paranormal Activity while visiting my sister and I wake up to find my nephew standing at my bedside, motionless and staring at me.
Watch the movie, you’ll know why that’s freaky as hell.
I always find an excuse to forego scary ghost shows when they’re turned on. You know, the laundry isn’t gonna fold itself. And it’s vitally important that I try my new mini pie maker out.
I’ll be in the kitchen…making some mini chocolate cheesecakes. You know, if you feel the need to
escape take a break from the scary.
You might remember me mentioning that I got a Breville Mini Pie Maker as a slightly belated Christmas gift. Mine is from Williams Sonoma and the Hubster got me the Mini Pies cookbook to go with it. I wasn’t expecting it at all, and I was thrilled when I got it, but I almost felt gipped. Almost.
The truth is, I’ve just never been a big fan of pies. I’m really weird. I don’t like my fruit cooked. Yes, I’m serious. I like apples fresh and crisp and crunchy. Au naturale. That’s how I like all of my fruit. Except in muffins. And I like raisins. Call me weird, it’s okay. I am a little bit.
So when I got the pie maker, I was super excited…I mean, just look how adorable:
But I was also slightly disappointed. Then again, though, the hubster and the boy love pie, so really it’s win-win. I get to make fun mini pies (and have an excuse not to watch scary shows), and they get to have lots of adorable mini pies.
For these mini cheesecakes, I used the chocolate cheesecake recipe from the book as a resource, but I tweaked it and added caramel. Because let’s face it, caramel makes everything better.
The filling is super simple – some cream cheese and sugar get mixed together first. I used fat free cream cheese. Can’t even tell the difference.
Add an egg yolk and some vanilla, and that’s all there is to the filling.
As for the crust, the book just called for a regular pie crust, but I wanted something more traditional cheescake-y, but a graham cracker crust wouldn’t really work in the pie maker, so I decided to use a method that I learned from Baking Illustrated. To get a graham cracker-y crust, just roll your pie dough out in crushed graham crackers instead of flour.
I made a basic pie dough; any will do, or you can even buy a pre-made crust (you only need enough for the bottom of a 9-inch pie, so one crust). Just roll it out with the graham cracker crumbs until it’s about 1/8 – 1/4-inch thick. I prefer more crust, so I like mine to be around 1/4-inch.
You can also make this recipe using pre-made mini graham cracker crusts from the store, or any mini pie mold. Just bake them at 350 degrees in the oven for 9 to 12 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is puffy.
As you can see from the last picture, my pies burned slightly. I followed the baking instructions exactly, so I was pretty disappointed, but I think I know how to prevent it from happening again. Also, they still tasted incredible, so I was very pleased.
First of all, although the crusts are slightly burnt along the edges, the bottoms are absolutely beautifully cooked. Also, the filling came out perfect, so I wouldn’t reduce the baking time. What I think happened is that the edges of the pies were exposed to more heat, since they were pressed between two hot surfaces, while the bottom of the pie was only exposed to one cook surface. The extra heat, on the thinnest part of the pie, was too much, and caused it to burn. My solution is to cut the pie circles larger, then fold the excess dough over the fluting, creating a double layer of crust that won’t cook as quickly and burn.
Even slightly burnt along the edges, these pies were completely amazing. The filling was rich, creamy, and chocolaty, and the caramel was the perfect compliment (of course). I topped them off with some softly whipped cream, and a little confectioners’ sugar, and all was right with the world.
You can see here, and in the photo above, how perfectly the bottom of the crust baked up. It was flaky and wonderful, and the graham cracker crumbs made the whole pie taste much more like a traditional cheesecake.
With or without the mini pie maker, these were fast and easy to make, only taking about 25 to 35 minutes (excluding chilling time for the pie dough) – even with making homemade caramel sauce and whipped cream. They were worth every second, and I can’t wait to make more adorableness with my pie maker.
Even if you don’t have a pie maker, you can make these, quick and simple, for everyone to enjoy…or, you know, just for you. No one says you have to share. Enjoy!
Mini Chocolate Caramel Cheesecakes [Printable Recipe]
Makes 4 mini pies
**To make these gluten free, use your favorite GF 9-inch pie dough recipe and gluten free graham crackers**
FOR THE PIE CRUST
1 1/4 cups (160 grams) flour
2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons shortening, cold
1/4 cup (1/2 stick or 57 grams) butter, cold, cut into small chunks
3-4 tablespoons (45 to 60 ml) cold water
4 full sheets graham crackers (about 1/2 cup) crushed
4 ounces (124 grams) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
2 ounces (60 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, melted
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 recipe Caramel Sauce (omit 1 teaspoon of salt)
1 recipe Whipped Cream (softly whipped)
To make the crust: In a food processor, mix the dry ingredients for a couple of seconds to combine, then drop the shortening evenly on top in chunks. Process until the mixture looks like wet sand. Evenly distribute the butter on top and pulse until the mixture has pea sized chunks in it.
If mixing by hand: In a large bowl, cut the cold shortening in with a fork or dough blender, again until it resembles wet sand. Then cut the butter in until you have pea sized pieces.
If using a processor, transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
Add about 3 tablespoons cold water and begin mixing with a spatula. Using a spatula, mix the dough by ‘folding’ from bottom to top and pressing down with each fold, adding more water if the dough is too dry.
Once the mixture has just formed a dough, turn it out onto a very lightly floured surface. As quickly as possible, finish bringing the dough together by hand, kneading as little as possible.
Shape into a disk, roughly 4 inches across. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
To make the filling: In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese until creamy. Beat in the sugar, then scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for a few more seconds. Add the melted chocolate and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl again, then stir in the egg yolk and vanilla. Scrape the bowl again, and mix for another 20 seconds or so.
Assemble the pies: Preheat your pie maker.
Sprinkle your work surface with 2 tablespoons of the crushed graham crackers. Remove your pie dough from the refrigerator and roll it out to about a quarter inch thick, sprinkling with more graham cracker crumbs as you go. Use all of the crumbs while rolling.
Cut four circles of pie dough for your mini pies and press them into the mini pie maker, or mini pie molds (see information in post about extra pie dough for the edges in a pie maker). Fill each crust with 1 tablespoon of caramel sauce. Divide the cheesecake filling evenly between the four pies. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until crust is golden brown and filling is puffy. Use a fork to gently remove the pies and transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Serve warm or cool to room temperature before serving.
**You can also make this recipe using pre-made mini graham cracker crusts from the store, or any mini pie mold. Just bake them at 350 degrees in the oven fro 9 to 12 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is puffy.**
Filling adapted from Mini Pies, Crust, caramel, and cream recipes by Darla