You might think the world just doesn't need another cheesecake recipe...but, I mean, can the world really have too many cheesecake recipes? What makes this one special is that it is made with natural ingredients (made as healthy as possible), has a killer flavor combination (which leans towards 'festive' with the chocolate crust), and comes together in a flash. What's not to love about a knock-out dessert that doesn't take all day in the kitchen? The smooth tart filling is contrasted with the cocoa flavor and nut crunch of the crust, topped off with a high note of berry flourish (enhanced with just a hint of rosewater) as a beautiful, glistening finish, making a gorgeous finale to any holiday get-together.
I'm partial to a thin cheesecake, which I think has a better flavor ratio between topping, crust and filling, and doesn't seem so heavy or over-the-top as traditional cheesecakes do. Another advantage is that these bake up in minutes and don't have any of the inherent problems with traditional, thick cheesecakes, such as cracking and over-browning at the edges that sometimes happens while waiting for the center to set. The goat cheese provides a lighter taste and texture than traditional cream cheese, and is free of those mystery (and somewhat worrying) ingredients, but cream cheese could be substituted.
The chocolate and nut crust was made with coconut oil instead of butter, which I think complimented the berry and nut ingredients, and provided better health benefits. Hazelnuts are called for in this recipe, but any nut could be used. Walnuts and a pear topping would be a good combination, or persimmon with almonds, whatever is in season or is calling out to you from the frozen fruit section. The combinations are only limited by your imagination.
Frozen berries were used here, but any fresh fruit could be made into a compote by simmering cut fruit with some juice and sugar. Since these were frozen, I added very little water when boiling down the topping mix. A sprinkle of sugar, to taste, dissolves and helps bind and thicken the ingredients. I've used a combination of apples and pears with some cinnamon, and have adjusted the crust ingredients, with equal success. I love this composition of frozen berries that is on offer at my local market--Marion blackberries, blueberries and black raspberries.
For me, these tarts are the perfect size for sharing, and half a tart won't derail any healthy eating plan. The cheese in the tart is high in protein and calcium, and the nuts and coconut oil help boost the heart healthy benefits. Of course, the berries are full of anti-oxidants and vitamins. Healthy kudos aside, they are just plain delicious.
Well, stopping at just half might be a little harder than I thought...
Berry Cheesecake Tarts with Chocolate Nut Crust:
10 ounces goat cheese, or same amount of cream cheese if desired
1/3 cup natural sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (I used children's chocolate graham cracker cookies)
1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts, chopped fine
2 ounces melted coconut oil, or melted butter
pinch of salt
10 ounces frozen or fresh fruit of choice, I used a combination of berries
scant few tablespoons of water, if frozen, approximately 1/4 cup of water if fresh
1 tablespoon of natural sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the crust ingredients in a medium bowl, and press into greased pans of choice. I used six, six-inch removable bottom tart pans; one large tart pan would do. Bake for approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
For the filling, beat the cheese on medium low for a minute or two until smooth (dont' beat too vigorously or you will add too much air and resultant air bubbles in the finished tart). Mix in the sugar and vanilla and beat again for a few minutes on low, scraping down the sides of the bowl and paddle. Add the eggs, one at a time, and scraping down the bowl and paddle after each addition so that the consistency is smooth without any lumps. Pour into the prepared pans, dividing equally amongst the prepared pans, filling to approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch to the top of the tart pan. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until completely set. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely. Cover with foil or plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator until serving time.
For the topping, place the frozen berries in a medium sized saucepan with a tablespoon or two of water and a tablespoon (or more, to taste) of sugar. Gently bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken. The topping will continue to thicken as it cools. After cooked, add the rosewater, if using.
To serve, remove the tarts from the pans and top with the fruit.