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August…Where did you Go?
Can you believe today’s recipe, Deep Fried Cheesecake Bites, is the first for The Flour Handprint’s second month?! I have learned so much since this began. I have total respect for my fellow bloggers, this is a tough job! But…it’s pretty awesome too. I love all the new skills I’m learning in the kitchen, in my photography and in the online world. I’m truly excited to see what comes next!
But…August wasn’t all fun and games for me, with my first month came my first blooper! My Bell Pepper ingredient breakdown inspired me so much that I wanted to make something truly original. The chicken roulade idea was born: it was stuffed with manchego cheese and fresh roasted peppers…the results tasted great! And…that’s where it ended.
After cooking 6 different roulades, and only one turning out perfectly (see below), I realized getting this dish consistent would need more time than I had given myself. I threw in the towel, literally. I’d postponed posting, trying to get the recipe right. But why? I didn’t have to perfect it. As long as I’ve learned something, the experiment was successful. I did, and I’ve definitely learned not to promise a recipe until you’ve actually tried it out a bit. Rookie move, I know. Still, five original posts in one month, I’m not crying over a bit of spilled roulade! Move on and keep cooking I say. I roast a mean pepper now too.
So after deciding that I would practice roulades again some other time, I moved on to my fried cheesecake bites. I’ve fried desserts before, but it wasn’t a cake walk either. We compared 4 different flavors of cheesecake, 4 different rolling methods and ratios of graham cracker, two different batters, and two different oil temperatures, and finally I got it.
What Inspired me
All of the testing for today’s recipe was inspired by my desire to redeem a dessert that should have been delicious at this years state fair.
I knew it had to be a few things to be successful: hot and melted on the inside, with a hint of graham cracker, and fried to a golden brown crisp. Let me tell you, it was not easy to perfect, and it must, absolutely, be eaten hot. No wonder it wasn’t the highlight of our fair food day! This is not a mass production dessert, or one that can sit in the window of a fair food kiosk waiting to be bought. If you’re looking for a party dessert, make cold cheesecake bites and save yourself the headache of frying to order.
BUT, if you’re looking for a delicious, indulgent treat for you and the family, and you want to have a little fun with dessert, this is TOTALLY the dessert for you. To add to it, I made a super simple strawberry sauce, that can be made with fresh or frozen berries, eaten chunky, or strained to a beautiful clear strawberry sauce. That, atop a piping hot, sugared, fried cheesecake bite is heaven.
Please don’t blame me for any growing waistlines after sharing this recipe. I’m way ahead of you.
Fried Cheesecake Bite Obstacle Course
Before I made it to cheesecake bliss, there was a lot of taste testing along the way. I know, how horrible right? These little nuggets of molten cheesecake put me through the ringer though, before I even made it to the second taste test, I had to resolve multiple issues.
Taste Testing Round 1
My first obstacle was shape. Two of my major issues with the fair version had to do with shape. A Flinstones sized wedge of cheesecake was overkill. I decided on a bite to resolve that, but the ratio of graham cracker to cheesecake was still an issue. If I wanted a circular ball shape, I couldn’t traditionally bake it in a springform pan. Without that, I’d have no crust. I knew I wanted graham cracker flavor, but how to incorporate it?
After arriving at the conclusion that a no-bake version was the way to go, I did some research on different recipes. There are a ton of ways to make a no bake cheesecake! I set up four different recipes using traditional ingredient combos to see which consistency and flavor we liked best. It was during this research that the graham cracker answer was revealed to me. I was reading a no bake version of a chilled cherry cheesecake bite, from a recipe submitted to the blog Southern Plate (you can check out that recipe here) and to hold their version of a bite together, they mixed graham cracker crumbs into the cheesecake itself.
It made perfect sense! Hadn’t I replaced flour with graham cracker in cake mix before? It would work beautifully as a binding agent, and it would also sneak in that graham cracker flavor that makes the cheesecake flavor profile complete. I added graham crumbs to each of my four taste tests and off we were to the fryer.
Once my husband had suffered through a sampling of fried cheesecake bites and we’d chosen our flavor, I took it to a second round. At my mom’s house, in her bigger and way more beautiful kitchen, I bribed my family to a taste testing with the promise of dinner first.
Taste Testing Round 2
Bring on issues round 2. I decided to check the necessity of the graham crumbs. (I’m like to be thorough). Did I need them if I didn’t miss the flavor? I had also decided that the batter I had used in my first round was too pancake like. There were four versions again, this time with the same base cheesecake. Two had no graham inside, and two did. I rolled one of each set in extra graham crumbs, and set up two different funnel cake batters. One had graham crumbs in the batter replacing flour, and one was a thicker version of a traditional funnel cake batter.
After many empty fried shells coated in evaporated cream cheese, it was pretty clear that the graham cracker was absolutely necessary. We’d fairly easily (after a some horror on my part at losing 12 bites to hot oil), determined that two of the four were failures. Two remained, both with graham cracker as a binding ingredient. I fried both in both batters.
Finally, with a drizzle of strawberry syrup and much discussion of graham to cheesecake balance, density, and creaminess (my family is awesome), we settled on a winner. A basic no bake recipe of cream cheese, whipping cream, vanilla, sugar, and graham cracker crumbs, rolled in more crumbs, and fried in a slightly thicker version of a funnel cake batter was the fried cheesecake bite of our dreams. Now I’m going to share it with you, so we can both indulge in delicious fatty fair food – in the privacy of our own kitchens where nobody will know if you eat ten.
The Fried Cheesecake Bite – The Prep Work
All right, first things first, make the cheesecake. This is remarkably simple, just add all the ingredients, except the graham crumbs, to a bowl and beat it with an electric mixer until it is smooth, fluffy, and creamy. You will need to make sure your cream cheese is room temperature. This can be accomplished in the same way I softened butter for the Chewy Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies, by popping it in the microwave on low power for a minute or two, but be careful and keep an eye on it. If your cream cheese is warm and melty it will not mix with the whipping cream properly.
Now, add one quarter cup of graham cracker crumbs. For both this and the crumbs you’ll need later, I used one sleeve of honey graham crackers, with some to spare. You can use the mixer to incorporate the crumbs, on low speed for 30 seconds. Then, cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge to chill for half an hour.
While the cheesecake is setting up, you’re free! I would use this time to make a batch of my homemade strawberry syrup recipe. Prep it and let it simmer away during the two cheesecake chill times. By the time you’re ready to fry, the strawberry syrup will be strained and ready to drizzle!
After the First Chill
This is one of those lovely kinds of desserts that makes enough with one batch to last you a while. Once in the freezer, they can hang out in an airtight container for up to three months (Possibly more…but I’ll have to update when more time has passed to prove it!). When you’ve got the craving, just pull it out and fry up however many you want. For just my hubby and I, four bites is plenty!
The cheesecake mixture can stay in the fridge for up to 48 hours before this step, but I recommend you get them to the next stage for easier preparation later. Use a small cookie scoop or a tablespoon, portion the cheesecake into small balls, and drop each into what is left of your graham cracker crumbs. I use a tablespoon, but the bites are slightly smaller than that.
Once coated, place them on a baking sheet. The size here is actually important. We discovered that too big a bite would leave the middle cold by the time to batter had reached its perfect golden brown in the oil. Smaller bites means a hot center and a crispy exterior.
When you’ve portioned out all the cheesecake, you should have between 14-15 bites. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least one hour. After the hour mark you have a choice, start the next step: batter and oil for frying, or transfer for future storage. If you’re frying the same night, transferring the bites off the baking sheet is a waste of dishes and time. They’ll be fine uncovered on the sheet for a few hours. If you’re planning on eating them the next day or later, transfer to an airtight container to protect them from freezer burn.
Fried Cheesecake Bite Batter
We’re in the last leg of things now! You’re almost to the end zone where gooey fried cheesecake bites await. To fry them up, put a large pot on the stove and heat up around 32 oz of vegetable oil to between 350°F and 375° F. This is about 2/3 of a standard 48 oz bottle of oil. I find that to be plenty for my 5 qt cast iron pot, but as long as you use enough to cover half the bite in oil, the actual amount isn’t too particular. I do use vegetable oil because soybean oil (vegetable oil) has a higher smoke point than canola. You can use whatever frying oil you prefer but I recommend one with a neutral flavor, with smoke point higher than 400°F.
It you do not have one, I HIGHLY recommend getting yourself a deep fry/candy thermometer. Working with really hot oil is no joke, and for this recipe, like many others, knowing the right oil temp can make or break a recipe. If the oil is too low, not only will the oil begin to seep into the food, but the batter doesn’t set fast enough to keep the cheesecake in before it gets too hot and melts right out. Too hot, and say hello to burnt outsides and cold middles.
Take some guess work out of it. Thermometers are fairly inexpensive, and there are a few versions you can get. If you prefer an all around good thermometer, go with an instant read like This One. You”ll have to keep checking the temp yourself with that, but it’s great for so many other tasks. A more traditional option are the candy thermometers that attach to the side of the pot. Just stick it in when you’re heating your oil and check the reading until it hits 375, easy as that. Whichever your preference, I again, really, really recommend one, not just for convenience but to make working with hot oil safe and a bit simpler. Please remember water and oil don’t mix, if a fire starts turn off any overhead fans and smother the flames.
While your oil is heating, put together the frying batter. It’s a simple mix of all purpose flour, sugar, salt, milk, and baking powder. Using your digital scale (Seriously? You don’t have one yet? Get one! I’m going to keep bugging you) you’ll only need a bowl, a rubber spatula and a teaspoon. Add the flour and sugar into the bowl, clearing the scale after each ingredient. Add a pinch of salt and one teaspoon of baking powder. Clear the scale and pour in 8 ounces of milk. Remove the bowl from the scale and mix. Add up to two ounces of milk, one at a time if the batter is too thick (doesn’t run smoothly from spoon).
Time to Fry!
By the time your batter is together, your oil should be almost perfect. Pull those cheesecake bites out of the freezer. I dropped each bite into the batter, rolled it around and then used a slotted metal spoon to gently scoop it out of the batter. Shake off some of the excess and gently let it roll off the spoon into the hot oil. I occasionally had to touch up the top of the bite with a drop of batter.
They fry fairly quickly, only two minutes or so on each side. The best way to know is by watching. You’ll have to turn them once, just wait until the exterior is a golden crispy brown and flip.
How many you can fry depends on pot size, for my 5 quart pot, I can fry up to six. What matters is not over-crowding your pot, and watching the oil temp. Too crowded and the heat will drop too rapidly and take too long to come back up to temp. When the oil drops below 325°F, the food begins to absorb it, leaving you with soggy, oily food. That’s definitely NOT what we’re going for. If your oil is a proper 350-375, the exterior will be crisp and grease free. I recommend starting with five and watching your temp from there.
Once out of the oil, dust them quickly with powdered sugar while they’re still nice and hot. Then, with a drizzle of strawberry syrup, either warmed up, or not, go on, go ahead and eat them.
The Many Lessons of Fried Cheesecake Bites
I’m back on track with this post, and I have to say quite proud that I navigated the many trials in this recipe. In the end, after weeks of exploding cheesecake, melting messes, and soggy coatings, I can truly say I have redeemed the state fair dessert. I’ve learned a lot about the nature of deep-fat frying, and I can approach my next batch of fried chicken with more confidence now. It’s a pretty fantastic feeling to know I can walk into the kitchen and whip up a deep fried pop-tart. That’s the very point of this cooking journey after all, to learn the whys and hows behind the recipes.
Now both you, and I have can have fair inspired food even when summer has long faded. I’d love to hear how these fried cheesecake bites go for you and your family! With the info I’ve given you here, you have all the tools you need to make a successful fried cheesecake bite in your own kitchen.
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 2.5 oz whipping cream 5 Tbs
- 1 oz granulated sugar 2 Tbs
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 3 oz graham cracker crumbs divided (3/4 cup)
Deep Fry Batter:
- 8 oz AP flour 1 3/4 cups
- 1 oz granulated sugar 2 Tbs
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 8-10 oz milk 1-1 1/4 cups
- Pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar
Pulse 6 graham crackers in food processor, or crush by hand.
Combine softened cream cheese and whipping cream in a mixing bowl. With and electric mixer, beat on medium speed until combined.
Add vanilla and granulated sugar and continue to beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until smooth and fluffy.
Add 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs to cheesecake and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, or until just incorporated.
Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes, up to 3 days.
Once chilled, scoop tablespoon sized balls into the remaining 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs.
Place rolled balls onto baking sheet and put in freezer. Freeze for at least 1 hour. **See Notes about long term storage!
After cheesecake bites have chilled at least one hour, heat oil over medium high heat until it reaches 375°F.
While oil is heating, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and milk to make batter. Start with 8 oz of milk adding more to loosen batter as needed.
When batter is like a thick pancake batter, remove desired number of cheesecake bites from the freezer. Coat with batter, allow excess to drip off using a fork or slotted spoon, and gently drop into hot oil.
Fry for 4-5 minutes, or until batter is a deep golden brown. Be sure to maintain your oil temperature.
Remove from oil to a plate, dust with powdered sugar and serve with sauce if desired.