What's For Dessert: Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bites

A friend of ours hosted a Halloween party this past weekend (D and I went as Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop from Moonrise Kingdom), and I took the invitation as a good excuse to make a few nibbles to share. Since I still have a bit of salted caramel sauce leftover in the fridge, I had the idea to use some in a mini cheesecake bites recipe. And let me tell you, I'm pretty proud of these sweet treats.

Without fail I always sub in neufchâtel cheese for cream cheese, as it has a slightly lower fat content. Feel free to use the real stuff if you prefer; personally, I don't taste much of a difference between the two. The cheesecakes get a dose of salted caramel flavor both within the cake layer and as a generous drizzle on top. If you haven't any made-from-scratch salted caramel sauce on hand, you can use your favorite brand of caramel sauce instead. (But seriously, it is totally worth the effort to make your own caramel sauce from scratch!)

Bite-size mini cheesecakes are perfect for sharing at a party or other gathering; they are easy to eat as a finger food and though small in size, these little bites pack in plenty of satisfying flavor. If you're looking for a dessert to share at upcoming holiday gatherings, I urge you to give this recipe a try!

Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bites (printer-friendly version)
makes 24 servings

For the crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 6-7 graham cracker sheets)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecakes:
1 (8 oz) package neufchâtel cheese (or regular cream cheese), softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons salted caramel sauce, plus a little extra for drizzling after baking

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, use the steel blade attachment to make crumbs from the graham cracker sheets. Add in the brown sugar and pulse a few times to incorporate into the crumbs. Carefully add in the melted butter and process until incorporated.
3. Spoon the crumb mixture into each lined mini muffin cup, filling each cup about 1/4 full. Use the back of the spoon or your (clean!) fingers to press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of each muffin cup.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the neufchâtel cheese, egg, vanilla, and raw sugar together at high speed. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary. Mix in the caramel sauce and continue stirring at high speed until evenly combined.
5. Spoon the cheese mixture on top of the graham cracker layer, filling each muffin cup almost completely full.
6. Bake in the oven for 13-15 minutes, or until the cheesecake layer has set and appears matte, not glossy. Remove from the oven and let the cheesecake bites cool in the tin on a wire rack. Once cooled to the touch, place the tin in the refrigerator to chill.
7. To serve, remove the cheesecake bites from their paper liners. Drizzle salted caramel sauce over top each cheesecake bite before serving.