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60 Little Lemon Cheesecakes

My glut crop at the moment is lemons. It’s not quite the glut it was last year.  Last year at this time, this was what the bush lemon tree looked like, and we have four lemon trees of different varieties.

lemon tree

But at the end of the season last year, we pruned the tree fairly heavily – it was getting too tall and thorny to harvest effectively – and fed it with manure and mulch.  So this year we only have three trees bearing too many lemons.

These little lemon cheesecake tarts are a great party food – easy and cheap to make in bulk this time of year when lemons are in season, and they travel and keep well.   They cook so fast, you can make them in batches which means you don’t need industrial quantities of baking gear – just a couple of muffin trays and a couple of biscuit trays.  They are wonderful warm in a bowl with a little cream, but just as good cold eaten straight from the hand, which makes them perfect for parties and no washing up. I brought these out at the end of a Halloween celebration (southern hemisphere Halloween, early May) and they were a big hit.

The Recipe:

The Pastry

Turn the oven on to heat up.  You want a medium hot oven.

I use my Braun food processor to blend:

  • 4 cups of wholemeal plain flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 250 grams (1 cup, or two sticks) butter

till it resembles breadcrumbs.  It takes literally seconds in the food processor.  If your food processor won’t do it, you can rub the butter in with your fingertips the old fashioned way.  Don’t overprocess it – little flakes of butter are fine.  The key to making good pastry is not overworking it.

Then add cool water, little bit by little, till the dough holds together in a ball.  It will take about a third of a cup. Again, don’t overwork it.

Roll the pastry out on a floured benchtop till it is ½cm or so thick, then cut rounds with a small bowl.

Lightly grease muffin tins with butter and line them with the pastry.  It will flute a little since the pastry is flat and the muffin tins cups, but that gives a nice shape to the finished tarts.  Prick the bottom of each with a fork, just lightly.  The holes should close up as the cases bake, and it helps stop them rising.

Bake the pastry cases for around 10 minutes till they are firm.  Try to catch them just before they start colouring.  I don’t bother with beans or rice or anything to bake blind.  The pricking helps them not to rise, but if they do, it doesn’t matter. You should be able to tip the cases out and line them up on biscuit trays for filling.

The Filling:

While the cases are baking, you can make the filling. Using the trusty food processor again, blend together:

  • 1½ cups of lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest
  • 1½ cups of raw sugar (not brown sugar this time, or it makes the filling a caramel colour).
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 6 eggs
  • 250 grams (1 cup) Danish feta, or some other smooth, creamy, salty white cheese like goat’s cheese. (Australian feta doesn’t give you the same smooth texture.)

Baking:

Fill the pastry cases immediately before you put them back into the oven to bake.   If you fill too early, they soak in and the pastry is soggy. You will probably need to do it in a couple of batches, so halve the filling so you can fill the first and second batch of cases evenly. A jug makes filling easy, and you need a cloth to catch drips.  Don’t overfill – they do rise a little and if they overflow or drip, the filling sticks and burns.

Bake in a medium hot oven for 15 minutes or so, till the pastry is just starting to brown and the filling is nearly set.  Take them out of the oven and dust with icing sugar, using a sifter or sieve to get a nice fine even dusting.  Put back into the oven for a final five minutes.

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Linda May 18, 2013, 1:53 pm

    Oh yummmm! I will try these for sure. I love lemon and these sound so easy! Thanks for the seeds btw, I received them in the mail and can’t wait to try them out in the warmer months.

  • Linda May 18, 2013, 1:56 pm

    Ps I would love you to do a post on how you organise/store your seeds. I get in such a muddle with seeds I’ve saved. I need a system.

  • Katie May 18, 2013, 4:51 pm

    They look yummy. I don’t know what I’d do with 60 so I will reduce the quantities. I don’t have lemons yet but my neighbour has given me lots and it would be nice to give him some little cheesecakes as he has also given me a ton of passionfruit. Hopefully next year I’ll have my own glut of both and we can feed the whole street.

  • Vanessa May 18, 2013, 7:32 pm

    These sound so easy to make and I looooove lemon tarts and cheesecake. I’ve got a housewarming coming up so I’ll have to give them a try for it. Too bad someone stole my last lemon off the tree last week 🙁

  • Linda May 18, 2013, 7:53 pm

    Katie you may like to adapt the Lemon and Ricotta tart recipe instead. That recipe makes a dozen tarts, a bit bigger and fuller than this one, and not quite as sweet or tart.

  • Linda May 18, 2013, 7:55 pm

    Hi Vanessa, they would be great for a housewarming party. Too bad someone stole your lemon! The cockatoos steal ours, but not till later in the season, so we get a good go at them first.

  • Liz May 18, 2013, 8:17 pm

    Using feta is interesting. I’ve only ever made cheesecake with cream cheese.

  • Louise May 19, 2013, 6:51 pm

    I want one! I also want a lemon glut again. After leaving my Sydney garden I am fruitless ( except for peaches). My little baby citrus are in the ground and if they survive the winter ( it get’s frosty here) then in 2 years I might have a few to pick. Sigh!

  • Marion May 22, 2013, 11:28 am

    I am in the process of making these and having trouble with leaking tarts! If I prick the pastry right through it all runs out the bottom and if I don’t do it enough they are ballooning up. What am I doing wrong? The first batch, while some ran out the bottom, still tasted brilliant. I’ll have to call my lemon crumble. Love the idea of using feta. Thank you! The Reluctant Baker.

  • Linda May 22, 2013, 11:35 am

    Hi Marion,
    I think you are pricking too thoroughly. If i just prick them, the pricks close up in the first blind bake so they don’t leak, and the occasional one does balloon up a little but I don’t worry about it – there’s still enough room for the filling. If they really balloon up, you can fill with beans to blind bake, but I find that a pain to empty the beans out again.

  • celia May 29, 2013, 8:10 am

    Perfect party food! So many lemons! Our little tree is only just starting to ripen! (I remember last year or the year before when you had so many lemons that you were using them to clean your sinks! :))

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