Giant Eagle had their navel oranges on sale this week and you know how I love a recipe that uses sale ingredients! These muffin-sized cheesecakes are perfect for a little bit of a super rich dessert. Orange juice and zest give the filling a bright, sunshiney flavor. The sour cream topping is loaded with mixed berries. The orange cranberry crust ties together both of these fruity layers.
The word ‘orange’ is derived from the Sanskrit word for orange tree, नारङ्ग or nāraṅga. It is believed that oranges originated in southern China and northeastern India and that they were fist cultivated by the Chinese around 2500 BC. In the late 15th century, Portuguese and Italian merchants introduced sweet orange trees to the Mediterranean. Sweet oranges were a luxury item and the wealthy grew them in private conservatories known as orangeries. Spanish travelers would eventually bring sweet orange trees to South America, Mexico, Florida, Arizona and California. The French also introduced oranges to Louisiana. European travelers continued to plant orange trees along their routes after discovering that vitamin C-rich oranges kept well and helped prevent scurvy.
There are about a billion kinds of oranges and I won’t list them all here. I used navel oranges in this recipe. The first navel orange is believed to have been produced by a Brazilian tree in the early 1800s. All modern navel oranges can essentially be considered clones of the original tree, which had a rare mutation. Due to their thicker, easy to peel skins and juiciness, navel oranges are mainly cultivated for human consumption. Their bitterness makes them a poor candidate for use in juices.
The highest grade of orange recognized by the USDA is ‘Fancy.’ I just think that’s exciting. For information about how to zest and juice citrus fruits, check out my post for Lemon Custard Cakes with Herbs de Provence Glaze.
Other orange-centric recipes:
Berry Orange Baby Cheesecakes
Orange Cranberry Cookie Crust:
2/3 cup Belvita cranberry orange-flavored cookie crumbs (8 cookies)*
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
*If you can’t find these cookies, sub an equal amount of shortbread cookie crumbs plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped dried cranberries and ¼ teaspoon orange extract.
Orange Cheesecake Filling:
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ cup orange juice (You’ll need about 1 large orange for the zest and juice.)
2 large eggs, room temperature
Mixed Berry Sour Cream Topping:
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mixed berries, finely chopped (Leave a couple tiny berries or berry halves to achieve the look pictured here. Press with paper towels to remove most of the excess liquid. I recommend chopping the berries instead of pureeing them because this will make it easier to control the moisture level.)
¼ cup sugar
Preheat oven to 325°F and place rack in center of oven.
Line 12-cup muffin tin with papers.
Combine all crust ingredients.
Divide mixture evenly among muffin cups and press down.
In a separate large bowl, beat cream cheese on medium low until creamy and smooth. (Using cream cheese right of the fridge makes for a sad baker.)
Add sugar, orange zest, orange juice and salt.
Beat on low until just combined. (After each addition, beat for just enough time to combine the ingredients. Overbeating the cheesecake batter makes for a sad cheesecake.)
Add eggs one at a time, beating on low after each addition until just combined.
Spoon mixture evenly into each muffin cup.
Bake for 20 minutes and prepare sour cream topping.
Combine all topping ingredients.
After cheesecakes have baked for 25 minutes, remove from oven and immediately spoon on topping.
Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until tops are set. (The center will be firm but will jiggle slightly when the pan is moved.)
Remove from oven and allow cheesecakes to cool in pan for a few minutes.
Remove cheesecakes to wire rack and allow to cool completely.