Way before college, back in elementary school, I was already a budding science nerd. But my fascination with science was on a larger scale (as opposed to my college focus on molecular and cell biology), leaning more towards things that could be seen by the naked eye, like animals, plants, the rainforest, and fossils. One topic that really captured my attention was outer space. I was obsessed with anything and everything related to it: the stars, the moon, planets, black holes, comets, etc.
Today's post is inspired by that childhood interest in outer space. Beyond science, stars in particular were interesting to me as they formed bright connect-the-dot images in the night sky, appealing to my visual nature. Moreover, tying in Greek and Roman mythology, each constellation has its own story, which made them all the more fascinating. Thus, I really wanted to base a baking project on constellations. Since blueberries go so well with cheesecake, I thought I could play around with a recipe and make something constellation related with a blueberry glaze acting as the night sky.
What I ended up with was this recipe. They're basically simple mini cheesecakes, but instead of baking them in muffin liners, I made them in mini tart pans, forming cheesecake tarts (which also increases the crust to filling ratio, and as I've mentioned before, I'm a crust person). I strained my preserves and added a bit of gelatin to the jam glaze so that it would set smoothly, giving me a flat surface to decorate. And finally, I made many little white chocolate stars to place on top of each cheesecake in the form of a variety of constellations, completing my constellation cheesecake tarts.
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the sugar. Add the melted butter and mix. The crust mixture should have the texture of wet sand. Take the mixture and press into tart pans sprayed with nonstick spray. Preheat oven to 375°F.
For small tarts, I used 3-inch diameter tart pans (9th item down on left in link), like the ones used for egg tarts. If you choose to skip the crust on the rim, and use 2 1/2 tbsp crust mixture in each cup. If you want the rim crust, use 3 tbsp crumb mixture in each cup. (It's up to you whether you want that rim crust or not. It can be a bit difficult to press the mixture into a crust on such a small cup, so if you want the easier way, skip the rim crust.)
For large tarts, I used aluminum pot pie pans
2 packages (16 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix cream cheese with sugar. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. Bake tarts for 20-30 minutes. They're ready once the filling is set.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. (Don't worry if the filling puffs up in the oven. It'll fall back down once cooled. And cracks will be covered up by the glaze.)
Decorating the Tarts
1 cup strained blueberry preserves
2 tbsp hot water
1/2 tbsp gelatin
a few drops blue food coloring
Put the strained preserves in a small saucepan. Add 1 tbsp water to the preserves. Mix in the food coloring so the preserves are more blurple than reddish purple. In a separate bowl, mix the gelatin and 1 tbsp water together so that all the gelatin grains are wet.
Place the saucepan over low heat. Add the wet gelatin. Heat the mixture until all the gelatin is dissolved. Then remove from heat. Let cool a few minutes to slightly thicken. Pour the glaze over each cheesecake tart and use a spoon to spread the glaze so that all the cream cheese is covered and only the crust is visible.
Cool the glazed cheesecakes in the refrigerator a few hours for the glaze to set.
White Chocolate Stars
white chocolate (or white candy melts)
Melt your white chocolate. Place a dot of white chocolate on a piece of parchment paper. Quickly, use the toothpick to push the dot of chocolate in five directions to form the five arms of the star as shown in the illustration above. Allow to dry. Lightly press on the back of the parchment paper to release the stars for use.
glazed cheesecake tarts
white chocolate stars
Place stars on the glazed cheesecakes like in the illustration above. If you don't position it exactly as you want it, take a toothpick and lightly push on the side of a star to move it around. (For large tarts, use the first photo in this post with the little and big dipper or use multiple constellations of your own choice).
Once the stars are positioned, melt the white chocolate and use a toothpick to draw the lines between the stars with the melted chocolate. Finally, take the leftover stars and place them randomly on each cheesecake to fill the empty space.
Makes 14-16 small cheesecake tarts or 8-9 large cheesecake tarts