Mini Margarita Cheesecakes – Test Run

In preparation for an IDOS sanctioned 3 Pot cookoff, I am doing a test run to see if I can make mini Margarita Cheesecakes in a Lodge drop biscuit cast iron pan. I am using a recipe from one of my favorite Texas Chefs, Jon Bonnell, and will modify it to fit in the Lodge drop biscuit cast iron pan.

There are two rules for the competition that will make it very challenging to prepare mini cheesecakes. First, the rules require that the ingredients cannot be precooked and must be combined, chopped, sliced, or diced during the competition — on site — including garnishes and marinades. So, I need find out how long it will take to prepare the graham cracker crust, lime zest, and garnishes. The other rule that will make this a challenge is that I cannot use any electrical devices. I always use my electric mixer to get the batter nice and creamy and in just a few minutes. Not this time! I have to do mix the batter with my own arm power. I’m going to get a good work out!

Aside from these rules, I also have to complete the dish for presentation to the judges in just three hours. Today’s test run will help me decide if I can do it!

My first task is to create an easy way to remove the mini cheesecakes successfully from the cast iron pan. I am testing out an idea today to use parchment paper cut to fit the drop biscuit pan. To begin, I cut a square piece of parchment about 6×6 inches and then carefully make an outline of the top of the biscuit opening by pressing my scissors around the opening. I then trim away the square about an inch from the circle and then make cuts from the outside of the parchment to the circle so that I can press the parchment into the biscuit opening. My hope is that the parchment will prevent the cheesecake from sticking and will make it easy to remove them from the cast iron.

To prepare the graham cracker crust, I use a small wooden meat hammer to crush the graham crackers then add sugar, butter, and cinnamon. After spooning the crust into the parchment lined drop biscuit pan, I use the spoon to press the crust into the bottom and try to get a little to go up the sides of the pan.

Next comes the upper arm work out. I have let the cream cheese sit out and come to room temperature which will help to make it easier to mix with the other ingredients. I’ve done the same for the eggs so that filling will cook more evenly. It takes a few minutes, but eventually the eggs and cream cheese begin to come together.

I had to take several rest breaks, but eventually I got the eggs and cream cheese to a smooth texture with just a few little bumps. I am not going to attempt to make all of those little bits of cream cheese disappear! Remember, the enemy of good is better and my arms are tired!

Then I add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla, and Margarita mix (no tequila!) and whip everything together, ready to pour into the cast iron biscuit pan.

The filling is ready to be dipped into the pan and go into the oven. The original recipe calls for cooking the cheesecake at 275-degree oven for approximately 3 hours. I am guessing that these mini cheesecakes will be done in half that time.

So far, it has taken me a little more than an hour to get the pan into the oven. I’m going to check them in an hour and 15 minutes, testing to see if the middle is cooked through. If they are done properly and ready to come out of the oven, they will have another hour to chill out before going to the judges table, which means I can make this for the cook off, unless I find another elegant recipe to wow the judges! Now, the final test will be to see if they come out of the cast iron and hold their shape. I’ll post the final results later!

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