Here’s what you will need:
1½ cups crushed graham crackers
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
3 packs (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3 large eggs
1 whole vanilla bean, seeded (or 2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring)
24 mason jars (4 ounce size)
Let’s get baking.
In a medium bowl, combine crushed graham crackers, sugar, and butter. Press two large spoonfuls into each jar. Use a cork, or something similar, to press the mixture tightly into the jar. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Slowly pour in the condensed milk. Beat until smooth. (It’s important that there are no lumps.)
Next, add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. (I really like using the vanilla bean seeds versus vanilla extract. I love seeing the black specs in cheesecake.)
Now scoop the batter into the jars until each three-quarters full. That’s about 3 large spoonfuls per jar.
Place the jars into two 13×9″ baking pans. Twelve jars per pan. Then fill the pans with hot water. (The water level will be about halfway up the jars.)
Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes. You’ll want to remove the cheesecakes from the oven before any browning occurs.
Carefully remove the pans from the oven. (The pans and the water will be very hot.) Using a towel or oven mitt, remove the jars from the water and allow them to cool completely.
Once cooled, add any topping you like. I used cherry pie filling and caramel.
Now that the cheesecakes are ready, let’s make some chocolate garnishes!
You’ll need about 1 cup chocolate melting wafers.
Line your counter or a baking tray with waxed paper. In a small microwave-safe bowl, microwave chocolate for 30 seconds. Stir, then microwave again for 20 – 30 seconds. Continue microwaving and stirring until the chocolate is melted. (If you prefer, you can use the double boiler method to melt the chocolate.)
Place chocolate in a heavy resealable plastic bag. Snip off a very small piece from one corner. Then pipe your trees or stars onto the wax paper. Be sure to make your lines thick so they won’t easily break after hardening. If you’d like, sprinkle with jimmies before they set. Chill, and then remove from the wax paper.
That’s it. Place your chocolate garnishes on your mini cheesecakes and they are ready to serve.