I realize Easter is over, but maybe this will give someone an idea for next year. A week or so ago, I baked an Apples and Creme Kadayif, and since Easter was coming up, working with the Kadayif dough made me think about the grass that goes in Easter baskets, so it occurred to me to make a nest out of the dough, which I posted as an option for serving up your eggs. I thought it would be cute if each person had a little nest on their salad/bread plate holding their egg. I mentioned in that post that I probably couldn't get away with pre-plating the eggs because of the whole egg war thing and how everyone has to pick their own. Knowing that I needed to make a few desserts, one of which was a cheesecake requested by one of my nephews, my brain wandered in this direction.
I started by making the shells in a muffin pan with large cups. If you live in an area where there is a large population of Armenians, Greeks, Lebanese, etc., you might be able to find the dough in your grocery store next to the Phyllo Dough. Otherwise, your best option is a Middle Eastern bakery or restaurant. Shred one package of dough into a very large bowl, then melt 2 sticks of butter, pour most of it over the dough and rub it in with your fingers. Use the remaining butter to grease your muffin pan.
Put some of the dough into each muffin cup, then set a small ovenproof prep bowl or ramekin in the center of each and fill around it with as much dough as will fit. You don't want it to be too thin, or it will break when you try to get it out of the pan.
Set them in the oven at 350, and when the edges start to brown, take the pan out and remove the little bowls. I used a fork to lift one edge, then picked them out with a potholder, but you might want to use a pair of tweezers or pliers - whatever you're comfortable with. You want to start them off with the bowls in place so they don't puff up too much. You want to make sure you have room for your cheesecakes when they're done.
Once the bowls have all been removed, pop the tray back in the oven until they are golden. While they are baking, make a simple syrup of 1c sugar and 1/2 c water. Bring it up to a boil and let it bubble for about one minute to thicken, then remove from the heat. When the nests come out of the oven, spoon some of the syrup over each. Like with Paklava, I like to do this a day ahead of time if I can, so they have a chance to dry out somewhat. I want them to be sweet, but not too sticky.
I popped them all out of the pan, washed the pan, then lined each cup with a strip of waxed paper and put them back in. The theory behind that was more about travel than anything since we were supposed to be celebrating Easter elsewhere this year, but you might want to do the same just to shield them until you're ready for them and to keep them together. The strips were so that when I filled them, I would be able to lift them out of the cups without damaging them.
Next I baked the cheesecakes in the same prep bowls I used to form the nests. I used someone else's recipe, so I'm not posting that, but because there was more batter than what I needed for these six little cups, I went ahead and made a small Sunflower Cheesecake with the rest (I put the Peeps on backwards - oops). If you don't mind wasting, or have an idea for what to do with the scraps, I'm sure if you have a biscuit cutter to accommodate the space you have in your nest, you could bake a cheesecake in a casserole dish or cake pan and just cut out some rounds. I figured since I wasn't using a spring-form pan and the prep bowls couldn't possibly leak, I'd try baking them in a water bath. I don't have enough cheesecake experience to have noticed if it made a difference, but some say it does. I'm glad the pan I sat them in was a relatively close fit since I wasn't expecting them to float like they did.
OK, so I did all of that early on Saturday, then later that evening, I lined and filled my nests. I started that by making a thin chocolate ganache with 3 oz of milk chocolate and slightly more heavy cream. I brought the cream to a boil, then chopped and poured in the chocolate and stirred until smooth. I brushed a layer of the chocolate on the inside of all the nests, then popped them in the fridge to set. I normally wouldn't do that with Paklava or Kadayif, but I can be inpatient at times and wanted to get to the raspberry layer so I could pop in the cheesecakes.
We had some seedless raspberry jam in the fridge, so I scooped some into one of those teeny tiny egg pans you would use to fry a single egg. To give it some body, I added a little confectioner's sugar and a drizzle of heavy cream and heated it just to smooth it all out. You don't want it to be so hot that it melts your chocolate layer, so you might want to let it cool a bit. I scooped some into the bottom of each, then used a pastry brush to coat the inside.
I didn't want the cheesecakes to just push the raspberry filling down, so I popped the tray back in the fridge for a while to set, then dropped in the cheesecakes. A few of them didn't want to come out of their little bowl, so I ran the bottoms under hot water for a few seconds and they came right out.
I set them in the fridge overnight and was going to dress them after dinner, along with a few other desserts. As it turned out, someone needed to leave early, so I kinda rushed to throw them together at the last minute and forgot about the jellybeans. :(
A friend had turned me on to the marshmallow braids you can find at various dollar stores. That's what I used for the handles, then I stood a chocolate bunny in each, added a mini Cadbury Creme Egg, then Cadbury Mini Chocolate Eggs, Easter M&Ms, Reese's Pieces Eggs (and the missing jellybeans).