Bite-sized doesn’t mean it can’t hold big flavor.
The late Eleanor Ross’ beloved recipe for Mini Cheesecakes proves that.
The matriarch passed on the recipe to her family, including her son, Paul Ross, and his daughter, Sarah, and both Dunmore residents have fond memories associated with the dessert.
“She probably made these more than any other dessert, I’d say,” recalled Paul Ross, who lives in the borough with his wife, Colleen, and has a son, Paul. “She made a lot of great stuff, but they were definitely her specialty.”
Through Local Flavor Gives Back’s Times-Shamrock employee series, Paul Ross – who is advertising director of The Times-Tribune and Access NEPA – earned St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen, Scranton, a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore.
The Mini Cheesecakes recipe was a favorite for the matriarch, who made it for all kinds of special occasions, from holidays to bake sales. She would cover some cheesecakes with blueberry and some with cherry pie filling.
This made it a staple at summer parties like Memorial Day cookouts and Fourth of July barbecues thanks to the dessert’s color scheme.
“She always made sure to keep some plain for me because those are my favorite, but it went with her red, white and blue theme,” said Sarah Ross, who primarily makes the dessert for the family’s get-togethers, bake sales and parties.
The father and daughter said they usually stick to the recipe to the letter and advised bakers to make sure to use aluminum wrappers, never paper, for the hand-held treats. Bakers can use any fruit filling they’d like or keep the cheesecakes plain. Paul Ross suggested bakers be sure the cheesecakes set until firm and are golden brown.
“They’re pretty simple yet delicious,” Paul Ross said. “They’re really great for parties because they’re small. It’s about two bites and you’re done.”
Mini Cheesecakes is just one of the recipes Eleanor Ross passed down. With a part-Italian husband, she learned to make all kinds of Italian recipes, including Easter Pie. She also was known for her stove-top popcorn recipe, a 75-year-old treat passed down through the family. Paul Ross has fond memories of snacking on it through high school and college sports, and the family still has the original pot used to make the popcorn.
“It’s old and flavored with oil and salt and just exactly what you would think a 75-year-old popcorn pot would look like,” he said.
“And we only ever use it for (popcorn),” Sarah Ross added.
While Sarah Ross isn’t into cooking, she is an avid baker. The computer teacher at Mid Valley School District always whips up something, and some of her recent favorites include different kinds of cupcakes, Banana Bread and Blueberry Buckle, a cake studded with blueberries and topped with a sweet cinnamon streusel topping. She’s also happy to be able to try her hand at her grandmother’s recipes, including the Easter Pie.
“We got her recipe out, and it made eight pies,” Sarah Ross said, laughing. “She had everything written out, down to the letter.”
The Rosses are pretty fortunate. It’s no secret that many old family recipes were not written down through the years, or, if they were, they were vague. Thankfully for the family, Eleanor Ross’ recipes were never hard to replicate thanks to her meticulousness, so those cherished dishes live on, just like her memory.
Paul and Sarah Ross’ Mini Cheesecakes
1 package of vanilla wafers
2 packages of cream cheese
3/4 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Fruit pie filling of your choice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with foil cupcake papers. Place whole vanilla wafer on bottom of wrapper -flat side down. In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla until fluffy. Bake for 18 minutes or until light brown and firm. When cool, top with a teaspoon of desired pie filling and serve.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT