The pickle man

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I bought my first LSU shirt yesterday afternoon.  I've always liked the tigers -- it's part of living here -- but I never attended LSU, and neither did any of my 4 siblings, or my husband, so I never really got around to buying a shirt.  But yesterday, we were invited to watch "the game of the century" with some friends.  And since the last time they had us over, I (inadvertently) dressed my son in the opposing team's colors, I decided to go shopping. That way, no one would make him stand on the porch if LSU happened to get behind.

I also brought this:

The game was amazing, and the dessert was pretty good, too.

The best part of this cheesecake might be the crust.  When reading over cheesecake recipes (all of which seemed to use a graham cracker crust), I thought, why not ginger snaps?  Same cookie crunch, but lots more fall flavors.

 Start with 20 gingersnaps in the bowl of a food processor (3/4 cup crumbs - if you use smaller cookies, it will take more -- and about that, this was MUCH better when I used Anna's ginger thins instead of the thicker cookies shown here). Pulse until they turn into fine crumbs.  Then add 1/2 cup pecans. 
Pulse again.
And add 1/4 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar.
And add 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted and cooled butter.

Then, have your adorable son grease the bottom and sides of a spring-form pan.  This boy LOVES butter.

Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan.  Then make the filling.

Blend until smooth, then pour into the springform pan.
 Don't worry if the cheesecake splits.  Mine ALWAYS seems to.  But the topping more than makes up for it -- whipped cream sweetened and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Here's the recipe (adapted significantly from Smitten Kitchen)
Note: this recipe is not difficult, but it gets lots of bowls dirty... so clear out your dishwasher before you get started.

For the crust:
3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs (20 cookies - Anna's Ginger Thins are the absolute BEST for this)
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted and cooled butter

Combine first four ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  Add melted butter.  Press into a greased springform pan.

For the filling:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature (this is very important!)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 (14 oz) can pumpkin (1 1/2 cups)
3 eggs at room temperature

Put the cream cheese and sugars in the bowl of a mixer.  Beat on high for 3 - 5 minutes until very smooth.  Add the other ingredients in the order listed, beating well after each addition.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
Pour this into the springform pan on top of the crust.  Bake at 350 for 50 minutes, then turn off the oven BUT DON'T OPEN it.  Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for at least an hour (I always let mine stay there overnight).  Remove and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Bring to room temperature before serving (and topping).

*I still have trouble with this cake splitting.  I have tried putting a pan of water underneath it in the oven, and decreasing the temperature by 5 - 10 degrees, with occasional success.  Thank goodness for the topping, which hides the cracks!

For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream, whipped until stiff peaks form
3 Tablespoons powdered sugar OR 3 tablespoons real maple syrup (did this the last time and it was an amazing change)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger

Blend the sugar and spices into the whipped cream, scraping down the bowl frequently.  Either serve alongside the cheesecake in a bowl or pipe on top of the cheesecake (if you are worried about unsightly cracks).

This would be perfect for a different Thanksgiving dessert.  Enjoy!

*A note about ingredients: lots of people ask me about what brands I buy for this cheesecake.  The only ones that seem to make a difference are the gingersnaps (I love Anna's Ginger Thins) and the cream cheese.  I buy Philadelphia for this.  I think the generic brand has too much water, so it doesn't have as smooth of a texture.  I also do not toast the pecans first (as I do in most desserts) because they get plenty brown while the cake cooks.  Also, if you do substitute maple syrup for powdered sugar in the topping, make sure to use the real stuff, not maple-flavored corn syrup :)  Happy Turkey Day!

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