Tuesday, 15 January 2013

SPICED PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE with ORANGE-GINGERSNAP CRUST



Mr Cardinal, what do you think of my pumpkin cheesecake?  Is it rich, sweet and moist, with a velvety cream cheese softness and with pumpkin and cinnamon-spice overtones?  Is it all that and more, is it exactly what a pumpkin cheesecake should look and taste like?  I think Mr Cardinal is saying yes. 
  
Last year this recipe came out kind of mushy. Good taste but mushy texture. Lovely topping, lovely crust, but the pumpkin and cheese part secretly wanted to be soup and were only pretending at being a cheesecake. I learned a valuable lesson: Don't rush when baking. Allow yourself plenty of time. Measure ingredients carefully. And if you only make pumpkin cheesecake once a year like I do, rely on your notes for the recipe and don't try to wing it.  Because if a year has gone by since you last made this, chances are you won't remember what you're supposed to be winging.
  


Ah, the joy a two-year-old brings to one's life...  Gracie and dad Joe are opening up Christmas presents!






Our Layla celebrates her birthday on December 26th.  That's one of the several cakes she got for her 17th birthday.  And my nephew, Alex, would not let go of the Bauer hockey stick I gave him for Christmas.  Had it taped and ready to use.  My brother had to hide it so that we could all sit down to dinner.

Starting as early as late August, a large variety of pumpkin flavoured foods begin to make their appearance.  There's pumpkin coffee, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ice cream or yoghurt, my supermarket even sells pumpkin-and-spice flavoured almonds. But in my opinion, when it comes to pumpkin, nothing beats the comforting and familiar taste of pumpkin cheesecake. I make one either at Thanksgiving or Christmas, perfect times in the year to enjoy the flavour of pumpkin. The recipe I use is one I've stayed with for a long time because it makes a sumptuous, rich, large cheesecake, perfect to enjoy with company. It has a smooth and velvety texture into which is incorporated the subtle flavour of pumpkin. Complementary spices and an orange flavoured gingersnap crust harmonise together to enhance the taste of the cheesecake. The topping is made with vanilla scented sour cream. What could be better? Here's the recipe:


Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake with Orange-Gingersnap Crust


1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup crushed good quality gingersnap cookies
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the pumpkin cheesecake filling:
2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin (plain pumpkin, not seasoned pie filling)
2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 (8-ounce) packets of cream cheese
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
6 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the sour cream topping:  
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

To make the crust:
  • Plac the rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.  Keep the oven on while making the cake. Have all the ingredients ready and at room temperature.
  • Grease a 9-inch springform pan and wrap the outside well, using 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminium foil.  
  • In a medium-sized bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs, crushed ginger cookies, and melted butter.  (If you like, save about 2 tablespoons of the mixture to use as decoration for the top of the cheesecake). 
  • Press the crumb mixture evenly on the bottom and sides of the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is almost firm when pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool while the filling is being prepared.
To make the filling:
  • Wrap the springform pan base with aluminium foil; the cheesecake will be baked in a water bath, therefore the foil will keep water from entering the pan. 
  • Remove the excess moisture from the pumpkin: line a large colander with several layers of paper towels. Spoon the pumpkin onto the towels. Top with more layers of paper towels and press down to squeeze as much liquid as possible from the pumpkin. Repeat until the pumpkin resembles a paste. 
  • In a microwave safe bowl add the water and over it sprinkle the gelatin. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream and microwave for 1 minute. Make sure the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir again and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a mixer combine the cream cheese, the sugars, the ginger, the cinnamon and the allspice. Beat on low, gradually increasing the speed to medium. Beat for 5 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time, until the mixture is smooth.   
  • Add the pumpkin, beating until incorporated. 
  • Beat in the vanilla and the cream-gelatin mixture.  and the vanilla. Keep beating until everything is mixed well.   
  • Pour the filling into the crust, spreading it evenly. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles. Place in a roasting pan and transfer into the preheated oven. Add hot water to the pan, enough so that it comes about 1 inch up the sides of the (foil covered) springform pan.  
  • Bake for half an hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F and continue baking about 60 minutes longer or until the filling barely jiggles in the centre and springs back when the surface is tapped.
  • Turn off the oven and transfer the cake to a wire rack.  For safety, don't remove the pan from the hot water until the water has cooled down. 
  • Once removed from the water, let the cheesecake stand for 15 minutes and then run a paring knife around its circumference to loosen it from the sides of the pan.  This will help prevent the cheesecake from cracking.  Cover it and let it cool overnight.  
It's Christmas morning, and it's time to put some makeup on this cheesecake!
  • Remove from the springform pan and decorate with the sour cream topping. (Recipe for the topping is below). Additional decorations can be used, such as pecans or cookie crumbs. 
  • To make the sour cream topping:
In a small bowl add the sour cream, the brown sugar and the vanilla.  Mix thoroughly, until the sugar has dissolved and the topping is well blended.

This recipe is based on one from "The All American Dessert Book," by Nancy Bagget © 2005 (pp. 80-82).