Monday, November 1, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

Over the years, we’ve developed a tradition when my mother-in-law comes to visit from Wisconsin bearing brats and cheese. It started out with just us and my parents and has grown into a full Bratfest. Since she came to visit this weekend, we prepped the house, invited some friends over, and stocked the fridge with beer for a full-blown party. Our cat loves when people come to visit him, so he was waiting patiently for everyone to show up.


Usually we ask people to bring sides and dessert, but I spotted a chance to break in my brand-new stand mixer. After browsing through recipes for layer cakes and perusing baking blogs, it hit me. A pumpkin cheesecake would be the perfect addition to our Bratfest. The only problem is that I had never made a cheesecake before, a minor detail in my mind.

Thursday night, I tackled the cheesecake, carefully pressing the graham cracker crust into place in my virgin 9” springform pan, pressing the water out of canned pumpkin, and letting that stand mixer go to town on the cream cheese. At the same time, I had Creamy Curried Butternut Squash Soup in the slow-cooker and was whipping up some beer bread. This, unfortunately, made things a little complicated. When it rose, the beer bread was caught on the broiler, and I kept having to open the oven while the cheesecake was in there to deal with the beer bread. After the cheesecake was finished, there was the beginning of a crack that started to spread across the top. Fortunately, I had whipped cream leftover, and, never one to let a chance to use that beautiful stand mixer go to waste, I whipped it right up and spread it over the top.

The cheesecake itself was delicious, like pumpkin pie in cheesecake form. Everyone at Bratfest enjoyed it, and even though it was rich, it tasted light and creamy on the tongue. I foresee more cheesecakes in my future, as long as I have friends to help me eat them!


Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
source: Annie’s Eats

For the crust:
5 oz. graham crackers, broken into large pieces
3 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
1 1/3 cups (10 1/3 oz.) sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325˚ F and place an oven rack in the lower-middle position.  Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan tightly with two pieces of foil.  Spray the inside of the pan lightly with cooking spray.  To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and spices in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to process until evenly and finely ground.  Add the melted butter to the bowl and pulse again until the crumbs are evenly moistened.  Transfer the crumbs to the prepared springform pan and press firmly into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake until fragrant and browned at the edges, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 30 minutes.  Set the pan inside a larger roasting pan.

Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil; maintain at a simmer.  To make the filling, combine the sugar, spices and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend and set aside.  Line a work surface with a triple layer of towels.  Spread the pumpkin on the towels and cover with a second triple layer of towels.  Press firmly until the towels are saturated with excess liquid.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and softened, about 1 minute.  Add about a third of the sugar-spice mixture to the bowl and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed and repeat, adding the remaining sugar mixture in two additions.  Add the pumpkin puree, vanilla and lemon juice; beat at medium speed until blended, about 45 seconds.  Add 3 of the eggs and mix on medium-low until incorporated; repeat with the remaining two eggs.  Add the heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds.  Use a rubber spatula to give the mixture a final stir by hand.

Pour the filling into the springform pan, over the crust.  Smooth the top.  Pour enough simmering water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.  Bake until the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken and the center reads 150˚ F on an instant-read thermometer, about 90 minutes.  Transfer the roasting pan to a wire rack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes.  Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake.  Cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.

To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan.  Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen.  Transfer to a serving platter.  Garnish with candied pecans and whipped cream as desired.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before slicing and serving.