Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

I know I shouldn’t be giving you one last item to consider the day before Thanksgiving, but in case you’re still wondering about what to do for your menu, here’s another one I tried this past weekend with success: Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake.

Photo courtesy of epicurious.com

First, let me preface this by saying: I hate pumpkin. Hate. The texture of the uber-sweet, pureed concoction in my mouth is too much for me to take, so whenever I am offered a slice of pumpkin pie, I decline. However, I don’t want to deprive anyone of the traditional pumpkin at the Thanksgiving table, so I compromise with the happy medium of cheesecake.

Note: This recipe was listed with a Caramel-Bourbon Sauce, but since I was serving it at church where there were kids, I omitted the sauce. If you want a substitute, the cheesecake can be topped with a small dollop of whipped cream.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
Courtesy of Bon Appetit

1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted, cooled
3 tablespoons golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
4 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Large pinch of salt

For crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4 inch high sides. Grind first 4 ingredients in processor until nut mixture sticks together. Press evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake crust until golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Wrap outside of pan in triple layer of heavy duty foil.

Not much commentary on this one. Just toss your ingredients into your processor, give them a few whirls and then press into the bottom of your springform pan. After 15 minutes, it comes out looking like this:

And it smells delicious, too.

For filling: Using mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, and lemon peel in large bowl until smooth. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then pumpkin, yogurt, flour, vanilla, spices, and salt. Pour into springform pan.

No rocket science going on here. Just make sure your cream cheese is soft and room temperature before you start, otherwise you’re going to have one hell of a time getting the batter smooth and creamy. If your cream cheese is too cold before you start, you’ll end up with a lumpy cheesecake. Before I start, I like to let the cream cheese sit on the counter, in its packaging, for a couple of hours.

Set springform pan in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cheesecake. Place in oven. Bake until outer 3 inches puff slightly and the center is softly set, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

I didn’t have a roasting pan handy so, as you can see in the picture above, I used a very large frying pan and filled up the sides with water from my teapot. This baked for exactly the 1 hour 15 minutes listed and I didn’t have a single problem with the center sinking. It fluffed up beautifully and stayed that way.

Throughout the baking process, I tried getting some shots of the cheesecake setting and getting fluffy and firm. I’m not so sure that comes through in the pictures, but you can kind of see that it rises and gets fluffy.

Or maybe not.

Cool in water bath for 30 minutes. (That was too much trouble for me, so I shoved ice cubes into the frying pan. SMRT!)

Remove from water. Cut around sides of cake to loosen. Refrigerate in pan until cold, about 4 hours. Cover and chill overnight.

At any rate, this was a decent cheesecake, easily made by anyone who is afraid of baking, and a fun way to present pumpkin for the holiday season. I definitely tasted the pumpkin, though the spices came through beautifully, and the crust jacked up the excitement of the flavors. My favorite bites were ones that had the crust in them.

Happy Thanksgiving and good luck with your menus!

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