I like making cheesecakes and I use cream cheese in other baking too, but generally speaking, I don’t like to eat cream cheese. I don’t schmear it on my bagels and I don’t usually eat cheesecake since I find some to be too "cream cheesy". About 10 years ago, after a fabulous meal at Postrio, we ordered the dessert sampler. If memory serves me, there was ice cream, chocolate cake, huckleberry tart and pumpkin cheesecake in the sampler that evening. My husband tasted the pumpkin cheesecake and told me that I might like it since it wasn’t too "cream cheesy". So I hesitantly took a tiny taste and another and another. It was the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten! I could hardly taste any of that "cream cheesiness" that I don't like. Maybe it was masked by the pumpkin and the spices? Well, anyway, I’ve never forgotten that wonderful pumpkin cheesecake.
When cream puff Ivonne suggested that a few of us food bloggers do a cross-post featuring a recipe from Tish Boyle’s "The Cake Book", I was pretty excited that we decided on the creamy pumpkin cheesecake with a ginger-pecan crust. I mean, there are a lot of great recipes in this cookbook, but this particular recipe brought back memories of that Postrio cheesecake.
Despite popular belief, cheesecakes are actually pretty simple to make. All you really need is cream cheese, sugar and eggs. Even crust is optional if your custard (yes, cheesecake is technically a custard) is firm enough. But why wouldn’t you want to have a crust? This cheesecake’s crust is made from pastry dough as opposed to the more typical cookie crumb crust. The crust, with its combination of pecans and crystallized ginger, pairs exceptionally well with the slightly spicy pumpkin custard filling. I always bake my cheesecake in a water bath (or bain marie). The water protects the custard from cooking too quickly and ensures even, gentle baking throughout. The resulting filling is creamy and smooth. And, as an added benefit, cracking is never an issue.
The author says that this cheesecake is a "wonderful alternative to the pumpkin pie" served at Thanksgiving. Personally, I see nothing wrong with serving both pie and cheesecake for dessert! Thanks to Tish Boyle for a great recipe and make sure to visit Peabody, Kate and Ivonne to see their yummy cheesecakes.
Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake with Ginger-Pecan Crust
(makes one 9-inch cheesecake)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup (40g) chopped crystallized ginger
1/3 cup (54g) pecans
1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, cold & cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tbsp cold water
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 lbs (567g) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 large eggs, at room temp.
To make the crust
Position oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x3 inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan with 2-3 layers of aluminum foil.
Place the flour, sugar, salt, ginger, and pecans in the bowl of a food processor. Process until the pecans are finely ground. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the cold water slowly until the dough just comes together. Press the dough into the bottom of your prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust just starts to brown. Cool crust completely on a wire rack.
To make the filling
Reduce oven temperature to 325F. In a bowl, whisk together pumpkin, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat on low speed until smooth. Mix in the pumpkin mixture, then add the cornstarch and mix until just blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and do a final mix by hand to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Pour the filling in the cooled crust. Set the still wrapped springform pan in a large roasting pan. Carefully pour enough hot water into the large pan to come 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes until the center is set but still a bit wobbly.
Remove cheesecake from water bath to a cooling rack. Carefully remove the foil and run a thin knife tip around the edge of the cake. This will loosen the cake and help prevent the top from cracking. Cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate the cooled cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving.