Since we are first time Thanksgiving hosts, I want to test new recipes before the big day to make sure they meet my expectations. I've been searching high (online) and low (magazines & cookbooks) for anything that seems like it fits my vision. I found a dessert recipe to test when I was looking through my latest Bon Appetit magazine (Thanksgiving issue). It was a recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake.
I wouldn't call myself a cheesecake person. Do I like cheesecake? Sure, it's fine. But out of a dessert line up, I would almost never choose it. I'm more of a chocolate person. There was just something about the simplicity of this recipe--likely combined with my my new found love of pumpkin--that made me instantly tear it out of the magazine so I could round up the ingredients.
Cheesecake makes me think of my dad--a lover of cheesecake and unexpected baker. Before the Cheesecake Factory was in this area, he sought one out while we were on vacation. We ordered a few light appetizers, saving our appetites for dessert. We chose the flavors of cheesecake we wanted to try; we ended up creating a small assortment of desserts to sample. I remember when the thick slices of perfectly baked cheesecake came out to our table, my mom's eyes grew wide at their height and decadence. We are a family who appreciate food for it's flavor and presentation so at the time these cheesecakes were extremely impressive.
Most people wouldn't really expect my dad to be someone who bakes, but he does, mostly around the holidays. When I brought my Pumpkin Cheesecake to their house this past Sunday, my father quietly inspected it and said, "That looks great, Jen."
And when I expressed my concern about how high the center had rose in the middle while baking and then sank down and slightly cracked when cooling, he said, "They do that--they rise up and then the center falls. It looks great."
It wasn't the perfectly proportioned cheesecake like we ate at the Cheesecake Factory--but I had my father's seal of approval, and it was better than any cheesecake I'd ever eaten.
recipe adapted from a Philadelphia cream cheese advertisement
My husband told me that he thinks we could have reduced the amount of "sinkage" of the middle by cooling down the cheesecake more slowly. I did a little research about that and decided to trust Ina's recommendation. In a recipe for a chocolate cheesecake, she baked it for 1 hour and then turned the oven off and let the cheesecake sit in the oven with the door slightly open for 1.5 hours. If you have that kind of time, then I would definitely try that method and see how it goes. Ina is rarely wrong!
Ingredients for the crust
38 ginger snaps
1/4 cup pecans
1/4 cup melted butter
Spray a 9 inch springform pan with non-stick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Add ginger snaps, pecans, and melted butter to a food processor. Pulse until ingredients are in small crumbs but will slightly hold together when pinched with your fingers. Dump out the mixture into the pan and with your fingertips press onto the bottom and up 1 inch of the side. (See picture above) When you are finished, refrigerate while making the filling.
Ingredients for the filling
4 packages (8 oz each) of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Beat cream cheese and sugar on medium with a mixer until well blended. Add pumpkin, spices, and vanilla and mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing after each. Pour mixture into crust. Bake 80 minutes to 90 minutes or until the center is almost set (it may still slightly jiggle). Remove from oven and run a knife around the edge to loosen from the side of the pan. Cool before removing the rim.
Refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.
Optional: Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg or cinnamon. (Personally, I thought it was rich enough as it was!)