Pumpkin Cheesecake

Thanksgiving is primarily about giving thanks, of course, but it’s also about enjoying certain foods and flavors that only seem “right” this time of year. Pumpkin is at the top of my fall list. I love pumpkin pie, and I make these super yummy Muirhead Pumpkin Pecan Butter bars every year, but I wanted to try something new. I decided to give Pumpkin Cheesecake from the November 2004 issue of Everyday Food a whirl.

Usually, if I make cheesecake, it’s either baked in a hot water bath or made tart-style in a removable-bottom tart tin. This recipe called for baking the cheesecake, turning the oven off, and then leaving the cheesecake in the oven 2 hours before completely cooling it. I was curious to see how the texture would differ from my normal methods.

I started by making the crust. I ground up 10 whole graham crackers in my food processor and then mixed the crumbs in a bowl with some butter and sugar. I pressed that into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan and baked it at 350 F for 10 minutes.

Next, I made the filling. The recipe calls for the cream cheese to be very soft and for the eggs to be room temperature, so I let those ingredients sit on the counter for about 90 minutes before starting the cheesecake. I used a hand mixer to beat the cream cheese and some sugar until smooth; that was followed by a little flour. Next, I added pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and salt. Finally, I added the eggs one at a time, mixing until each was incorporated before adding the next.

I put the springform pan with the baked crust on a rimmed baking sheet and poured in the filling. I smoothed the top over a bit and put it in the oven. The crust had baked at 350 F, and the instructions at this point were to reduce the oven heat to 300 F for 45 minutes. When that time had passed, I turned the oven off and let the cheesecake sit inside for 2 hours.

After I took it out, I let the cheesecake sit on a cooling rack for about 2 more hours. When bedtime hit, I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. The next evening, I took it out before our guests arrived, released the sides of the springform pan, and cut it using the dental floss technique from my previous post.

pumpkin_cheesecake_with_floss.jpg pumpkin_cheesecake_cut.jpg

This cheesecake is really good. I’m actually kind of sad that Dr. O and I will be flying home so late the night before Thanksgiving. If I had the evening to cook, I would definitely make this for my family.

In terms of texture, this is lighter than most of the other cheesecakes I’ve made. The water-bath technique seems to make a denser cheesecake, and this has more of a whipped texture. Add a second member of the “whipped family” – whipped cream, of course! – and you’re set. Tasty.

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TIPS: Start to finish, the cheesecake takes 8 hours. Actual prep time is only 30 minutes, though, which isn’t bad. I usually plan to make a cheesecake the night before I want to serve it, since cool times do tend to be long.

To prevent the top of the cheesecake from cracking, you want to make sure you don’t overmix the batter as you’re adding each new group of ingredients. Mix just until things are combined. Also, make sure you don’t open the oven to peek at the cheesecake during the two hours when the oven is off. It’s tempting, but just turn on the oven light to see how things are doing.

I did struggle a bit with getting the crust out of the pan in one piece. The first piece usually isn’t beautiful, no matter what you’re making, but it took me three good tries to dish one out that was photo-worthy. I think I’ll try a small metal spatula next time instead of a butter knife. (Butter knife? Clearly, the wine had gone to my head.) 🙂

Recipe link: Pumpkin Cheesecake

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