Monday, November 28, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Thanksgiving. The best day of the year for food. Everyone eats and eats a lot. What isn't to love about that? Here is a small sampling of the goodness that composed our Thanksgiving dinner this year:

My contribution: Pumpkin Cheesecake. 

I am a baker at heart and I absolutely love cheesecake in nearly every form. Combine that with pumpkin? You definitely can't go wrong there. 

This is a pretty intensive recipe with a lot of steps, but I assure you that it is worth every minute of your time. This is the second time I made this and it was just as good as the last one. My family quickly requested that this be my contribution to Christmas dinner as well. 

Make this and all your cheesecake and pumpkin dreams will come true.

Side note: I experienced Williams Sonoma for the first time ever this last weekend. I was like a little kid at Christmas. I would buy the whole store if I could. Hopefully I will have a cookbook or two from Williams Sonoma in a little less than a month...(hint hint, Hunter, haha).

Yield: however many pieces you decide to cut it into

For the crust:
5 oz graham crackers (1 package), broken up
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 (15 oz) can pumkpin puree
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon juice
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees 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 (I used 4 and it still leaked - more on that later). Spray the inside of the pan with cooking spray. To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and spices in a bowl. Stir until well mixed. Add the melted butter and stir until evenly coated. Transfer the crumbs to the prepared springform pan and press firmly into an even layer. Bake until fragrant and browned at the edges, about 15 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes.

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 towls are saturated with excess liquid.

Beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and softened. Add about 1/3 of the sugar spice mixture to the bowl and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated. 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. Add 3 of the eggs and mix on medium-low until incorporated, repeat with the remaining 2 eggs. Add the heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined. Use a rubber spatula to give the mixture a final stir by hand.

Pour the filling into the prepared 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 (I only put in enough to go up as high as the aluminum foil because my pan leaks, even with 4 layers of foil. Don't worry, I learned this the hard way. Check it halfway through the baking process and add more water if needed.) Bake until the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken, about 90 minutes. Transfer the roasting pan to a wire rack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and run a 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 and slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Note: I have a $6.00 hand mixer that has about 1 speed. It works great through this whole process, just make sure you reach the consistency mentioned in the recipe.

Source: Slightly adapted from Annies Eats, originally from Williams Sonoma

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