Now pumpkin pie is not really at the top of my list of things to make at any time including Thanksgiving. Usually someone is delegated this duty that really likes pumpkin pie. I can make an OK pumpkin pie but personally I am not that crazy about it, it is probably just me and not the pie. Although for me, it is a quest and I like a good challenge. I am just like that. It is the pie that is always leftover in my house (unless a certain relative brings canned mincemeat in a store bought crust that my husband feels obliged to have a piece so as not to have hurt feelings). However if I make a pumpkin cheesecake that is a whole different event. The one I made for this blog was intended to be frozen until T-day. That didn't happen. The cheesecake-ivores got loose and found it before I was even aware. Like a flash it was gone. I was stunned. You think I am kidding. Who the hell can eat a whole cheesecake and still get through the doorway. To be fair, I am almost certain it wasn't just one person.
Tips for a successful cheesecake (that is one without cracks! Everything else about a cheesecake is fairly easy):
Allow all ingredients to come to room temperature. I usually leave the cream cheese and eggs out overnight. My house is usually 60 degrees at night.
Don't whip the batter! This incorporates tiny air bubbles that expand and the top of the cheese cake cracks while baking. I always like the idea of a fluffy cheesecake and it took me a while to figure this one out. Food science at its best! Stir to incorporate the ingredients.
If cooked at 350 degrees, cook in a water bath for even baking. Keeping the internal temperature of the cheesecake even and not too high is key for a crackless cheesecake. Cooking at 325 degrees for a little longer will work also.
Another method of baking that has always worked for me. It takes more time but you can put those oven timers to good use. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cheesecake on a sheet pan (no water bath needed) and bake in the oven for 20 minutes then reduce the oven temperature down to 200 degrees and continue baking for 2 hours. Now turn the oven off and set the timer for another 2 hours and let the cheesecake remain in the oven. Resist the temptation of opening the door. Take it out and let it come to room temperature and put the cheesecake in the frig overnight or freeze it. Now I recognize this cooking method takes a long time but it is worth it if you can find the time.
Batter is smooth and thick.
Crust pressed down in the springform pan.
I love how you can see the specks of spices and the lovely light orange color!
Voila! A delicious slice of cheesecake.
makes up to 16 slices
40 gingersnap wafers (should equal 2 cups of fine crumbs after processing)
3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
32 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup of sugar, (option is to use 1/2 light brown & 1/2 white sugar)
3 tablespoon of maple syrup (I used grade B, more flavor less sugar)
4 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoon of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
1/4 cup of heavy cream
Whipped Cream Topping
1 pint of whipping cream
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or real cinnamon extract
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 cup of crystallized ginger, chopped fine (don't skip this unless you just have to!)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
For the crust:
Place the cookies and sugar in the food processor and process until the crumbs are uniform. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the butter until well combined. Mixture should hold together when you squeeze a handful. Place into a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan and tamp down with your palm, flat bottom of a glass or bottom of a dry measuring cup. Work some of the crumbs up the side. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool while making filling.
For the filling:
Beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and maple syrup and mix until combined. Add eggs one at a time, completely blending in each one. Mix the flour, spices and salt together and add. Stir for a couple of seconds. Add vanilla, cream and pumpkin and stir until just mixed well. Now choose your cooking method. I do both and they both result in a delicious and creamy cheesecake. It is all about the cracks!
Cooking method #1
Start heating water in a kettle. Put foil on bottom of cheesecake pan (this is easier before you put the batter in) covering 3 inches or higher up the sides and place into a large roasting pan. Place pan on center rack in the preheated oven to 350 degrees and then pour in the boiling water half way up the side of the cheesecake pan but not above the foil line. Bake for 1 hour and 35 minutes to 1 hour and 45 minutes. The cheesecake should have a slight jiggle in the center. Remove from the oven and run a thin, sharp knife around the pan and cheesecake. This is to ensure as the cake cools it won't stick to the sides and create cracks. Although for me, this method seems to always have some minor cracks, but that is what toppings are for!
Cooking method #2
Place cheesecake on a baking pan. Place in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and leave in for 2 hours. Now turn the oven off and leave in for another two hours. At this point is should not have a slight jiggle like the previous method. Remove from the oven and slide a thin, sharp knife around the edges to the cheesecake, so it won't stick and crack as it cools. Allow to come to room temperature and place in the refrigerator overnight.
For the whipped cream:
Whip the cream with a whisk (with a mixer or by hand) until it is thick. Add sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and whisk until stiff peaks. Place a dollop onto each cheesecake slice and sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger (you could mix it into the cream but it is much prettier on top).
Note: This cheesecake (or any cheesecake) can be made in advance and frozen making baking for the holidays or any event just a little easier. Place in the freezer instead of the refrigerator. Thawing should take about two days in the refrigerator. Slow thawing = less condensation.
Enjoy! Happy Holidays!