Friday, December 24, 2010

day 24 - pumpkin cheesecake

I'm not sure why, but cheesecake isn't my thing.  I know, that and chocolate, how can I survive?  My husband feels the same way... about the how can I survive part, he LOVES cheesecake.  So whenever I really want to get on his good side, I make sure I have a cheesecake waiting for him.  A couple years ago we started a tradition of having Thanksgiving with some friends of mine from college.  We rarely go home for that holiday, and they would always have family come visit.  Of course I brought the desert.  Their number one request? Pumpkin Cheesecake.

So the first year I made one from a recipe they provided, it was good, but still didn't wow me.  One of their family visiting had read a recipe from the Food Network magazine that was a remake of the Cheesecake Factory Pumpkin cheesecake, 2 years ago I tried that one, and I was SOLD!  Delicious.  Now I'm not saying I love all cheesecake, I still don't, but this one, oh man is it good.  This year we didn't spend Thanksgiving with them, and were planning on having a quiet Christmas at home as well, until we got a last minute invitation from them to come over... as long as I could bring Pumpkin Cheesecake again!

Of course I obliged.  This morning I got my ingredients out of the fridge - cream cheese, eggs & sour cream - these had to get to room temperature before I could start the cheesecake.  Once everything was at room temperature, I was able to get started.  First, make the crust.  This is a traditional graham cracker crust, graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and a little sugar all whirled together.  Press this into a springform pan on the bottom and all the way up the sides.  This gets baked for about 15-20 minutes.

While the crust is baking, it is time to mix the filling.  Two whole pounds of cream cheese gets mixed until it is light and fluffy, then over 2 cups of sugar gets added.  Can you tell why this was so good?  Once that is all mixed, in goes a can of pumpkin puree, 6 eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger & cloves.  This gets mixed well.

Once the crust has cooled, you need to line the bottom and half-way up the sides with foil. The foil lined pan then gets placed inside a roasting pan.  Once the filling is mixed, the roasting pan is placed in the oven, the crust is filled with cheesecake filling all the way to the top, then the roasting pan is filled with hot water about half-way up the springform pan.  Sounds complicated, but the moisture from the water will help prevent the cheesecake from cracking after it is baked.

The cheesecake is baked in a 325* oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes.  The filling should be set but still wiggle in the middle.  When the cheesecake is done baking, turn off the oven and open the oven door.  Leave the cheesecake in the oven like this to cool for another hour before removing.  This will also help prevent the cheesecake from cracking.  Once the cheesecake is completely cooled, cover tightly, and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight before eating.

I always feel lucky when I make this cheesecake.  The recipe calls for a 10" pan, mine is 9.5". Doesn't seem like a big difference, but it does mean that the entire recipe will not fit in my pan.  So what am I to do with the leftovers?  I take my muffin pan, line the bottom with the remaining crumb crust, and fill it with the cheesecake.  I bake these in the same oven for only 30 minutes.  When they are cool, run a knife around the edge to loosen, then pop them out.  Of course I had to try one today, just so you could get a picture, and I could remind myself how wonderful this cheesecake really is...

Pumpkin Cheesecake
12 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1/2 c graham cracker crumbs
2 3/4 c sugar
2 lbs cream cheese, softened
1/4 c sour cream
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
6 eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

Preheat oven to 325*F. Stir the crumbs with the melted butter, 1/4 c sugar and a pinch of salt. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, packing it tightly and evenly. Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes.  Cool, then wrap the outside of the pan with foil and place in a roasting pan.  Beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add the remaining 2 1/2 c sugar and beat until just light, scraping down the sides. Beat in the sour cream, then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla 1 tsp salt and the spices. beat until just combined. Pour into the cool crust. Gently place the roasting pan in the oven and pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets, but the center is still loose. Turn off the oven and open the door briefly to let out some heat. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour, then carefully remove from the roasting pan and cool on a rack. Run a knife around the edges, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Bring the cheesecake to room temperature 30 minutes prior to serving.  Top with whipped cream.

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