Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October Fest - Pumpkin Cheesecake

I have never been a big fan of pumpkin pie. Pumpkin cheesecake on the other hand is a totally different story. For my entire life we have relied on canned pumpkin puree for our pumpkin pies. This year I decided to expand my skills by making the pumpkin puree from scratch. "How would this change the final taste?" I wondered.
My wife and I went to the local pumpkin patch to get pick up some supplies for the fall.
Pie pumpkins
The first thing into the cart was 6 homemade, apple cider donuts, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. OMG they were so good, only a few of them made it home. The next thing into the cart was a 32 ounce jar of homemade Door County pitted cherries. The cherries were in a sugar based syrup. Time to make a snow white cake?
The next step was to find out what type of pumpkins that we needed to buy. I was instructed that the big carving pumpkins were not the best for making pumpkin pies. I was directed to a bin of small pie pumpkins and was told that these were the best for making pies. As we left the pumpkin patch, we just couldn't wait to dive into the apple cider donuts. They were absolutely delicious.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To make pumpkin puree you have to wash the outside of the pumpkins to remove and dirt or pesticides, if any. The next step is to cut the pumpkins into quarters. The next step is to scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp, until the center is clean. Place the pumpkin sections face down on a baking sheet. Place the pumpkin into the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a fork can be inserted easily through the pumpkin skin. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow to rest until cool enough to handle.
Pumpkin puree
Using a large spoon or scoop, remove the pulp from outer skin of the pumpkin, being careful not to include any skin in the collected pulp. Put the pulp into a food processor and carefully pulse the processor until the pumpkin turns into a puree. Scoop the puree out of the processor into a bowl. When cool, transfer 15 ounces of the puree into quart size, zip lock freezer bags.  Freeze the puree until needed.
Fresh pumpkin puree
NOTE: A can of prepared pumpkin puree contains approximately 15 ounces of pumpkin puree, which is enough for one 9" pie.
My sister-in-law, Debra, gave us a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake many years ago. The first time that we made it we used canned pumpkin puree. This year I had fresh homemade pumpkin puree to use. "What would the the difference be?" I wondered.
Buttered Spring form pan
I enlisted my daughter for making the cheesecake, since I am not a baker, although I could become one. Start off my making the crust. Ideally you should use a 9 inch spring form pan. Using your hands mix together:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons sugar 
as needed butter, room temperature, to lightly grease the pan
Graham cracker crust

Spread a thin layer of butter on the inside of a spring form pan. Using your fingers and the palm of your hands, form the graham cracker crumbs on the bottom of the pan. Set the crust to the side while you prepare the filling.
To make the cheesecake filling you're going to need the following: 
1 pound room temperature cream cheese
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
1/3 cup whipping cream
1cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
3 tablespoons
pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash nutmeg, fresh grated preferred
dash ground cloves

NOTE: If using canned pumpkin puree, I prefer the Libby's brand cans.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9” spring form pan. Combine ingredients for the crust and place into the bottom of the spring form pan (not up the sides). Press crumb mixture lightly and set aside. Cream together the cream cheese, sugar and brown sugar.
Wrap foil around the bottom of the pan. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. Add whipping cream and mix on high for 2-3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and spice and mix for one more minute. Pour into the prepared spring form pan, set into a larger pan. On the outside of the spring form pan, fill 1/4 of the way with water. This should keep the cake from cracking. Bake in a water bath for 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours, or until firm on the center rack of the oven. The edges should be firm and the center only slightly loose and a little giggly. Do not over bake.
Add the pumpkin puree
Meanwhile, if using a sour cream topping, prepare this while the cheesecake is baking. When the cheesecake is finished baking, turn the oven off, cover with the topping and return to oven. Remove cheese cake after 1/2 hour. Cover the cheesecake and refrigerate until well chilled, preferably overnight.
To serve, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Carefully remove side of pan before cutting cheesecake. Cut into 14-16 slices.
Can I cut a slice for you?
Project Notes: If you use dark brown sugar you will get a darker cheesecake. Light brown sugar is what I used and it is not as dark as I like it.

Praline Topping: Toppings are optional. If you're using a sour cream topping, don't also add a praline topping. For the praline topping, mix together 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. Add 1 cup of dark corn syrup and cook over medium heat, while stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of chopped pecans and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Allow to cool slightly before pouring over the cheesecake. ENJOY!      

© TMelle 2014