Even though Thanksgiving is long gone by now, I’m still dreaming about this dessert I made for it. Better late than never, and this recipe is too good to pass up! When I was in high school, I was part of a culinary arts program, and I can still remember to this day a particular pumpkin cheesecake that we made, which I enjoyed with my mom and her best friend in the car en route to a couple of college visits I had lined up. I’d just made it that afternoon in class, and when I got in the car we were all a bit hungry, so forks dove into the cheesecake as soon as we hit the road and it was just SO GOOD. I came across that same hand-written recipe from class earlier this year amongst a stack of my mom’s recipes, and it reminded me of that day and of that cheesecake, and made me crave it in a serious way.
Since I like trying new recipes, I didn’t re-make that old beloved one, but a combination of a couple of new recipes that I’d come across. I pulled ideas from Sprinkle Bakes (cheesecake and topping) and The Pioneer Woman (crust) simply because I had gingersnaps I wanted to use, and the Sprinkle Bakes recipe didn’t call for those. In addition to blending recipes, I also altered the instructions a bit (which I learned from my recent almond butter experience is NOT usually a good idea), and it seemed to work out great.
Instead of chilling the finished crust as it instructed in the recipe, I actually baked it (as the Sprinkle Bakes recipe said to do), and that worked great. It gave the crust a nice crunch, and a mildly toasted flavor. Delish!
The cheesecake itself was extremely creamy and smooth, and a huge hit with pretty much everyone who tried it. I used reduced-fat cream cheese, but you definitely couldn’t tell. This felt so indulgent, even just a few small bites of it… maybe because it was smothered in whipped cream, candied pumpkin seeds, and cognac caramel sauce? Could be.
I had wanted to make a bourbon caramel sauce, but we didn’t have any bourbon in the house, so I opted for cognac instead and the flavor was fantastic. All of the spices in the cheesecake, the gingery crust and the combination of crunchy, fluffy, silky smooth and sweet/savory toppings did a lot to play with flavors and textures in each bite, which made this cheesecake really fun to eat, in addition to being absolutely mouthwatering-ly good.
I accidentally broke my Mom’s (rather ancient) springform pan on one of my recent visits this year (sorry, Mom!) so I had to use a few other, smaller springform pans for this recipe. I ended up making 3 smaller cheesecakes, but that actually worked really well for serving purposes, since we all wanted to try a little bite of each dessert.
I don’t make cheesecake often, but when I do I expect it’s always going to be something special, and this one really was. I think the general consensus was that this was the all-star dessert, even up against my all-time favorite pecan pie bars, and then the wonderful pear-cranberry crostata I made as well. It was certainly an epic Thanksgiving dessert selection this year, I can’t wait to work on something even more exciting for our next celebration
Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake with Sugared Pumpkin Seeds
In a food processor (or large plastic bag) crush gingersnps. Add chopped pecans, melted butter, brown sugar, and salt, and pulse (or mix) until thoroughly combined and the cookies are finely ground. Press into bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.
The original recipe says to chill for 20-30 minutes, but instead I baked for about 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven. If you bake the crust, be sure to let it cool before you put the cheesecake topping on.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling:
1 cup pumpkin puree, canned or fresh
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 lbs (20 oz, or 2 1/2 eight oz. bricks) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 large eggs
1) In a medium bowl whisk together pumpkin puree, heavy cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon , ginger and salt. Set aside.
2) In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium-low until creamy. Gradually add both sugars and beat until well combined. Add pumpkin mixture and beat until blended. Add cornstarch and beat until just combined. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl as necessary.
3) Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter onto the cooled crust. Wrap the pan in aluminium foil, and place the aluminum-wrapped pan in a roasting pan or large baking pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come up 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 70-80 minutes, or until set and slightly wobbly. The cake will completely set as it cools.
Sugared Pumpkin Seeds:
1/2 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1 egg white
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1) Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment, or grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2) Whisk egg white until frothy. Place pumpkin seeds in another bowl, and pour in just enough egg white to coat the seeds. You probably won’t need the entire egg white. Add salt, sugar and cinnamon. Toss well to coat.
3) Spread seeds on baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until they begin to dry and color. Cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, you can either break up into large chunks or into smaller pieces, and sprinkle the seeds over the finished cheesecake.
For the whipped cream and caramel:
I never really use a recipe for whipped cream – just heavy cream, a small splash of vanilla, and enough powdered sugar to reach my desired sweetness, so that’s what I used to top the cheesecakes. I also glazed them with a basical caramel sauce infused with cognac, and then drizzled extra cognac caramel on top. Any caramel sauce recipe works, and I just added in a bit of cognac in at the end to flavor it.