My First Cheesecake…

Everyone likes cheesecake, right? And everyone likes pumpkin, right?! I finally took the plunge and tackled my first pumpkin cheesecake. Did I succeed??… YES!!

I learned a lot about cheesecake from the cookbook “The New Best Recipe” by the editors of Cooks Illustrated. I usually only like cookbooks with color pictures. The more pictures, the better! This cookbook, however, only has black and white sketches. Needless to say, this cookbook has the best tips, the best information and will deliver the best dishes, ever!

My mother has also taught me a lot about recipes and cookbooks. I never knew that most recipes in cookbooks are not “tested” and will not always come out perfect. My mother bought me this cookbook because every single recipe is tested multiple times and the editors give rationale for how and why each recipe works. Although the recipe for “Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake” was very thorough, I still ended up calling my mother for questions, reassurance and helpful hints. She is a pro at cooking and baking and I can always count on her for the best advice!

My only warning for this recipe is the amount of time it takes. If you’re going to try it, please make sure you have enough time. It’s worth every second!

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake (By Cooks Illustrated)

Crust
5 ounces graham crackers (9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces**
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

**I added 7 gingersnaps and 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Filling

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks and left to soften at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
5 large eggs, left at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

Directions

FOR THE CRUST:

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses.

Add in the gingersnaps and pecans now and pulse until blended.

Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using measuring cup, spread crumbs into even layer. I pressed the crumbs around the edges of the pan so that it forms a crust an inch from the buttom.

Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

FOR THE FILLING:

Bring about 4 quarts water to simmer in stockpot. Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in small bowl; set aside. To dry pumpkin: Line baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin on paper towels.

Cover pumpkin with second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until paper towels are saturated. Peel back top layer of towels and discard. Believe it or not, the paper towel will not stick to the pumpkin. You’ll be amazed by how much liquid comes off on the paper towels!

In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula.

Add about one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds.

Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand.

Set springform pan with cooled crust on 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil; set wrapped springform pan in roasting pan. Pour filling into springform pan and smooth surface; pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

Set roasting pan on wire rack. Cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil, and set on wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

TO SERVE:

Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, sprinkle with crushed gingersnaps and pecans, then cut into wedges and serve.

A special thank you to my favorite food critics at work today. So glad you all enjoyed it!

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2 Responses to My First Cheesecake…

  1. Brenda says:

    Quite possibly the best pie I have ever had… Truly. Well done lil!!!

  2. Sonya says:

    What an awesome feeling to accomplish this goal! As far as the cheesecake itself, I agree – this was a fabulous cheesecake!!!!!!!!!! I got the recipe from my Entertaining 2010 issue (by Cook’s Illustrated). I made it last year for Thanksgiving and am still dreaming about it now!! I actually made two pumpkin cheesecakes for the same night to compare recipes (the other was not from Cook’s Illustrated or their company), and this one was the clear crowd favorite :) We liked the Brown sugar bourbon whipped cream too. I love Cook’s Illustrated!!!

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