I am forever grateful that the editors of Fine Cooking magazine encouraged me to create this pumpkin cheesecake. I had feared that the spices usually associated with pumpkin-flavored desserts would fight with the cream cheese, but I discovered that leaving out the spices and using turbinado sugar, with its mild overtones of molasses, made it possible to enjoy the true pumpkin flavor. The addition of a caramel glaze that ties all the flavors together perfectly means this has become one of my very favorite cheesecakes.
I adore the flavor of caramel, and I like to have as much depth of flavor as possible. I like to bring this caramel up to 360°F (180°C) for maximum flavor. But the darker you make the caramel, the more you risk burning it if you don’t have an absolutely accurate thermometer. A viable alternative is to use a light-colored or transparent silicone spatula so that you can see the exact color of the caramel as it darkens. I’ve also found that It’s best to have the cream hot and the butter at room temperature to avoid splattering when they’re added to the hot caramel. Cold cream, however, speeds the cooling and is practical if you are pressured for time, although it must be added very slowly.–Rose Levy Beranbaum
LC Watch Out, Pumpkin Pie Note
Better watch out, pumpkin pie. Someone wants your job. Badly.
Special Equipment: One 9-inch springform pan with sides 2 1/2- to 3-inches deep
Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe
Hands-On Time: 1 hour | Total Time: 2 hours, not including cooling | Serves 10 to 12
- For the gingersnap crust
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
- 1 cup lightly packed gingersnap crumbs, , preferably a Swedish brand
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 pinches salt
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- For the pumpkin filling
- 1 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin (not pie filling)
- 1 cup turbinado sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream, cold
- 1 pound cream cheese, , cut into several chunks, at room temperature [65°F to 70°F (19°C to 21°C)]
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- For the caramel glaze
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/4 cup heavy cream, heated
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature [65°F to 70°F (19°C to 21°C)]
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with sides 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep with nonstick cooking spray. Wrap the pan with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent leakage. Have ready one 12-by-2-inch round cake pan or roasting pan.
- Make the gingersnap crust
- 2. Set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- 3. Spread the pecans evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes to enhance their flavor. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting. Transfer to a plate and let cool before using.
- 4. In a food processor, combine the gingersnap crumbs, pecans, sugar, and salt and process until fine crumbs form, about 20 seconds. Add the melted butter and pulse just until incorporated, about 10 times.
- 5. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and partway up the sides. To keep the crumbs from sticking to your fingers, place a piece of plastic wrap over the crumbs and press them through the wrap. Using a flat-bottomed, straight-sided measuring cup or a 6-inch round cake pan, smooth the crumbs evenly over the bottom of the pan and at least 1 1/2 inches up the sides.
- Make the pumpkin filling
- 6. In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir together the pumpkin and sugar and bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until thick and shiny, 3 to 5 minutes.
- 7. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the mixture into a large food processor and process for 1 minute with the feed tube open. With the motor running, add the cold cream. Then add the cream cheese in several pieces and process for 30 seconds, or until smoothly incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl 2 or 3 times. Add the eggs and yolks and process just until incorporated, about 5 seconds.
- 8. Using the silicone spatula, scrape the filling into the prepared pan. Smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula. Set the pan in the larger pan and add enough very hot water to the larger pan to reach a depth of 1 inch.
- 9. Bake the pumpkin cheesecake, turning the pan halfway after the first 25 minutes, for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven—without opening the door or peeking in any way—and let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour.
- 10. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover the cheesecake with a large overturned bowl or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. To unmold the cheesecake, wipe the sides of the pan with a dish towel that youve run under hot water and wrung out and then carefully remove the side of the pan.
- Make the caramel glaze
- 11. Have ready a 1-cup heatproof glass measure coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
- 12. In a medium heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water until all the sugar is moistened. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring completely and allow the mixture to boil, undisturbed, until the mixture turns a deep amber [360°F (180°C) or a few degrees lower because its temperature will continue to rise]. Remove it from the heat and as soon as it reaches temperature, slowly and carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel. It will bubble up furiously. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir the mixture gently, scraping the thicker part that settles on the bottom.
- 13. Return the pan to very low heat, continuing to stir gently for 1 minute, until the mixture is uniform in color and the caramel is fully dissolved. Remove it from the heat and gently stir in the butter until incorporated. The mixture will be a little streaky but becomes uniform in color once cooled and stirred.
- 14. Pour the caramel into the prepared glass measure and allow it to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla and allow the caramel to cool until no longer warm to the touch, stirring gently 3 or 4 times. (The glaze keeps, covered, for up to 3 days at room temperature and for 3 months refrigerated. To reheat, place the caramel in a heatproof glass container, if it isn’t already in one, and place the container in a pan of simmering water until warm, about 7 minutes, or microwave it on high for 1 minute, stirring twice.)
- 15. Pour the caramel glaze over the pumpkin cheesecake from the glass measure or, for greater precision, use a pastry bag fitted with a small decorating tip,or a resealable plastic bag with a very small semicircle cut from one corner. Slice and serve and be ready to listen to oohs and aahs.
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Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe © 2009 Rose Levy Beranbaum. Photo © 2009 Ben Fink. All rights reserved.