November 20, 2014
In recent years, it seems that cheesecake has been moving on up in the Thanksgiving dessert food chain. Pumpkin pie will always be at the top of that chain, but I think pumpkin cheesecake is gaining traction. Personally, I'm not a fan of pumpkin pie, but a good pumpkin cheesecake is hard to pass up. What is your favorite Thanksgiving dessert?
I adapted this cheesecake from Baking Illustrated, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated Magazine. I just trust them and knew they would have a good recipe!
Rather than go for a standard graham cracker crust with added spices, I decided to make a crust out of the beloved Speculoos/Biscoff cookies. (If you haven't tried these delectable tea cookies, pick some up next time you are at the store.) These cookies have a caramelized flavor with a hint of cinnamon and other spices, and it just goes nicely with the pumpkin flavor. Rather than add spices, it seemed just easier to use these cookies.
I used the food processor to make the crust. The food processor makes this easy. You just add the cookies into the food processor, and then pour in the melted butter. If you don't have a food processor, you can put the cookies into a plastic ziplock bag and roll the rolling pin over it. After you mix the crumbs with the melted butter, it's time to transfer the crumbs into the pan to make the crust.
When pressing the crumbs into the pan, use the bottom of a measuring cup or a drinking glass to press the crumbs into the pan. Press the crumbs as far as possible into the edges of the pan. After you have a nearly even layer, use a teaspoon to press the crumbs into the corners of the pan so that the edges are clean. Your kitchen will have a comforting spice aroma in the air after the crust bakes.
This pumpkin cheesecake recipe is somewhat similar to most standard cheesecake recipes. What makes it different, besides adding pumpkin? This recipe involves extracting moisture from the pumpkin with paper towels. This helps contribute to the velvety, thick texture of the cheesecake, which is the way a cheesecake should be.
When making cheesecakes, I'm a fan of using a water bath. Yes, I know water bath sounds a little crazy, but trust me on this! A water bath keeps the cheesecake top even and uncracked. It adds humidity to the oven, which results in less moisture loss, which keeps the top of the cheesecake flat and prevents cracking. Ultimately, it helps moderate the temperature so that the cheesecake does not overcook.
After the cools cheesecake for a few hours, I made the topping, which is a combination of heavy cream and sour cream which is whipped into a fluffy, creamy topping (well, how could it not be creamy with sour cream and heavy cream?). The topping takes this cheesecake from really good to a true Thanksgiving treat.
For the crust:
1 7 oz. package of Speculoos/Biscoff cookies
8 tbsp. butter, melted
For the cheesecake filling:
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
3 8-oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp. lemon juice
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. maple syrup
For the crust:
Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Place the cookies into the food processor and process until evenly and finely ground. Gradually add the melted butter and continue pulsing until combined. Transfer the crumbs into the springform pan and spread the crumbs into an even layer. Bake until fragrant and browned, about 15 to 20 minute. Cool for about 30 minutes.
After the crust cools, wrap the outside of the pan with heavy-duty foil, and set the springform pan into a a roasting pan.
For the filling:
Bring 4 quarts of water to a simmer in a large stockpot (or do this with a hot water kettle). Whisk the sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.
Line a baking sheet with three layers of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin onto the towels and cover with a second triple layer of towels. Press firmly until the towels are saturated with moisture from the pumpkin. Peel back the top layer of the towels and discard. Grab the bottom towels, fold the pumpkin in half, and peel back the towels. Repeat and flip the pumpkin onto the baking sheet, and discard the final towels.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium speed for about a minute. Scrape the beater and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add about a third of the sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl and add the remaining sugar in two additions. Then, add the pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined.
Add 3 of the eggs and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 1 minute. Then, add the remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated. Scrape the bowl, and then add the heavy cream until combined, about 45 seconds.
Pour the filling into the springform pan. Set the roasting pan into the oven and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken and the center of the cake reads about 150ºF, about 1 1/2 hours. Set the roasting pan on a wire crack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and set it onto a wire rack. Cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.
Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours before adding the topping.
For the topping:
In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the heavy cream, sour ream, brown sugar, maple syrup, and salt until fluffy and dubbed in volume. Spread the topping onto the cheesecake and refrigerate.
Remove the sides of the span. Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and pan bottom to loosen, and slide the cheesecake onto a serving platter. Allow it to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
Source: Adapted from Baking Illustrated