Feels good to be back among the living

Our weather, this fine November afternoon, is clear and sunny. With temperatures in the 70's. Birds are singing. And our president-elect is Barack Obama. So, unless I get hit by a truck today . . . it's . . . a . . . beautiful day in the neighborhood . . .

I would like to apologize for my absence these past few weeks. I was TKO'd by an unholy cold that ripped right through me like an F3 tornado. I'm not out of the woods yet, but, I had to breath a little life into this blog - which, btw, has been sanitized for your protection.

So, come my friends! Let us indulge in not one, but three delicious treats, which I infectionately offer here. The first one is just right for the season. Pumpkin Cheesecake. I omitted the crust in this rendition, but I'll include the recipe for that too, in case you're interested.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Sauce and Pumpkin Seed Brittle


1½ cups fine gingersnap crumbs (about ½ pound gingersnaps)
¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


½ pound cream cheese at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup unsweetened pumpkin purée, fresh or canned
5 large eggs
½ cup heavy cream

Maple Bourbon Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons bourbon

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

2 cups sugar
3 cups pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
½ cup corn syrup
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. CRUST: Lightly butter a 9-inch cake pan that is 2 inches deep, and line bottom with parchment paper. In a bowl, combine the gingersnaps crumbs, nuts and butter. Mix well. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared pan and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

3. FILLING: In a bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add both sugars and spices. Beat until light in texture, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pumpkin purée and mix just until blended. Stir in the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the cream.

4. Pour batter into the crust and put the cake pan in a roasting pan. Add hot water to the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until cheesecake is firm to the touch, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

5. Allow cheesecake to cool on a wire rack for about 45 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. When the cheesecake is completely chilled, lower the pan into a hot water bath for 2-3 minutes to loosen. Place a large plate on top of cheesecake, invert the pan and remove. Put a second plate (or cookie sheet without sides) on the bottom of the cheesecake and turn it right side up. Cut with a hot knife and serve with Maple Bourbon Sauce.

6. Cheesecake will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for several weeks.

MAPLE BOURBON SAUCE: In a saucepan over low heat, combine butter, sugar, maple syrup, dark corn syrup and heavy cream, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved (about 5 minutes). DO NOT bring this mixture to a boil. Stir in bourbon. Serve hot or cold.

PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE: Combine sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a large heavy pan. Cook over medium heat, until candy thermometer registers 250° F. Add pumpkin seeds, stirring until candy registers about 300° F. Remove from heat. Quickly and vigorously, stir in baking soda and vanilla. Pour candy onto a slightly buttered cookie sheet, spreading as thinly as possible. Allow to cool and break the brittle into serving pieces

And for those of you who are fed up with pumpkin desserts, I give you:

Gâteau Fondant au Chocolat

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2 cups)
4 ounces (½ cup)unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
5 large eggs, separated
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
½ cup sugar
1 cup Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows), melted

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spray a 10-inch Springform pan with no-stick spray and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

2. In a large, heat resistant bowl, set over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up, and whisk into the chocolate mixture. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to High, and gradually add the sugar. Continue to whip to medium-firm peaks. The peaks will droop slightly when you lift up the whisk. Stir in the egg whites into the warm chocolate mixture, until there are no white streaks visible. You need not be gentle, as this cake is best without a lot of air incorporated into it. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Smooth it out, and pour 1 cup of the ganache on top. Using a spatula or the handle of a wooden spoon, marble the ganache into the cake batter.

Chocolate Ganache

1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (approximately ¾ cup)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (approximately ¾ cup)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to the scalding point over medium-high heat. In a medium heat-resistant bowl, combine both chocolates and corn syrup. Pour the scalded cream over the chocolate mixture and gently whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

4. Bake in the center of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of the cake no longer looks shiny. The cake will puff up, and set on the edges, but will be a little wobbly in the center. Run a knife around the edges and leave cake to cool completely on a wire rack before removing from the pan.

5. Slice the cake with a knife which has been dipped in very hot water, and excess water wiped off. This cake can be kept 3 days at room temperature, or 5 days refrigerated.

This cake is somewhat similar to the 80's sensation Molten Lava Cake...

...in several ways, except aesthetically. For it is, without question, the ugliest chocolate cake you will ever bake. But, if you ever find yourself battling the Seven Dwarfs of Menopause (Itchy; Bitchy; Sweaty; Sleepy; Bloated; Forgetful and Psycho), this rich cake will whistle them menopausal demons right out of ya.

A reader requested more information on the butterfly topper for the chocolate cake.
You could use plain tuile batter for this, but since I had Pumpkin Seed Brittle, I decided to use it, as it yields delicate, gossamer decorations. Do not make these on a hot, humid day.

For 4 butterflies, break up two large shards of Pumpkin Seed Brittle (or use your favorite nut brittle) and run the pieces of candy through a food processor until finely ground. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lay a plain stencil on top.
Put the ground nut brittle in a fine sieve and evenly sprinkle this mixture over the stencil. Carefully remove the stencil. Bake in a moderate oven (350°F) for 7 to 10 minutes; watch it carefully after the first 7 minutes, to keep the tuiles from burning.

To serve this cake, you could slice it into 12 wedges, or try, as I did, an ice cream scoop to scoop out this sticky, chocolaty mess. If you like, warm individual servings in the microwave for a few seconds before serving to soften the ganache ribbons running through it. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Adapted from The American Boulangerie.

Any typos or slurring heretofore courtesy of cherry flavored NyQuil.