Right now, Wednesday seems so far from Thursday. And I just don't think this cheesecake will be safe until then.
I've been in pumpkin paradise since one local farmer filled his stand with myriad of orange, cream and bluish-green pumpkins. The latter I'm completely enamored with.
There's something about fall that puts me in nesting mode. I bake. I sew. Then I'll sit by a crackling fire and read about nesting, baking and sewing. Ready for more non sequiturs?
How about the bluish pumpkin-shaped cake, with sugar leaves and berries I made for Mr. Man Pants' birthday?
Another reason to love pumpkins is the following recipe for pumpkin cheesecake. It comes from the sister I never had, Susan Branch. It features the colors and tastes of fall, with my adaptation of her Bourbon/Praline playing a supporting role; it is loaded with pecans, maple syrup, cream, and I repeat, bourbon.
I dare say this is better than a shirtless Hugh Jackman. In fact, this is better than a shirtless Hugh Jackman covered in Bourbon /Praline.
And I think I speak for everyone when I say, 'Let us give thanks.'
Please Note: For this cheesecake, I ask that you first combine the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together, then set aside a small amount of the batter before combining the rest of the filling ingredients.
The reason is, you'll need a batter with a firmer consistency and enough body that will hold up well for piping your designs.
If you were to combine all the ingredients at once, you would end up with a very runny batter, which would be impossible to control.
If you'd rather not decorate this cake at all, simply combine all filling ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour into your prepared crust and bake as directed.
3 cups broken gingersnaps
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup sugar
2/3 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cover bottom of springform pan with two layers of aluminum foil. In a food processor, finely grind gingersnaps, pecans and sugar. Add butter and process until just combined. Press mixture onto bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes. Set aside to cool and prepare the filling.
4 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 15 oz. can pumpkin purée*
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon mace
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
4 large eggs, room temperature
Have a pastry bag fitted with a #7 round pastry tip at the ready. If you do not own a pastry bag, use a parchment paper cone. I can't recommend a plastic sandwich baggie, because I can't internalize its 'practicality.' To me, a filled baggie handles much like a wet cat. And let's face it, humans and soapy cats do not mix. Them frisky felines will always have the upperhand, or paw, as it were.
However, if a plastic baggie is all you have, go with that. Just keep in mind, a pastry bag is inexpensive, and will give you far better results.
To bake cheesecake:
Place a 9-inch x 13-inch pan, filled halfway with water, on lowest shelf in oven.
In mixer bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.( If you're decorating the cake, now is the time to remove 1/3 cup of the cream cheese mixture and set aside).
Add the pumpkin purée and spices, beating just until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. Pour cheesecake mixture into cooled crust.
If you'll be decorating the cheesecake, read below for how-tos. Then, bake cake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.
Remove cake from the oven, and run a thin metal spatula around the edges to loosen cake and prevent it from cracking. Leave cake in the pan and allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, gently warm the Bourbon Praline (below), and drizzle over cheesecake. Serves 10-12.
*I used a roasted pumpkin instead of canned. To roast a pumpkin, poke a 3-4 pound sugar (or other pie) pumpkin all over with a knife. Place whole pumpkin on a cookie sheet with sides, and bake in a 375°F oven for about 1 hour, or until a knife effortlessly goes through pumpkin.
Set the pumpkin aside until cool enough to handle. Then, slice in half, remove seeds and process pumpkin flesh in a food processor until smooth. Measure what you'll need (I used two cups), and if there's any left, freeze it.
To decorate cheesecake:
Fill prepared pastry bag with the reserved cream cheese mixture. You'll be piping a sequence of 'half-moons' that roughly resemble Christmas trees.
At this point, drag the tip of the pastry tube (or a wooden skewer), through the center of each 'tree' (starting at the narrow end), draw your skewer through each one. This step transforms them into simple, pretty leaves. You could pipe a series of leaves around the edge of the cake (as pictured), or scatter them all over the cake, if you like. You could also tint the batter with paste food colors.
You hold the artistic reins here.
¾ cup pecans, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons bourbon
Melt butter in a skillet. Place chopped pecans in melted butter and toast until fragrant. Add remaining ingredients, except for bourbon. and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let it boil. Stir in bourbon and pecans. Makes 2 cups.
A few days ago, we woke up to a light dusting of snow. A sight to behold. But I will miss the autumn sky.
May your cornucopia runneth over with thankful hearts, amid joyful noise from your favorite people and many lasting memories. Oh, and lump-free gravy.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!