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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap & Pecan Crust

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Serves fourteen.

  • To learn more, read:
    Smooth, Creamy Cheesecake
  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 35

I discovered just how astonishingly good pumpkin is when not obscured by cinnamon and ginger when I tasted a pumpkin mousse prepared by Jehanne Burch at the Castle Hill Inn & Resort in Newport, Rhode Island. Her mousse contained only pumpkin, sugar, heavy cream, and gelatin. It was a revelation. If you use an electric mixer, start by beating the cream cheese with the whisk attachment until it’s very smooth, and then add the cooked pumpkin mixture and the remaining ingredients.

For the crust:
  • 4-1/4 oz. gingersnap cookies (about 17 two-inch cookies), broken into pieces
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) pecans, toasted
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 pinches table salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
  • 1 cup unsweetened pumpkin purée (I like Libby's)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 1 lb. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
For the garnish:
  • About 24 pecan halves, toasted

Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x21/2-inch or higher springform pan.

Make the crust:

In a food processor, process the cookies with the pecans, sugar, salt, and cinnamon (if using) until the cookies become fine crumbs, about 20 seconds. Add the melted butter and pulse about 10 times, just until incorporated. (Alternatively, put the cookies in a freezer bag and use a rolling pin to crush them into fine crumbs. Grind the nuts finely but not to a powder. In a medium bowl, combine all the crust ingredients except the butter and toss with a fork to blend. Stir in the melted butter and toss to incorporate.)

Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the mixture into the base of the prepared pan and partway up the sides. Use a flat-bottomed, straightsided glass to smooth the crumbs over the bottom and farther up the sides (but not all the way to the top). Be sure to press the bottom thoroughly so that the crumbs are evenly distributed. Lay plastic wrap over the crumbs to keep them from sticking to your fingers, and use your fingers to continue pressing the crust to a thin, even layer. Wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to prevent leaking. Cover the crust with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Make the filling:

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the pumpkin purée and sugar. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has darkened and thickened to the consistency of applesauce, about 5 minutes.

Scrape the mixture into a large food processor and process for 1 minute. with the feed tube open (so steam can escape), scraping down the sides. With the motor running, add the chilled cream. Add the softened cream cheese and process for 30 seconds or until smoothly incorporated, scraping down the sides two or three times. Add the eggs and yolks and process for about 5 seconds, just until incorporated.

Bake the cheesecake:

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan in a larger pan (a 12x2-inch cake pan or a roasting pan) and surround it with 1 inch of very hot water. Check that the oven is at 350°F and bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour. Transfer the cake to a rack (the center will still be jiggly) and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. .

Umold, garnish, and slice:

Be sure the cheesecake is thoroughly chilled. Have ready a serving plate and another flat plate that's at least as wide as the springform and covered in plastic wrap. Wipe a hot, damp cloth around the outside of the ring (or use a hair dryer). Run a metal spatula or a thin knife inside the ring. Release and gently loosen the ring and then lift it off. Set the plate with the plastic wrap on top of the cheesecake and carefully invert the pan. Heat the base of the springform with a hot, damp cloth or hair dryer and lift it off. Set the serving plate lightly on the bottom of the cheesecake (which is now facing up) and reinvert the cake. Lift off the plastic-wrapped plate.

Arrange the pecan halves around the perimeter of the cake. To cut neat slices, use a sharp, thin-bladed knife dipped in hot water (shake off excess drops) between each slice.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 430; Fat (g): fat g 35; Fat Calories (kcal): 310; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 18; Protein (g): protein g 6; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 26; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 200; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 150; Fiber (g): fiber g 1;

Photo: Judi Rutz

A great recipe I have been making on and off for thanksgiving since the original issue came out. I love pumpkin, but hate that 'pumpkin pie spice' flavor, so this was a revelation to me way back then-- a sweet pumpkin dish that didn't mostly taste like cinnamon and cloves. The food processor is also a great cheesecake tool that makes a smooth but not over-aerated batter. I disagree with the previous reviewer that said this was mousse-like; it's the creamier side of cheesecake-dom rather than the gummier, stick-to-roof-of-your-mouth side (all to the good, in my opinion), but it's not at all airy or mousse like. I prefer to increase the pumpkin (or roasted butternut squash) by 50% to give it a stronger pumpkin flavor, which also makes it a bit stiffer and easier to cut. (This is one cheesecake that really must be fully chilled.) I also like to make it with crispier cookies like nut-shortbread rather than gingersnaps-- even prefer it without spice in the crust, but as written it is a nice compromise for the spice-lovers and spice-haters. A great, rich but not too sweet thanksgiving dessert.

This was very tasty, however I will say it's more mousse like than cheesecake like. It was still extremely tasty, just not very much like an actual cheesecake. I liked the simplicity of it...though I did add a bit of freshly grated nutmeg, and it turned out great.

I loved that I could make this the day before and store it in the fridge. I was disappointed to find that the two layers of heavy duty foil I wrapped around the pan didn't prevent water from getting into the crust from the water bath it was baked in. And I didn't think to check for that till after the cheesecake had cooled on the rack. I wish the author had admonished us to check for water as soon as we took it out of the oven, and then it would drain that much quicker and perhaps evaporate. My crust was soggy, but it still tasted amazing, and overall everyone was delighted with this recipe. The comments were about how light it tasted, and how great it tasted, not too overwhelming in any one area, just perfect. I thought it could have used more pumpkin...one cup was not much, but I followed it anyway, and it did taste great. I also for the garnish, tossed the toasted pecans in the pan with some sugar, ginger powder and cinnamon, to glaze them a little. Plain toasted pecans seemed too boring. I NEVER bake..well ok, maybe once or twice a year, so I'm definitely a novice. I appreciated the very in-depth instructions, and followed them to the letter, except for the changes I mentioned. Thank you Rose Levy Beranbaum and Fine Cooking for helping this novice make an amazing dessert for thanksgiving!!

My family LOVES this recipe. Everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving dinner because of this cheesecake! Being able to bake it the day before is a huge plus.

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