Thanksgiving Feast Favorite: Pumpkin CheesecakePosted: November 22, 2011
Thanksgiving is really the perfect holiday. With the emphasis on thanks and giving, virtually everyone attempts to take time to be with the most important people in their lives. Except for the commercial airline industry, the holiday has not been over-commercialized. While retailers may have you believe that Thanksgiving is a day of rest in preparation for Black Friday, the majority of Americans relish celebrating Thanksgiving with family, friends and soul-satisfying food.
Everyone has a cherished Thanksgiving dish, and when a big group gathers, the buffet literally groans with the variety of offerings necessary to satisfy each guest’s food nostalgia. While the low-sugar Sweet Potato Soufflé that my mother and I concocted one year has become my preferred Thanksgiving side, the dessert course has always been my favorite part of the meal. Okay, now that I have admitted it, so can you.
When there are a host of desserts being served on Thanksgiving (and isn’t there always?), I can’t choose only one. My mother and I are notorious for taking small slices of many just to sample the delicious variety. I’ll skip the simple pumpkin pie, though, and take a big slice of my personal Thanksgiving favorite, Pumpkin Cheesecake. The guys in my family love it, too. Creamy and deceptively light, I think that it is the ultimate combination of everything yummy about Thanksgiving.
Although we will be dining out this year at one of our favorite venues that is soon to be torn down and rebuilt, it wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving unless I baked a Pumpkin Cheesecake. I use an old recipe published by the Philadelphia Cream Cheese people, but because a dear friend’s large family will be the recipient, I really wanted it to turn out visually beautiful as well as tasty. While always delicious, my version inevitably cracks, so I spent some time researching why. According to Diana’s Desserts, the key to a crack-free cake is to only blend the eggs just until they are incorporated into the cream cheese batter. Apparently it’s a chemistry-thing having to do with the egg and air bubbles. Cheesecakes also like a water bath.
So with Diana’s Tips for Cheesecakes in the back of my mind, I set out to perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake. Based on the Kraft version, here’s my adaptation.
- 25 ginger snaps (I use Murray‘s)
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 4 (8 oz.) packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- dash ground cloves
Preheat oven to 325°F if using a silver 9-inch springform pan (or 300°F if using a dark nonstick 9-inch springform pan). With the food processor running, finely chop ginger snaps and pecans by pouring in from the feed tube. Then slowly pour in melted butter and continuing running until well mixed. Press mixture firmly onto bottom and 1 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan. Wrap outside of pan in heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Beat cream cheese, 3/4 cup of sugar and the vanilla with electric mixer until well blended, stopping to scrape sides. Once you are satisfied that no lumps remain, add eggs one at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition until just blended into the batter. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the batter and set aside. Gently stir final 1/4 cup of sugar, the pumpkin and spices into remaining batter.
Spoon half of the pumpkin batter into crust; top with spoonfuls of the reserved plain batter. Repeat layers. Cut through batters with knife several times for a marble effect. Place pan in a larger pan and place on center oven rack. Pour very hot water into outer pan up to 1-2 inches.
Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes or until center is almost set (center 2-3 inches should be wobbly when pan is jiggled). Cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Store leftovers in refrigerator.
Thankful for Diana’s tips that gave me a crack-free gift, I am mostly thankful this Thanksgiving for my family, my friends and my blog readers. Your support of Avad Fan has meant the world to me. I get so excited when new people discover this site, and a reader makes a comment. This blog has helped me satisfy a creative need as I approach the mid-century mark, and words seem inadequate to express the extent of my appreciation.
As you get ready to share a Thanksgiving feast with your loved ones, why not take a minute to share your favorite Thanksgiving dish in the comments section below. I’ll bet you inspire us to try something new.
Have a wonderful feast and safe travels!