Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake for 45 minutes.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Crust

Equipment: One 9-inch by 2 1/2-inch or higher springform pan, greased, outside of the pan wrapped with a double layer of heavy-duty foil to prevent seepage. One 12-inch by 2-inch cake pan or roasting pan to serve as a water bath.

CRUST: 4 1/4 oz. gingersnaps, broken (preferably Swedish brand), 2 oz. pecans, toasted, 1T sugar, 2 pinches salt, 2 oz. butter, melted. Process cookies and pecans, sugar, salt til fine crumbs (app 20 secs.) Add melted butter and pulse 10 times til just incorporated. Press into pan and up the sides.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a small, heavy saucepan, stir together the pumpkin and sugar. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick and shiny.
Scrape the mixture into a large food processor, fitted with the metal blade and process for 1 minute with the feed tube open.

With the motor running, add the cold cream. Add the cream cheese in several pieces and process for 30 seconds, scraping the sides two or three times, or until smoothly incorporated. Add the eggs and yolks and process for about 5 seconds or just until incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Set the pan in the larger pan and surround it with 1 inch of very hot water. Bake the cake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven without opening the door and let the cake cool for 1 hour. Remove it to a rack and cool to room temperature (about 1 hour). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. To unmold, wipe sides of pan with towel run under hot water and wrung out. The cake will be 1 3/4-inches high.

Optional Caramel and Pecan Garnish: Arrange the pecan halves around the perimeter of the cake pointed ends out. If using extra pecan pieces, scatter them evenly within the circle of pecan halves. The caramel can be added 6 hours ahead but the cake cannot be covered, as the condensation will soften the caramel.

Pour the caramel into a quart-size freezer weight zip-seal bag (without a “zipper”) or a piping page. Cut a small amount from one corner and pipe the caramel in swirls on top of the pecans.

Caramel Sauce

Take care when making it not to have any small children about and give it your undivided attention. Caramel burns are extremely painful.

Makes: 1 full cup, app 10.5 ounces/308 grams

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Equipment: 1 heavy saucepan, at least 5 cup capacity, ideally with a non-stick lining

In the saucepan, stir together the sugar, syrup, and the water until the sugar is completely moistened. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring completely and allow it to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber (360°F to 380°F.). Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel. It will bubble up furiously.

Use a high temperature spatula, to stir the mixture until smooth, scraping the thicker part that settles on the bottom. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve. Stir in the butter. The mixture will be streaky but become uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.
Allow it to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla extract.

For a decorative lacing effect, the caramel pours perfectly at room temperature. For the greatest precision, use a pastry bag with a small decorating tube or zip seal bag with a small amount of the corner cut.

Store: Room temperature up to 3 days; refrigerated at least 3 months.

To reheat: If the caramel is in a microwave-safe container at room temperature, microwave it on high power for 1 minute, stirring twice. Alternatively, place it in a pan of simmering water and heat, stirring occasionally, until warm, about 7 minutes.

Pointers for Success:
After the caramel is prepared, do not stir it too much as this also may eventually cause crystallization. The syrup will help to prevent this.

Variation: Bourbon Butterscotch Caramel: Substitute 2 tablespoons of bourbon for an equal amount of the cream. Add it together with the vanilla extract.

This recipe first appeared in an article I wrote for Fine Cooking Magazine, 2001