Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel

Hello my bloggy pals. I'm going to tell you a secret. Come closer.

Cheesecake is the secret to making people happy.
Okay. That's not entirely true. It's not THE secret. But cheesecake certainly is A secret of temporary happiness. I know that having Christ in my heart and my life is the secret to a blessed  and joyful life. But serving people cheesecake makes me happy. It will make you happy, too. Try it sometime. Like with this little doozie of a recipe.

I adapted it from the one cookbook that I actually use on a fairly regular basis. Most of my recipes come from my mom, my best friends and/or their moms, magazines or the internet. But Joy Of Cooking is one cookbook that I can get behind (even though Julia did do a little Irma Rombauer bashing in Julie and Julia). It is well-written and does a great job of elucidating the details on basic recipes that home cooks may fear attempting. 

Team Cheesecake does have a lot of players, but don't be frightened. And ignore the flour, which I thought the recipe called for (some cheesecakes call for a bit), but didn't. Oops.

I realize you probably can't see who is in this picture. It's like a massive group shot on Facebook where kids from your 9th grade Washington DC Trip are tagged, but you can't see their faces.
I'll give you the details below, I promise.

I started out with the crust. I began with preheating my oven to 350 in order to bake it after it was done(freezing it was an option, too). I made a basic graham cracker crust from the Joy cookbook, but think that gingersnaps would be even better. I didn't want to run to the store, though. Start by tossing 10 grahams in the food processor. Or get out some frustration by crushing them by hand. I recommend the food processor, though, because the whole crust can be made in there.

Run the graham crackers until fully crushed and, meanwhile, gather your other crust ingredients: sugar, cinnamon, 6 TB melted butter and  1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Salt? In the crust of a sweet dessert? The salt adds the certain je ne sais quoi---that balance of a bit of salty with the sweet. It also serves to flavor the crust since salt enhances other flavors, even those that are sweet. An aside: please use kosher salt in your baking. I have switched and will never go back. I only use iodized salt in pasta water occasionally, and for gargling, or if a recipe demands it. I probably should take an iodine supplement, but figure my vitamin takes care of that for me.

Add all these items to your food processor and process until the crumbs are well-moistened. Then, press into your 9-inch springform pan, like so.

I know you wish your hands could look like this. See the "L" they're forming? They're talking about me and my dorkiness.

Press the crumbs about halfway up the sides of the pan and bake for 5-10 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Keep the oven at 350, but prepare a bread pan filled with water to create a "steamy" environment for baking your cheesecake. Place it into the oven once you remove the crust.

While your oven is getting the steam facial ready for your cheesecake, you'd best get cracking at making it! Start by combining 2/3 cup packed brown sugar, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger and 1/8 teaspoon cloves.

Then whip out your fabulous Microplane. If you don't have one, ask Santa! They're fabulous. I use mine to grate nutmeg (and chocolate for the top of whipped cream on hot cocoa. Divine!). Combine these first five ingredients well.

Little Miss Pink served as my cooking assistant. She, like her mama, was quite taken with the Microplane and demanded a turn. I promise, it was after I was done with it!

See? Every girl needs a microplane!
Okay, onto the cheese part of the cheesecake. In the bowl of your mixer, add 2-8 ounce packages of cream cheese. They MUST be at room temperature. Use the microwave (with the wrapper off!) if need be, but don't ever use cold cream cheese. It will KILL your cheesecake's texture. Mix the cream cheese on medium for a minute or so, then scrape the beaters and add the brown sugar/spice mixture.

Beat again until creamy, about 1 or 2 minutes. Then add your eggs (2 large eggs + 2 large yolks) one at a time, beating after each addition.

Make sure to stop and scrape the beaters and sides periodically to make sure there are no chunks or lumps. I usually use the "whisk" attachments when I'm making cheesecake to make especially sure that there aren't any, but I forgot today. Next, you'll add in 1 cup of pumpkin puree--not too little, not too much. People who don't care for "pumpkin-y" desserts will like it, as will pumpkin lovers. It's a people pleasing recipe, people!

Doesn't that look yum? Just wait! Once you've mixed the pumpkin in well (15-20 seconds), pour the mixture into your crust and smooth the top with a rubber scraper.

Remember how we put the bread pan of water into the oven? See, it's right there in the bottom right corner, waiting to give this cheesecake a little steamy lovin' while it bakes.

The recipe calls for baking the cheesecake at 350 for 30 minutes, then lowering the temperature to 325 and baking for an additional 10 minutes, until the center is puffed but not fully set (just a bit jiggly). 

While that beauty is working in the oven, mix up the second of THREE layers (!) of this cheesecake goodness! Whisk together 1 cup sour cream, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla.

When you pull out the cake, spread that goodness on top and bake for 7 more minutes. While it's baking, lick your rubber scraper because that little mixture is yum-o!

Doesn't that look so delicious!?! When you pull that baby out of the oven, set it on a rack to cool and place a larger pot lid (I used the big lid of my cast-iron dutch oven) on top of the cheesecake to ensure a very slow cooling process. The Joy doesn't state this, but I think slow cooling must minimize cracks on the surface.

Now, this cheesecake would've been quite delicious as it was right now. Well, cooled, but unadorned. I thought it needed just a little something else to put it over the edge. And I found that "something" in the fridge:

Hello, T. Marzetti. Would you like to dance delicately atop a yummy, high calorie dessert? Perfect.

I admit, I did a lousy job of applying the caramel. I tried to drizzle it, but the lid of my drizzling bottle popped off on the top of the cheesecake. Bummer. You get the idea, though.

Regardless of aesthetics, this was some good dessert. Or my favorite Irishman tells me it was, since it has too many eggs for me to eat. I took a tiny nibble and found the flavor to be creamy and delicious.

I hope you will try it and let me know what you think!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

 Crumb Crust (recipe follows), cooled completely
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2-8 ounce packages cream cheese (NOT non-fat!),definitely at room temperature!
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 - 1 cup prepared caramel topping (I used T. Marzetti's from the refrigerator section, though jarred ice cream topping may work just as well).

Preheat oven to 350 and place a bread pan filled with hot water in the oven to create a "steamy" atmosphere.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth, about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beaters well. Add the sugar mixture slowly, scraping down the sides as needed and beating until smooth and creamy, about a minute or two longer.

Beat the eggs and yolks in one at a time, scraping down the sides/beaters after each addition. Beat until well blended and add the pumpkin puree. Mix until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the cooled crust and smooth the surface. Set the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 350, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until not quite fully set (a little bit jiggly in the center). While the cheesecake is baking, whisk together the sour cream, brown sugar and vanilla until well-blended. When the cheesecake is done, spread the sour cream mixture on top the hot cake gently and return to the oven for 7 more minutes.

Remove cake to a rack to cool, covering with a large lid that surrounds the cake pan and traps some of the heat, allowing the cake to cool slowly. Once mostly cooled, refrigerate the cake at least 6 hours, or better yet, 24. Before serving, smooth 1/2 cup of caramel topping on the cheesecake, or drizzle decoratively. Unmold and serve.

Crumb Crust for 9-inch spring form pan
10 graham crackers, or 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (Gingersnaps would be great!)
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350. Using a food processor, make fine crumbs of the graham crackers. Add remaining ingredients and process until well-moistened. Press the mixture evenly in the pan and about halfway up the sides.

Bake 5-10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned and firm to the touch. Cool completely on a wire rack.



  1. Yum! Sounds similar to the pumpkin cheesecake I make for halloween dinner :) I never thought of putting a pan cover on it to cool. I just turn off the oven after it's done cooking and let it cool in the over for like 4 hours. Always works like a charm. I do this for NY cheesecakes too where there isn't a sour cream layer on top so you don't get the cracking!!
    And I must drizzle caramel on it this year :)

  2. The caramel seemed to really make it. I tried to make pretty caramel drizzle...I had the image in my head and totally bombed on that front, but it still tasted good, I'm told.
    I'd love your NY cheesecake favorite fella adores it.

  3. no you didn't post this recipe. now J will demand that i make it. Shucks.


    Looks AMAZING!

  4. He will love you for it even more! It's worth a try!


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