For years, I didn’t make cheesecake, because I only had a 9-inch springform pan, and I rarely had anyone around to eat 12-16 servings of cheesecake. I know cheesecake freezes well, but it sounded like a hassle, with the slicing and packaging correctly to avoid freezer burn. Then I got this little 4-inch springform pan, which has come in handy a few times, and which led to the fantastic Brown Sugar Apple Cheesecake. But a 4-inch springform cheesecake is really only big enough to whet my appetite. Dave and I had two tiny servings each of the apple cheesecake, and it wasn’t near enough.
The solution, of course, is more cheesecake. Pumpkin cheesecake is not only seasonal, but one of my favorite cheesecake flavors. I’ve tried a couple different recipes, all of which were good, but none struck me as the best pumpkin cheesecake ever, so I saw no reason not to try a new recipe. I chose the one on epicurious that had the most positive reviews.
I used a different recipe for the crust, because I didn’t have pecans, and I’m not sure I’d want them in the crust anyway. The recipe also includes a sour cream topping that I skipped because I didn’t have sour cream. And, again, it seems unnecessary.
I made one third of the recipe, which was a little too much for my mini springform pan, so I did some googling and figured out how to make cup-cheesecakes. I love it! They’re so cute and perfectly sized. I think next time I’ll just press the crust in the bottom of the muffin cup and not up the sides, but other than that, I was really pleased with this method. I followed Clare’s instructions and let the cheesecakes chill in the freezer for a few minutes before popping them out with a butter knife, and they came out fine, even though I had underbaked the centers.
One problem with pumpkin cheesecake is that it tends to look plain. This recipe recommends a sour cream topping, and I’ve seen some accompanied by recipes for bourbon whipped cream, but cheesecake is so rich that I can’t see topping it with something else that’s so rich. I think what I want to do is make a marbled cheesecake. I’m going to try separating out some of the batter before adding the pumpkin, then swirling the plain batter in the pumpkin base. I might have to tweak the filling ingredients just slightly, but I want to keep the recipe similar.
As is though, the flavor and texture of this cheesecake more than makes up for its lackluster appearance. It was perfect – dense and creamy with just the right balance of pumpkin and cream cheese. We finished the third of the recipe that I made in an embarrassingly short time, and it was all I could do to resist making more just two days later.
Update 10.14.09: The cheesecake can be successfully and easily dressed up with some swirling! You just need to add the pumpkin to the batter last, removing some plain batter before adding the pumpkin. Here’s what I recommend: If you want only the top to be marbled, remove 1/4 cup of plain batter before adding the pumpkin to the remaining batter. Pour the pumpkin batter into the prepared pan, then dot the plain batter over the top and use a knife to make a marble pattern. If you’d like the swirling to continue throughout the entire cheesecake, separate out 3/4 cup batter before adding the pumpkin to the rest, then add 1/3 of the pumpkin batter to the pan, then 1/3 of the plain batter, and swirl. Repeat twice more. When I tried it, I separated out the larger amount of batter before adding the pumpkin, and I didn’t notice that the texture was compromised by the higher concentration of pumpkin.
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake (crust from Cooks Illustrated, filling adapted from Gourmet via epicurious.com)
To bake cheesecakes in a muffin pan, line each muffin cup with the crust mixture. Pour in the filling and bake 20-25 minutes at 350F. Cool on a rack until room temperature, then freeze for 15 minutes before using a butter knife to prop the cheesecakes out of the pan. I’m thinking this amount of filling will made about 24 cup-cheesecakes. You’ll probably need to increase the crust to 12 crackers, 4 tbsp sugar, 8 tbsp butter (and a teensy bit more of each spice).
5 ounces graham crackers (9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
½ cup (3.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon liqueur or bourbon (optional)
½ cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350F. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.
2. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. In a medium bowl, stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. Add granulated sugar mixture to cream cheese and beat for another 2 minutes. In a medium bowl (or the same one), whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and liqueur (if using) until combined. Beat at medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes.
3. Pour filling into crust, smoothing top, then put springform pan in a shallow baking pan (in case springform leaks). Bake until center is just set and measures 140 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 50 to 60 minutes.
4. Cool cheesecake completely in pan on rack, about 3 hours. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 4 hours. Remove sides of pan and bring to room temperature before serving.