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Everyone loves cheesecake. And, around Thanksgiving and Christmas time, everyone loves pumpkin pie. Combine those two favorites to create this spectacular (and spectacularly rich) dessert. Note: For mini cheesecakes, follow the directions at the end of the recipe.
1 1/4 cups gingersnap crumbs, made from about 2 cups (5 ounces) cookies (or substitute graham cracker crumbs)
3/4 cup (2 1/2 ounces) pecan meal or almond flour (or finely ground pecans or almonds)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup ((1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter, melted
1 pound (two 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup (4 1/2 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons (3/8 ounce) Signature Secrets® culinary thickener or cornstarch
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup (1 5/8 ounces) diced candied ginger (optional, but good)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) heavy or whipping cream
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin* OR 1 3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon Signature Secrets® culinary thickener or cornstarch
1 cup (8 ounces) light cream or evaporated milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
*Be sure to use just plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling.
To make the crust: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, then mix in the melted butter. Press the crumbs into the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides of a 9-inch square cake pan with sides at least 2 inches deep. Use a piece of plastic wrap to prevent the crumbs from sticking to your fingers. Bake for 12 minutes, until set. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To make the cheesecake filling: Mix together the cream cheese and sugar till no lumps remain. Stir in the thickener, eggs, vanilla, and the candied ginger, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl. Stir in the cream and spoon the filling onto the crust. Shake the pan to level the cheesecake layer. Bake for 12 minutes.
To make the pumpkin filling: While the cheesecake layer is baking, whisk together the sugar, salt, and spices in a medium bowl. Add the pumpkin, thickener, cream or evaporated milk, and eggs, and whisk gently until smooth. (You don't want to beat a lot of air into this mixture; just be sure it's thoroughly combined.) After the cheesecake layer has baked for 12 minutes, remove it from the oven and gently spoon the pumpkin filling over it. Note: Do this carefully at first, so as not to disturb the cheesecake layer; once you've covered the cheesecake, you can be less careful. Reduce the oven heat to 325°F, and bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes. It's done when it looks set, but still wobbles a bit in the center when you jiggle it. (If you have an instant-read thermometer, it'll register 165°F at its center when it's done.) Depending on the exact depth of your pan, you may have leftover filling. Simply pour it into a custard cup or other small baker, and bake it along with the pie, removing it from the oven when it appears set, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven, and run a dull knife around the edges to loosen it. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it till serving time. Garnish with candied pecans, if desired. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream flavored with a pinch of ginger and teaspoon of vanilla. Garnish with Candied Pecans. Yield: 12 to 16 servings.
Make the crust and fillings as directed above. Place 2 1/2 teaspoons of the crust mixture in the bottom of each well of your mini cheesecake pan. Press into place with your fingers, and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 10 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, and reduce the temperature to 325°F. Place a tablespoon of the cheesecake filling on top of the crust, and bake for 15 minutes, until the tops look set. Remove the pan from the oven, and add another tablespoon of the pumpkin filling to each mini cheesecake. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges look set and the centers still wobble a bit when you jiggle the pan. Remove from the oven and cool completely before removing the cheesecakes from the pan. Yield: about 36 mini cheesecakes.
Note: Mini cheesecakes can be frozen in a covered container for up to a month. Thaw in the refrigerator one day before serving.