Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake has become a tradition for our family. Our palates expect more and the combination of a toasted pecan crust, creamy pumpkin with cheesecake in the center and topped with caramelized pecans will guarantee you are in for a treat!
This recipe makes enough to serve 10-12 people. Use a 10-inch springform pan or two 6-inch springform pans. I like to enjoy this cheesecake warm, but you may want to refrigerate it and eat it chilled with whipped cream. Many times I have thought it tastes even better the next day. Either way, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and get to work so you can savor the sweet flavors.

Gingersnap Crust
3 1/2 cups Gingersnap cookies
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons crystallized ginger (optional)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
Process the first four ingredients in a food processor until nuts and cookies are ground. Slowly add the melted butter. Pulse the food processor a few times to blend. With a rubber spatula transfer the crust into the springform pan. Press the crust into the bottom and up along the sides. Bake for five minutes just to set the crust. Let it cool while preparing the filling.

Filling
40 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 15-ounce can pumpkin (I prefer to use 20-ounces fresh cooked pumpkin)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves

In a large mixing bowl use an electric mixer and beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and mix. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well after each one. Add the sour cream and heavy cream. Continue mixing in the pumpkin, vanilla, and spices. Transfer mixture to the prepared crust. Bake for 20 minutes and turn oven down to 325 degrees. Bake for one hour. Cheesecake should be set around the edges and lightly brown. There may be cracks in the center. Remove from oven. Carefully run a knife along the edge of the pan to allow an easier release with the springform pan. Top with toasted pecans tossed in caramel sauce.

Note: If you do use fresh pumpkin, cut the pumpkin into strips about two inches wide. Bake on an edged cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. The pumpkin flesh should be soft. Let it cool. Cut away from the rind. Press out excess liquid and it is ready to use in the cheesecake. The 20 ounces of fresh pumpkin is about equal to the 15 ounces of canned pumpkin in the recipe.

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