Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Happy Thanksgiving! Have some pumpkin cheesecake. 

I wasn't always a fan of pumpkin cheesecake. I viewed it as the worst kind of excess,  combining ingredients just because they hadn't been combined before (like bacon and chocolate). Pumpkin and cheese just didn't seem to go together to me. I thought both flavors ended up losing and the resulting product was less interesting then the sum of it's parts. It was something I felt obliged to eat at a few too many Thanksgiving dinners. I liked my pumpkin in a pie, thank you very much, with pumpkin mousse swirled all over the top. That was a proper Thanksgiving dessert to me. 

So what happened? Why am I now sharing a pumpkin cheesecake recipe with you? How did I end up becoming a fan? I don't exactly know, but I suspect it has something to do with hazelnut praline and caramel. 

You can see what I mean, right? Everything is  better with caramel. And why stop there. Hazelnut praline, with it's sweet, nutty, amber grains is just one of the most beautiful and tasty things in the world. I mean they would make anything better, right? And they really do something special to a pumpkin cheesecake,  they transform it in to a real coveted dessert instead of an obligation. 

This cheesecake has an almost mousse like texture and a crunchy graham cracker crust. It's crowned with a layer of sweet, sticky caramel and glassy hazelnut praline powder. It's basically irresistible and the perfect end to your holiday feasting.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

I got this recipe from Vince who I think got it from Jean (who is now my sister-in-law), don't know where she got it but I'll ask her the next time I talk to her.

1 & 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the heavy cream (I usually use the microwave) just to take the chill off it and set aside. In a small heavy bottomed pot heat the sugar on medium high, swirling the pot occasionally. Keep an eye on it as the sugar melts. If you find that sugar crystals have collected on the side of the pot use a damp pastry brush to clean them off. You might have to help it along with a wooden spoon or a heat proof spatula but the less you touch it the better. 

Once the sugar melts it will start to turn a light golden color and than a bright amber and it will smell like creme brulee. I wish I could tell you what mark to look for on a candy thermometer, but honestly I've never make this with one.  Vince taught me to make this and he just went by the color!   Lower the heat to medium and add the butter. Whisk until the butter is mixed in, it's going to fight you but just keep whisking. Once the butter is incorporated add the heavy cream and stand back as the mixture will bubble up. Whisk again until all the cream is mixed in. Remove from the heat and add vanilla extract. Pour into a heat proof container and cool. Once cool it can be covered and stored in the fridge until ready to use. Makes about 2 cups of caramel, which is more than you need for the cheesecake but believe me you will have no problem finding ways to use it up- ice cream, apple pie, chocolate covered caramel pretzels...

hazelnut praline powder
Adapted from "The Pie and Pastry Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum

1 cup toasted hazelnuts
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water

Place toasted hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and set aside. In a small heavy bottomed pot combine sugar and water. Heat on medium high. Let the mixture boil undisturbed. Brush down any sugar crystals with a damp pastry brush. If you have a candy thermometer you're looking for the mixture to reach 380, if your going by color you want a dark amber color and as soon as you've reached your mark pull it off the heat and pour it directly over the hazelnuts. Once cool you can process in a food processor. Set aside until ready to use. Any left overs can be stored in a cool dry place, do not refrigerate. Makes about 1 & 1/2 cups, it's more than you need to top a cheesecake, but keeps for a couple of weeks in which time you will come up with other uses for it.


2 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl and stir in melted butter. Press into the bottom and about an inch up the sides of a false bottom cheesecake pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. Enough for 1 large or 2 small cheesecakes.

pumpkin cheesecake batter
Adapted from "The Cake Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum

1 & 1/2 pounds cream cheese (at room temperature)
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
2 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat cream cheese in a stand mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add sugar; beat to combine, about another minute. Scrap the sides of the bowl again and add pumpkin, sour cream, pumpkin spice and vanilla. Beat on medium until everything is combined, scraping the bowl again if necessary. Add the eggs and beat on low just until everything is mix well. Do not over mix! 

Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Cut a piece of tin foil large enough to cover the outside bottom and sides of the pan. Tightly wrap the tin foil around the pan. Place pan into a baking dish and fill it with hot water until it reaches about 1 & 1/2 inches up the side of the pan. Bake for 1 hour or until cheesecake is firm but still bouncy. Leave the cheesecake in the oven but turn off the oven and let the cheesecake cool down completely for another hour. If the water hasn't all evaporated, take the cheesecake out of the water bath. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. This is enough batter for 1 large or 2 small  cheesecakes, or 12 to 16 servings.


Once the cheesecake is totally chilled and firm, carefully remove it from the pan. Slide a decorating spatula or the bottom of a tart pan under the bottom and transfer to a serving plate. If the caramel is on the tight side you can pop it in the microwave for 20 or 30 seconds to get it to a pourable consistency. Spread caramel over the top of cheesecake and sprinkle liberally with hazelnut praline. 

Hope you had a great Holiday! What did you make for dessert?
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  1. I made a trip to the bakery, and it didn't look this good! Ha, ha, no seriously I want to try this! Maybe next year...

  2. Thanks Poppy, homemade is always better!!

  3. This looks so the topping, wow! Totally a showstopper. :)

  4. Thanks Sara, I just used the leftover caramel to make a batch of Twix cookies!!