I have a little Thanksgiving issue. I don’t care for pumpkin pie. Go ahead. Report me to the House Committee on Un-American Thanksgiving Cooking. I adore pie. I like pumpkin. I just don’t see what they need with each other. And as any of the nice people who hacked, drilled, or sawed their way through my pumpkin pie crust last thanksgiving will tell you, pumpkin pie senses my cool reception. It doesn’t like me, either. But I’m okay with that. I’m through making pumpkin pie for the tradition-bound. They can make their own pies. (Did you hear that collective sigh of relief?) Who needs pumpkin pie when there’s pumpkin cheesecake to be had?
Now THIS is a dessert worth giving thanks for. This is no dense, heavy cheesecake. Dense, heavy cheesecakes are a disgrace. Like any good cheesecake, this one feels light and airy in the mouth. The pumpkin tastes delicate and flowery, buoyed as it is by fat-fluff and spice. The crust delivers a lively kick of ginger, and a satisfying crumbly crunch. The filling is the burnished orange of an autumn poplar. Between the scent of the spices and the silk of the filling and the sienna shade, this cheesecake makes a quintessential holiday dessert. So long, pumpkin pie.
If you have any pangs about trying out a new recipe at Thanksgiving, don’t. I’ve made this several times and I haven’t screwed it up yet. If I can do it, believe me, so can you. Word to the wise: The first time I made it, I ignored the “wrap the pan in foil” step. (I don’t follow instructions when I don’t understand why they’re there. This has caused me much grief in life, but still I persist.) I shouldn’t have skipped that step. The cake oozes what I assume is melted butter. So do as I say and not as I do, and follow the instructions. Then, for good measure, put it all on a rimmed baking sheet. You won’t regret it.
PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE WITH GINGERSNAP CRUST – serves 12
adapted from an old Bon Appetit recipe, which for some reason I can”t find on epicurious.com
1 ½ cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (I ground up cookies in the food processor for these)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wrap outside of nine-inch springform pan with foil. (Mine is a ten-inch pan, so I made some extra crust, and baked for a little less time because it was a thinner cake.)
Mix crumbs, butter, and sugar in a bowl.
Press mixture onto bottom and two inches up sides of pan.
Bake crust until slightly darkened, about five minutes. Set aside. Maintain oven temperature.
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup canned pure pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
Blend cream cheese and sugar in food processor until smooth.
Add pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, and spices. Process until smooth. Transfer filling to crust.
Bake cheesecake until center is set and edges begin to crack, about one hour. Cool in pan. Chill until cold (a few hours). Run a knife between the cake and the pan sides. Remove sides.
Arrange pecan halves decoratively on cake.