Friday, November 27, 2009

Gobble, Gobble!

Well life has thrown me a few curve balls over the last two months, but I still have much to be thankful for. Seeing as a blog post in long overdue, I figured I'd better reemerge with something spectacular, so here's the dessert I made for yesterday's Thanksgiving festivities. It's a bit of an ambitious recipe but definitely a crowd-pleaser.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Brown Sugar Bourbon Cream

2 cups Pamela's Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Grease a 10" springform pan lightly with butter. In a large bowl, combine the baking mix and brown sugar. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until fine crumbs form. Stir in the nuts and mix well. The crust will be crumbly but will hold together when pressed into the pan. Pat the mixture onto the bottom and sides of the pan, bringing the crust about half way up the side of the pan. Use a spoon or the bottom of a juice glass to press the crust evenly along the edge of the pan. Set aside and begin preparing the cheesecake filling.

1-1/3 cup raw cane sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1-1/2 pounds (three 8-oz packages) of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature
1 tbl good quality pure vanilla extract
1 tbl freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Before you start preparing the filling you must prepare your canned pumpkin to remove most of the water content. This procedure seems strange and magical at the same time and I highly recommend it for any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin, as it will greatly reduce the water in the puree, making any recipe lighter and more "pumpkin-y" tasting. Trust me, it's worth the effort.

Spread at least two layer of paper towels (about three full squares long) onto a clean counter top. Spread the pumpkin puree on the paper towels with a rubber spatula. You went to spread it as thinly as possible, as if you were icing a cake. Once it's evenly distributed on the paper towels, cover the pumpkin with at least two layers of paper towels and press with your hands. You'll see much of the water soak into the paper towels yet the pumpkin will stay firmly attached to the bottom layer of paper towels. Once the top layer of towels is saturated, replace them with two more layers and keep doing this until the towels no longer soak up much water or until you get really tired of the process, which ever comes first. I typically do about eight rounds of this and use a half a roll of paper towels and then call it quits.

Now for the super magical part, grab one end of the paper towels and fold about a third of the pumpkin puree on top of itself. The bottom layer of wet paper towels should easily peel away and the pumpkin will stick to itself. Repeat this action until you have a small "stack" of pumpkin puree to add to the recipe. I now use this technique for any recipe that calls for canned pumpkin puree.

There are two additional preparation steps to take care of before you begin making the cheesecake filling. First wrap the outside of the springform pan with heavy duty foil. You need to do this because you'll be baking the cheesecake in a water bath. This will insure even cooking and will keep your cheesecake from cracking. Be sure you use heavy duty foil and if possible, purchase foil wide enough to wrap completely around the outside of the pan in one piece. If you use multiple layers of narrower foil, you run the risk of water seeping through the gaps of the foil and your crust may be a bit soggy.

Also, bring four quarts of water to a simmer. This will be the water for the water bath.

To prepare the filling, combine the sugar, spices and salt in a small bowl and set aside. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, beat the three packages of cream cheese on medium speed for about a minute. Add the sugar mixture in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition and mixing until well incorporated, about a minutes. Add the vanilla, lemon juice and pumpkin and beat on medium speed for about another minute more. Add three of the eggs and beat on low-medium until well incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and then add the final two eggs. Add the heavy cream and beat on low speed for about forty-five seconds more. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl once or twice by hand, to be sure everything is well incorporated. Pour the filling evenly into the pan and carefully cut away any crust above the filling.

One the pan is filled and the four quarts of water are simmering, put the foil-wrapped springform pan into an empty roasting pan. Be sure the pan is large enough so that there's at least an inch between the sides of the pan and the springform pan. Carefully ladle the simmering water into the roasting pan, making sure that none of the water splashes into the cheesecake pan. Fill the roasting pan until the water is about half way up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until the center of the cheesecake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken and it registers 150 degrees on an instant read thermometer. This was an hour and a half in my electric oven but may vary by oven. Once the cheesecake is done, remove the pan from the water bath, remove the foil and place the pan on a wire rack to cool. While still warm, run a thin paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the crust from the pan. Allow the cheesecake to cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. I think cheesecake tastes best when it's been refrigerated at least twenty-four hours and I think it tastes even better the second day.

Brown Sugar Bourbon Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons good quality bourbon

In a metal bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, sour cream and brown sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least four hours and up to twenty-four hours. Right before serving the cheesecake, add the bourbon and beat on medium speed until small bubbles form around the edge of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat until fluffy and doubled in volume.

Before serving the cheesecake, run the paring knife around the inside of the pan again and gently remove the springform ring. Run a sharp knife under cold water before cutting the first slice of cheesecake. Rinse the knife under cold water and dry between cutting each slice for cleanly cut slices. Add a dollop of the Brown Sugar Bourbon Cream to individual cheesecake slices. Enjoy!!