One of our favorites! I mean, who doesn’t love cheesecake? In fact, I used to love it so much, I swore I’d never make another one!
Well, things change, and you do things for people you care about.
A friend of ours loves pumpkin. When I heard it was her birthday, and it fell on a Saturday, I knew just what to make. Pumpkin cheesecake. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if my little freezer bag of orange puree was pumpkin or butternut squash, but either way, I knew she would love it. When autumn is ending, this is the girl who goes and buys all the pumpkin yogurts everywhere she could find them of her favorite brand..Siggi’s, I believe. I guess that’s what I was remembering. And what goes better with pumpkin cheesecake than a smoked turkey? And a bunch of summer side dishes.
I combined several recipes….. I loved this crust from Eating Well. It was a regular graham cracker crust, with less butter (of course), and they added walnuts and old-fashioned oats to it. Everybody in our dining circle loves walnuts and oats (and more butter, please), so, I used this crust recipe. Less graham crackers and more walnuts and oats would have been good, but expensive. Everyone loved the crust. I did up the butter content from 2 tablespoons to the original 4 tablespoons butter normally called for, and also added a little of the milk for sticking power, since I wanted a crust that would stick to the sides. It worked beautifully, and even prompted questions as to “How did you get it to stick to the sides?” forcing me to reveal my secrets at the dinner table. But, it also, illustrated to me that I’m not the only one who wants a slightly stickier, easier to mold graham-cracker crust. Well, here you go.
Now, all day, my husband kept saying, “Are you really making a pumpkin cheesecake?” And at first, I said, “Well, I’m not sure if it’s pumpkin or butternut squash, I didn’t label the bag when I froze it. Does it matter?” “Yes, I hate pumpkin pie.” Well, to be honest, I hate pumpkin pie, also. A fact that he knows very well. So, I don’t know why he was worried.
But, all the recipes I found only called for one cup of pumpkin or squash in a big batch (at least 3 eight-ounces packages of cream cheese) of cheesecake. I wasn’t really sure if the flavor would even come through.
So, I decided to make an original New York Cheesecake recipe, which uses 4 to 5 eight-ounce boxes of cream cheese (that’s at least 2 pounds of cream cheese people!), plus possibly some sour cream and butter in there, also. Add a whole lotta eggs, a little bit of sugar, some lemon zest, and vanilla extract. I made two batches of the crust. One I put in a springform pan, and the other in a regular glass Pyrex pie plate.
Then, I would divide the batter, let one be an original, and add a half-cup of squash/pumpkin puree to the remaining batter and some appropriate spices and pour into pie plate # two. And my husband gets the original my Father’s day, and our friend gets the pumpkin for her birthday….Happy Birthday, to my friend! Happy Father’s Day, my love!
Voila! Everyone is happy. Very happy.
For the Crust (from Eating Well) (makes 1 (one) crust – double if needed):
- 9 graham crackers
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking or steel-cut)
- ¼ cup walnuts
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons flour (all-purpose is fine)
- 2 (or 4, if you are feeling indulgent, like me) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 to 3 tablespoons milk (regular, rice, or almond)
For the Cheesecake (pretty universal, but this recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart):
- 4 eight-ounce boxes cream cheese, at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 8 ounces sour cream, at room temperature (not fat free; I used whole milk yogurt instead; it was on hand)
- 1 ¾ cup granulated sugar (I used 1 ½ cups)
- 5 whole eggs, at room temperature
- 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
- Zest of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
Pumpkin variation- for a half batch (double for full):
- ½ cup to 1 cup pumpkin or butternut squash or acorn squash puree (fresh roasted, frozen, or canned)
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Did I follow the recipes on making everything? Of course not.
The Eating Well instructions for the crust have you process all the ingredients together in the food processor. I did not want my oatmeal or my walnuts as finely ground as my graham crackers (plus, I just used my mini-chopper), so I did them all in batches so I could control the texture of each processed ingredient. And, believe me, my guests noticed. The only thing we all noticed was a lack of walnuts. I guess Eating Well threw them in there for the health benefits, because you really couldn’t taste them. A little more, next time!
Once all the dry ingredients were processed, I added the flour and the sugar, and mixed well. Melt the butter (I used the microwave), and pour over. Mix all the ingredients. Depending on how much butter you used (2 or 4 tablespoons), depends on how much milk you will need, if any. I used 4 tablespoons of butter, and still ended up adding about 2 tablespoons of milk (or water). To test, grab a handful of crumbs in your fist; the crumbs should hold together. If not, add the milk(or water) a tablespoon at a time until this happens.
Press into a springform (9-inch), Pyrex pie plate (9-inch) or other suitable baking dish. Eating Well’s recipe is actually for bars, and their recipe states that this crust recipe is enough for a 9×13-inch pan, so you may have some leftover if you are just using a little round pie plate (I did). If you are making two separate cakes in two pans, you will need to repeat this step for the second cake/pie pan.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350, remove and let cool.
For the cheesecake filling:
In a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer is best, as this will give a hand mixer a workout!), start to mix the cream cheese, butter and sour cream on low using the flat paddle. Add the eggs, adding the next one only after the previous one is fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides to make sure all the cream cheese is incorporated. Add the sugar, the lemon zest, and the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides again and mix on low for one to two minutes.
If you are happy with all New York Cheesecake, stop here and continue to next paragraph. If you will be adding pumpkin or butternut squash to half or all of your cheesecake; If you want to make it all squash/pumpkin, add between one to two cups to the entire batter. If you want to divide the batter and make two smaller cakes (as we did, to make everyone happy), first fill what will be the plain cheesecake prepared crust with approximately half the filling. With the remaining half of the filling still in the bowl, add a half cup to one cup to the batter, and the pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg) as desired, and mix (with the flat paddle still in use) for a minute or so on low, to fully incorporate the squash puree and break up any chunks.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Just prior to putting cake in the oven, reduce the temperature to 325 degrees.
If you are making only one grand New York Cheesecake, it helps to have the right size springform pan. Make sure to put enough crust in to seal the bottom sides, even if the crust sides don’t go up all the way. Since it will take a longer baking time to bake this one big custardy cake, it is often recommended to bake it in a bain marie (literally, a “water bath”). This entails wrapping thebottom of the springform pan in foil, placing the springform pan in a roasting pan. Once the roasting pan is in the oven, pour some water in the oven. This will allow a gentle baking of the custard-like cake, ensuring it will keep its’ creamy texture.
But, I made two smaller cheesecakes, so, no bain marie was necessary. I did, however, bake each cake on a tray just in case there was any leakage (from the springform pan) or overflow (form the Pyrex). The small cheesecakes took about 45-50 minutes to cook. Both cheesecakes were just starting to get cracks around the sides, the center was set. If you bake the whole cheesecake in the bain marie, it will take an hour (60 minutes), to set, possible a few more. Instead of baking it longer, I turned the oven off and let the cakes sit in there another 10 minutes, just to let them “set” a little bit longer.
To be honest, it’s the first time I have not had a cheesecake not form the big cracks down the center. Maybe the slow cool down in the oven was the key; maybe all the eggs (the extra custard texture) was the key. I don’t remember putting so many eggs in my cheesecake before; it has been many, many years since I’ve made a cheesecake, much to my husband’s dismay.
To serve, we simply topped with some sweetened whipped cream.
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/squash_cheesecake_bars.html – this recipe appears to be suitable for low potassium diets, so, I might have to make it for my father-in-law next time I visit him. Eating Well’s website also gives the nutritional informtion (including sodium and potassium) on all of their recipes.
Oh yes, by the way, even the people who don’t like pumpkin (or butternut squash) loved the “squash” cheesecake”. Because the squash version had lemon zest in there also, along with cinnamon and vanilla, we all thought it could use more squash, even though I did use about 3/4 cup roasted squash puree that I had put up last fall. I tasted the batter before putting it in the oven, and knew that I would be eating a piece of that cake. It was delicious!