PUMPKIN-HAZELNUT CHEESECAKE

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I smiled when the lady at the checkout wished me a happy thanksgiving and then quickly asked if I celebrate Thanksgiving.  Nodding a yes while wishing her the same, I started to think about past celebrations as I walked back to the car.  And I realized that right from my very first Thanksgiving in this country, it has been a time of getting together with family and friends and being thankful.

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And other than the absence of a turkey at the table, our celebration has also been about planning the meal and sides, inviting or getting invited to, cooking, cleaning, decorating and sitting down to share a meal.  There have been big gatherings and small ones, Indian-themed ones with a large, stuffed Mughlai Cauliflower taking the prized spot in the center, or a Western themed one with a large Calabaza pumpkin stuffed with black rice, barley, nuts, craisins and herbs taking center-stage.  Often, when we have hosted, there have been last-minute additions to the guest list when we found out about friends or acquaintances who would be alone, and we simply added some more mismatched chairs to the table.  And made precious memories.

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Regardless of what else is on the menu during that time, this cheesecake has been my Thanksgiving tradition for over 20 years........with a recipe that came together in a funny way.  I was watching Good Morning America while having breakfast and Wolfgang Puck was on to demonstrate some holiday recipes.  I was only half-listening to the recipe of a pumpkin cheesecake when I heard the words "coriander powder".  Then I was all ears and grabbed a pen to quickly write down the ingredients for the filling, but had already missed the list for the crust.  Later  that day when I was talking to my lab supervisor about the cheesecake, she mentioned seeing it too ...but she was only able to get the ingredients for the crust!  So we did a quick exchange of lists and this has been a part of our Thanksgiving ever since, with the recipe going through many modifications over the years to end up in this form :)  

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I have made it with both low-fat (Neufchatel  cheese) and full-fat cheese and both are delicious!  If making the low-fat version, try to remove the excess moisture from the pumpkin puree by transferring the contents to a few layers of paper towels and dabbing it lightly. Also, using a water bath while baking has consistently given me a cheesecake without cracks - well worth the effort.

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You can decorate/top the cheesecake with whatever you fancy.  This time, I used some caramel-dipped hazelnuts.  In the past, I have used mini pumpkins made of marzipan, chocolate-dipped roasted hazelnuts but often have just left it plain.  It is delicious no matter how dressed or un-dressed you have it.  

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I tried to be ahead of the game this year so that I could take pictures and post the recipe....and just found out that we are having additional friends at the table, so the slices will be just a teeny bit thinner :)  

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Cheesecake (9 inch springform)


Crust:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup oat bran hot cereal
1/2 cup raw sugar
3 tbsp melted butter, room temperature
1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan.  Additionally, you can also line the bottom with parchment paper.

Add the nuts, all-purpose flour, oat bran cereal and sugar to a bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times until the mixture turns sandy.  Do not let it turn into a fine powder.  Add the melted butter and egg yolk and pulse it 2-3 times until it is all mixed in.  Press firmly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Bake for 10 mins, until the edges start to turn light brown.

Let cool to room temperature.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F.

Filling:
3 8oz pkg cream cheese - full fat or 1/3 less fat  (I use Philadelphia), room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 15oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/4 cups raw sugar*
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Mix the cream cheese in a stand mixer or hand mixer on low speed for 2 mins until fairly smooth.

Add the sour cream and mix for a minute.  Then add the cornstarch and mix on low speed for another minute.

Add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, sugar, salt & vanilla and mix on low speed for 2-3 mins until smooth and lump free.

Then add the egg in 2-3 instalments on low speed until just mixed in. Do not mix on high speed because it will incorporate air and might lead to the cheesecake cracking.

In the meantime, boil some water in a large kettle or pan (enough water to come up to halfway of springform pan when poured in roasting pan).

Pour filling into crust.  Cover the bottom and sides of springform pan with aluminum foil (I use two large aluminum sheets that are arranged on top of each other and wrap the pan, tucking the excess foil under the rim of pan).  Place in a roasting pan large enough to fit the springform pan with room all around for the water.   Put in oven.

Gently pour the water into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan. 

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hr 15 mins, until the center still feels a bit jiggly.  Do not open the oven during this time.

Turn off oven and prop the door slightly open (I stick the handle of my wooden ladle between the oven and door).  Let the cheesecake cool in the oven for another hour.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and transfer to cooling rack.  Run the tip of a thin knife along the sides of the pan.  Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature.

Refrigerate overnight or at least for 4 hrs.  Release the pan bottom from sides and serve.

* The amount of sugar is just about right for us.  If you like your cheesecakes very sweet, you can add 1/4 cup more sugar.

Yum

8 comments:

  1. This is simply stunning Bina. Love all the pictures, perfect. I can only imagine how good it must taste and the candied stretched hazelnuts, so good.
    I love this holiday too, just so good to be around friends and cook up all that deliciousness. Happy Thanksgiving dear.

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    1. Thanks so much, Asha! Have to start planning for the dinner now :) I like this cheesecake...it isn't too sweet and is a perfect complement to a second dessert which is often much sweeter:)

      Happy Thanksgiving to you all too :)

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  2. This looks soo good...not to miss the fancy touch of candied hazelnuts!! ;) although i'll admit till I started blogging.. I had no clue of America's obsession with pumpkins.. and till date, for me pumpkin is thought of only in terms of savoury dishes!! Must experiment with the sweet version sometime.. Happy Thanksgiving!! x

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    1. Thanks Sarvani! Thought I would make it just a tad bit dressy :)

      Pumpkins are really delicious in sweet dishes...especially when paired with spices. Yes....do try it sometime! I must say that my favorite pumpkin dish is still the savory kaddu ki sabji with methi seeds, amchur and gur.....with some puri!

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  3. Such a refined recipe! I love and appreciate tradition - being a house of mixed cultures we like celebrating both - however my Indian festivities sometimes suffer here in Germany :) Great images Bina! xo

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    1. Thanks so much, Meeta! The words are extra special coming from you :)

      I think having a very large Indian population over here makes it somewhat easier ...there are times when I don't think of doing much and then get caught up in the enthusiasm of others :)

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  4. Bina, your images are great. You have a clear sense of composition, and the images appear strong, not busy. The hazelnuts blow my mind!

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    1. Lakshmi.....nobody will be able to wipe the grin off my face today :) Thank you so much for your kind words! Your images are beautiful beyond description. They have such a calming effect on me and I always look to them for inspiration :)

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