Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thanksgiving in Paris: Pumpkin Cheesecake

Everyone knows what Thanksgiving in the United States is all about: food, food, food, and...more food. Then comes post-Thanksgiving: Christmas shopping, Christmas decorations, and pretty much getting hyped up about the upcoming holiday season. It seems like all of a sudden, bakers forget pumpkin even existed. After the end of November, it's all about gingerbread and the like.

Paris doesn't exactly follow the same pattern, for obvious reasons. Thanksgiving isn't a holiday here--strangely, some Americans actually wonder why--and nobody goes as holiday-crazy as they do back in the States. That's why celebrating Thanksgiving is always a little strange, especially when your boyfriend is French and doesn't really get the point of it, especially when it's only a week after your birthday and you've only just finished celebrating.

In any case, I wanted to do a little something for the 26th. The truth is, I got a little jealous from hearing and reading about everyone baking endlessly in preparation for Thanksgiving. Even if I wasn't really going to celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I wanted to bake a dessert. I didn't even have much thinking to do: I had a never-been-used mini springform pan that seemed perfectly adapted to a perfectly sounding dessert: pumpkin cheesecake.

Oh, it was risky: I'll admit that I've never made a cheesecake before. I'm planning on it, sure, but I keep saving it for a moment when I have friends coming over. But then, when they do, I figure that I shouldn't try a cheesecake just right now... and it all starts over. A pumpkin cheesecake seemed a little different, and I told myself I couldn't be taking that much of a risk with a pint-sized version of the real thing.

Creamy, nicely spiced, it was everything a Thanksgiving dessert should be. Even if you only eat it on the day after.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
Serves 12
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

Note: I divided the recipe by 3 to fit into my mini-pan and ended up having way too much filling...I made crustless heart-shaped mini cheesecakes and froze them--recipes coming later!
8 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces (or 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs)
6 TB unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 TB sugar
1 TS pumpkin pie spice
1/2 TS ground cinnamon

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 TS ground cinnamon
1 TS pumpkin pie spice
1/2 TS salt
1 1/2 lbs. cream cheese (I used the French "nature à tartiner"), cut into chunks and softened
(I pressed it between paper towels to remove excess moisture, since the French nature à tartiner has more moisture than cream cheese)
1 TB fresh lemon juice
1 TB vanilla extract
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325°F.

Process graham crackers in a food processor to fine, even crumbs, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle melted butter, sugar, and spices over crumbs and pulse to incorporate. Sprinkle the mixture into a 9-in. springform pan. Press the crumbs firmly into an even layer using the bottom of a measuring cup.

Bake the crust until fragrant and beginning to brown, 10 to 15 mins.

Let crust cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Once cool, wrap outside with 2 sheets of foil and set in a large roasting pan. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.


Spread pumpkin puree on a triple layer of paper towels. Press additional layers of paper towels on top of puree until they are saturated.

Whisk the sugar, spices, and salt together in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until smooth, 1 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Beat in half of the sugar mixture until incorporated. Beat in the remaining sugar mixture. Beat in the dried pumpkin, lemon juice, and vanilla until incorporated. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined.Beat in the heavy cream until incorporated.

Brush the inside of the springform pan with melted butter. Carefully pour filling into the pan. Set the roasting pan, with the cheesecake, on the oven rack and pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches about halfway up the sides.

Bake cheesecake until a thermometer inserted in the center registers 150 degrees, about 1 1/2 hours (a lot less if you're scaling the recipe down, watch out!)

Let cheesecake cool in the roasting pan for 45 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, running a knife around the edge of the cake every hour or so. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.

To unmold the cheesecake, wrap a wet, hot towel around the cake pan and let sit for 1 minute. Remove the sides of the pan and carefully slide the cake onto a cake platter.

Let the cheesecake sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
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claudia said...

seems like another "réussite"! Not easy to make a decent cheesecake in France without the real "cream cheese"..

Anonymous said...

What is in pumpkin pie spice? It's not available in the UK as far as I know!


Lucie said...

Pumpkin spice is a mix of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice, with a larger proportion of cinnamon--hope this helps!