When I first saw this in Cook’s Illustrated back in the Nov/Dec 2003 edition, I knew I had to try it.
I’d eaten pumpkin cheesecakes before, but they always left something to be desired. Either too soft and runny (pumpkin has a lot of moisture in it), too artificial tasting (using flour or cornstarch to make up for the moisture in the pumpkin), or not enough pumpkin taste (use less pumpkin to reduce the amount of moisture).
The folks at CI came up with a simple way to remove the excess moisture from the pumpkin: simply spread it out over paper towels, and let the paper towels soak up the excess moisture.
I made it for Thanksgiving dinner that year, and from the looks on people’s faces when they took a bite, I wasn’t the only one who’d had less-than-spectacular pumpkin cheesecake.
Not the case with this pumpkin cheesecake. Perfect cheesecake texture with pumpkin pie taste!
Fast forward 9 years later, and I’ve made this at least once, if not 2-3x times, a year to rave reviews. I guess you can file this under ‘so good it doesn’t last long enough to get a photo of’, hence the lack of a blog post (until now).
5oz graham crackers (9 whole crackers)
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
6 tbsp butter, melted
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 (15oz) can pumpkin
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks and left to soften at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla
1 tbsp lemon juice
5 eggs, left at room temperature about 30 minutes
1 cup heavy cream
For the crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse graham crackers, sugar, and spices in a food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to a medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with a rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared pan; using your hand, spread crumbs into an even layer. Using a flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while making the filling.
For the water bath: Bring about 4 quarts of water to simmer in a stockpot.
To remove excess moisture from the pumpkin: line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin on the paper towels in a roughly even layer. Cover the pumpkin with a second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until paper towels are saturated. Peel back the top layer of paper towels and discard. Grasp the bottom towels and fold pumpkin in half; peel back the towels. Flip pumpkin off the towels onto the baking sheet: it should flop right off in a solid mass. Do not skip this step! The excess moisture in the pumpkin will make the filling taste watery if it’s not removed.
For the filling: Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl; set aside. In a standing mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and sides of bowl well with a rubber spatula. Add about one third of the sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping after each addition. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give the mixture a final stir by hand.
Set springform pan with cooled crust inside double layer of 18” aluminum foil (see note below). Set the wrapped pan into a metal roasting pan. Pour the filling into the springform pan and smooth the surface. Set the pans into the oven and pour the simmering water into the roasting pan; enough to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours (start checking at 1 hour). Run a paring knife around the sides of the cake to loosen; set roasting pan on a wire rack and cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove springform pan from the water bath and discard the foil wrapper. Continue to cool on wire rack until barely warm, about 3 hours. Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
- Making the cheesecake is a lot easier and faster if you have a Beater Blade for your stand mixer. I highly recommend a Beater Blade!! Check out my updated review here.
- Don’t be tempted to use 12” aluminum foil, as water will get in the seams and make the crust soggy; in a pinch use a small disposable roasting pan can be used in place of the 18” foil. Trust me on the 12” foil, I speak from experience!
- To make removing the first slice of cheesecake easier, cut two slices, then remove one. Cutting the 2nd slice gives you a little “wiggle” room that allows you to get the first slice out without mangling it.
- It may seem like there are a lot of steps involved, but this is actually pretty easy to make.
Source: Cook’s Illustrated, Nov/Dec 2003