Perfectly Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake

I’m not the biggest pumpkin pie fan.  As a kid, I remember being confused as to why people could like such a thing as this.  The texture was soft, almost mushy.  And when the color teetered somewhere between green and brown…well, that was just plain unappetizing for me.  I learned early on that come Thanksgiving day, I should grab a piece of crunchy, gooey pecan pie instead.

Now that I have a few more years of experience in eating, I’ve come to know that there are some noteworthy pumpkin pies out there.  And I won’t turn down a slice from one of those.  But before I was enlightened, when I had my first kitchen in college, I aimed to come up with an alternative pumpkin something to stand in for pumpkin pie.  So I turned to cheesecake.  How could I go wrong with cheesecake?!

I went through a series of very simple no-bake cheesecakes in pre-made graham cracker crusts.  And they were good.  But somewhere between marriage and children, I started experimenting with the real thing.  I bought a springform pan and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve been tinkering with this particular pumpkin cheesecake recipe for the past two years.  I’ve taken it to Thanksgiving dinner each of those years, to rave review.  So I was pretty darn confident when I offered to make this for a get together last weekend with friends.  And then my balloon started a slow leak as I watched the hostess struggle with removing piece after piece of my pumpkin cheesecake from the bottom of the springform pan.  Ohhhhh well, I’ve eaten many a piece of lopsided pie in my life, I reassured myself.  Then I took a bite.  And the balloon deflated further.  As in, the squealing and sputtering, out of control balloon flying all over the place kind of deflation.  I was sickened, really.  This was NOT what I remembered.  The crust was soft and kinda greasy.  And the cheesecake filling had an off texture and taste.  Where did I go wrong?!?!

So…when I got home from work on Monday night, I made it again.  Yep, I’m some kind of crazy like that.  For the crust, I decreased the butter, added a bit of salt, and prebaked it this time.  Most of my recipes are altered in some way and have quite a few notes written on them.  Rather uncharacteristically, my pumpkin cheesecake recipe didn’t have any notes as to the kind of cream cheese I’ve used in the past.  And I had used low fat cream cheese (it’s what I had on hand) in the previous weekend’s failure, so I was pretty sure I needed to up the fat content of my filling.  I took the cheesecake out of the oven after kissing the girls goodnight, let it cool on the counter, and then tucked it into the fridge, assuring it that I would be back at breakfast time.

The next morning, I found some Reddi Wip in the back of the fridge, and then tenderly carried my cheesecake to the counter. It was time for breakfast, and for the moment of truth.

I was happy, so very happy, as I sliced and removed the first piece.  It came out beautifully, with a crisp, clean cut.  Then I took a bite.  And, by golly, this was it!  The gingersnap crust was crunchy, and just buttery enough, with a lovely hint of saltiness.  And the filling was all that I remembered loving this pumpkin cheesecake for.  It was thick, creamy, and loaded with yummy pumpkin pie spices.  It was perfectly perfect.  And everyone who had a piece at work that day would agree.  They didn’t mind one little bit that I’m some kind of crazy.

Ahhhhhh…all is right in my pumpkin cheesecake world again.

Perfectly Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake
(print recipe)

for the crust:
1-3/4 c. gingersnap cookie crumbs, from about 40 gingersnap wafers
3 T. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
4 T. unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled down

for the filling:
3 8-ounce packages regular cream cheese (not low fat or nonfat), at room temperature
1 15-ounce can pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/4 c. sour cream
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.  Prepare a 9″ springform pan by lightly spraying with cooking spray.

For the crust, pulse the cookies in a food processor until the crumbs are uniform.  Add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt and pulse to combine.  Transfer to a medium bowl and add the melted butter.  Combine thoroughly with a fork.  When the mixture is evenly moist, crumbly, and holds together when you squeeze a handful, it’s ready. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom, and very slightly up the sides, of your springform pan.  Chill for 5 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool completely.

Prepare a water bath while the crust cools.  Heat a kettle or pan of water to a soft boil.  Have a larger baking dish or roasting pan ready to set the springform pan inside of.  Once the crust is cooled, set the springform pan on a double layer of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap the foil up around the outside of the pan.

For the filling, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the pumpkin puree and combine.  Add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, incorporating each egg thoroughly before adding the next, and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each one.  Beat in the sour cream.  Then add the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and flour.  Beat just until combined, then beat in the vanilla.

Scrape the filling into the cooled crust and spread evenly.  Set the springform pan in the larger roasting pan and add enough hot water from the kettle to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake until the top of the cheesecake is a deep golden color and the center is set, about 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 40 minutes.  It’s ok if there is a slight jiggle to the filling.  Remove the cheesecake from the oven and run a thin-bladed knife between the crust and the pan sides, to prevent the  cake from cracking as it cools.  Let the cheesecake cool to room temperature in the pan on a wire rack.  Cover and chill for at least four hours or overnight before serving.  Top individual slices with fresh whipped cream.

Source:  a farmgirl’s dabbles

I linked up with Cheryl over at Tidy Mom for I’m Lovin’ It Fridays.  And she featured my cheesecake in her weekly Wrap Up!  Check it out here!

Tidy Mom I'm Lovin It Fridays

This recipe was also featured on The Pioneer Woman’s site in The Tasty Kitchen! Dara of Cookin’ Canuck did my Perfectly Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake up real nicely. Check it out here!
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