Although I oppose the annual pumpkin spice season – that special time of year when you can buy anything from a latte to a pair of sandals that will smell and/or taste like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger – I am a lifetime sucker for pumpkin pies. A lot of cognitive disk space is taken up by memories I have of huge family thanksgivings in Cleveland, OH (where I lived for the second half of my childhood), and the lights-out pumpkin pie my Aunt Lee would make. A lot of kids can be finicky about pumpkin pie, but I was an instant and dangerous addict.
Similar to pumpkin pie is my longtime love of cheesecake. Again, most kids miss out on cheesecake but I loved it immediately (just like my dad when he was a kid). The first time I ever had cheesecake was on a family vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. I had a slice of NY style for dessert one night and was forever a changed man. Tis’ the season of tradition and reflection isn’t it? And getting fat on damn good food. So today, we’re making pumpkin pie cheesecake.
You can use these recipes to make a whole pie if you’d like, but today I’m baking them in small (4oz) mason jars, which I think is a nice option for holiday parties and gatherings. Ball brand jars – found just about anywhere, and Weck jars, which are a step of in price and look, make good cheesecake vessels. Whatever you choose, just be sure the glassware or ceramic you bake in can handle the heat stress of an oven.
A smooth cheesecake batter is a good cheesecake batter, so really take the time to smooth the cream cheese in the beginning of the recipe and most importantly incorporate the eggs slowly. Unless you have a hand blender, a little lump of cream cheese is hard to get rid of in a finished batter. Whatever you do, try and limit the amount of air incorporated, and that means mixing on slow speeds with a paddle instead of a whip.
The recipe for candied pecans can be used for other nuts as well. This recipe involves hot caramel and handling hot product, so use common sense when you’re making them! A pair of latex or neoprene gloves can add a little thermal barrier if you need it.
Personally, I don’t think there’s a better cream cheese than Philadelphia and it’s what I always use. It surprising what a difference it makes. If someone out there has an even better brand, let me know!
While we’re talking about ingredients, I think it’s worth considering buying fresh baking spices each holiday season. On the surface this is a pretty Gwyneth Paltrow type of thing to say, but if you can get access to freshly ground spice – locally, or online, or by making your own – I think it’s worth it. Get just enough to handle your baking projects for the season and then do it again next year. It’s crazy how much better freshly ground spices smell and taste compared to dying a slow death in a little jar.
pumpkin pie cheesecake (jars)
graham cracker pie crust
350g graham cracker crumbs
250g butter unsalted
Melt the butter and add to the graham cracker crumbs, mixing thoroughly.
*This mixture can either be par-baked for a no bake filling or left raw to be baked with a filling like cheesecake.
pumpkin pie cheesecake
455g cream cheese
48g all purpose flour
4g cinnamon ground
2g clove ground
2g nutmeg ground
2g ginger ground
430g pumpkin puree
62g whole milk
142g whole eggs
167g sour cream
12g vanilla extract
Combine the cream cheese, all purpose flour, baking spices, and sugar in a stand mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, and mix on low speed until the cream cheese softens and smooths.
Add the eggs gradually, allowing full emulsification of each addition and scraping the bowl thoroughly, often.
Add the pumpkin puree, whole milk, sour cream and vanilla extract.
Bake the cheesecake using a water bath at 320F/160C for home ovens and 280F/138C for industrial or convection ovens. The cheesecake is done when it has domed slightly and has a slight wiggle to it but is set through the center.
Once finished baking, turn the oven off and crack the oven door slightly. Leave the cheesecake inside to cool for 15-20min.
white chocolate chantilly (whipped cream)
210g heavy cream A
22g glucose optional
426g white chocolate Guittard Creme Francais 31%
677g heavy cream B
Combine the heavy cream (A) and glucose and bring to a simmer.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and hand blend (or whisk thoroughly).
Add heavy cream (B) while blending (or whisking). Let the mixture chill in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours and up to overnight.
When ready to use, whip the mixture on high speed in a stand mixer with a whip attachment until stiff.
2g vanilla extract
326g pecans chopped
10g cocoa butter optional
Warm the pecans in the oven at 200F/93C for 3-5min. Turn the oven off and leave the pecans in it to stay warm.
Combine the sugar, water and salt in a sauce pot and cook to 244F/118C.
Remove the syrup from the heat and add the pecans and vanilla extract. Be careful handling the pecans as they might be hot from the oven.
Stir the pecans until the syrup crystallizes, evenly coating them.
Return the pecans to the stove and cook over medium heat, stirring until the syrup has caramelized.
Add the cocoa butter and mix well.
Spread the pecans out over a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper and let them cool for 3-4min. or until they can be handled.
Make the candied pecans and let them cool. Reserve them to use later.
Make the graham cracker crust and press it firmly into the base of the mason jars. I like to use the butt end of a whisk to do this, but sometimes rolling pins fit well too. I used about 12g of graham base per mason jar, and about 150g for an 8″ round cake pan.
Chill the jars just until the graham cracker crust firms up.
Make the pumpkin cheesecake batter and pipe it over the crust. The cheesecake will dome while baking, but not really rise too much so fill the jars with that in mind. I used about 100g of batter per mason jar, and 750g for an 8″ round cake pan.
Using a water bath, bake the cheesecake at 320F/160C for 30min. for mason jars or 45-60min. for an 8” round cake pan. If you’re baking in an industrial convection oven, bake at 280F/138C for 10-15min. for mason jars and 30min. for an 8″ round cake pan.
Whip the white chocolate Chantilly until stiff in a stand mixer with a whip attachment.
Transfer the Chantilly to a piping bag with a tip of your choice (I like a French star tip for rosettes) and pipe a rosette of Chantilly onto each pumpkin cheesecake.
Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and candied pecans.