Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sweet Pea's Kitchen: Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake with Graham-Pecan Crust

Every Thanksgiving we have the same pumpkin pie.  And, don't get me wrong, it's good.  It's just...tired.  I have a notoriously short attention span, and pumpkin pie lost me a couple of years ago.  So did most of the rest of the dinner, but that's a bit easier to change up.  You take away pumpkin pie, and people get angry.  It's stepping on tradition.  It's spitting on the recipe passed down from your mother's mother's mother.  Okay, maybe not that far, but you see what I mean.  So this year I didn't stray far.  I stayed in the pumpkin pasture.  But I goosed it a little.  Okay, a lot.  But it's still pumpkin.

Cheesecakes are difficult to get right.  I'm talking about the cracks on top.  Yes, I mean the ones on the last cheesecake you made.  Okay, and the last cheesecake I made.  Caught me.  Anyway, any recipe that doesn't include instructions for a water bath should be looked upon with great suspicion.  So I did my darnedest to set one up.  Except I don't own a roasting pan.  Or anything close to being big enough to hold a 9-inch springform pan with lots of clearance.  So I improvised with my glass lasagne pan.  And hey, no cracks.  I did have a bit of a scare when water somehow sneakily leaked in between the foil and my springform pan, but luckily the $20 I spent on the pan was worth it.  And after waiting forever for it to cool down in the fridge, I had a piece of creamy pumpkiny goodness all to myself.  I thank my short attention span.

Pumpkin-Bourbon Cheesecake with Graham-Pecan Crust
Adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen blog

For the crust
3 ounces graham crackers (about 5 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
2 ounces pecans, chopped (about ½ cup)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling
1 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
1½ pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup bourbon

For the crust
Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick spray.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the graham crackers, pecans, sugar, and spices until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses.  Transfer to a medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix until evenly moistened.  Transfer the crumbs to the springform pan and press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and a ½ inch up the sides of the pan.  Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack while making the filling.

For the filling
Bring about 4 quarts of water to a simmer in a stockpot for the water bath.  Whisk together the sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl; set aside.

Line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels.  Spread the pumpkin puree on the paper towels in an even layer.  Cover the pumpkin with a second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until the paper towels are saturated.  Peel back the top layer of the paper towels and discard.  Grasp the bottom paper towels and fold the pumpkin in half; peel back the paper towels.  Repeat and flip the pumpkin onto the baking sheet; discard the paper towels.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed to break up and soften, about 1 minute.  Scrape the beater, bottom, and sides of bowl with a spatula.  Add about  of the sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape the bowl and add the remaining sugar in two additions, scraping the bowl after each addition.  Add the pumpkin and vanilla and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape down bowl.  Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape the bowl.  Add the remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape the bowl.  Add the heavy cream and bourbon and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl and give a final stir by hand.

Set the springform pan with the cooled crust on an 18-inch square of double layer heavy-duty foil and wrap the bottom and sides; set the wrapped pan in a roasting pan.  Pour the filling into the springform pan and smooth the surface; set the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan so that it comes halfway up the side of the springform pan.  Bake the cheesecake until the center of the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken, about 1½ hours.  Set the roasting pan on a wire rack and use a paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan.  Cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes.  Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and set the springform pan on the wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours.

Makes one 9-inch cheesecake, about 12 to 16 servings

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