Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pumpkin Cheesecake

The Recipe: A five-star dessert, a creamy-creamy barely sweet pumpkin cheesecake. There's three layers, a crust made with ginger cookies and pecans; the cheesecake layer, full of warm pumpkin-pie spices and a splash of bourbon; and a creamy layer of firm, bourbon-spiked sour cream. Make it a day ahead, either in a full-size cheesecake for a crowd or a Thanksgiving buffet or in a mini cheesecake (pictured) for smaller gatherings.

The Conversation: The best tip for extra-creamy cheesecake, for this recipe or another favorite? Time and Temperature!

Pumpkin Cheesecake, full-size or mini, barely sweet with ginger-pecan crust and bourbon, real crowd pleaser. Recipe, tips, WW points at #KitchenParade.

Planning Your Thanksgiving Menu? Recipe Ideas Here!

~ Six Thanksgiving Menus ~
~ How to Make Flaky Tender Pie Crust ~
~ more Thanksgiving recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Favorite Recipes for Thanksgiving's Favorite Vegetables ~
~ Vegetarian Entrées for Thanksgiving ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog

Isn’t cheesecake just so versatile?!

A full-size cheesecake not only feeds a crowd but is a real crowd-pleaser.

For the last few years, this barely sweet Pumpkin Cheesecake has been my go-to Thanksgiving dessert. I make it the day before and even with lots of competition on the dessert table, the slices just go-go-go.

But can cheesecake work for smaller groups too? Heaven knows, our hips won’t thank us for leftover cheesecake!

By accident, I came across a half-size springform pan for a half-size cheesecake. The smaller pan holds exactly half the volume of the larger pan. Brilliant! This makes for easy recipe math! (It’s not quite that simple but still, works. More detail below …)

But let’s talk about how to make the very best cheesecake, whether you make this recipe or your own favorite cheesecake recipe.

The most-important tips for making a great cheesecake? Time and Temperature!

First, do let the cream cheese warm to room temperature – not for an hour, not even a couple of hours but several hours – otherwise your cheesecake layer will have tiny clumps of cream cheese because those clumps are just too cold to mix in easily.

Second, my friend Ann (aka the Pastry Whisperer, she knows all the inside tips) is an advocate of taking a long, long time beating that cream cheese into submission. “It won't get creamier in the oven,” she’ll say.

So one cheesecake, I followed her tip and beat the cream cheese mixture for a full 20 minutes. Did it make a difference? Oh my, that cheesecake was so very creamy. I didn’t even mind the extra mixing time: spent it cleaning up the kitchen. When the mixing is done, the kitchen is cleaned up too. Once again, good math!

Now is all that mixing time necessary? In her inimitable fashion, Ann says that twenty minutes isn’t necessary – but thirty minutes is, if the cream cheese starts off cold. ☺ If I’m in a rush, I mix the filling for about ten minutes, not twenty.

Oh. And since the food processor is already out to make the crumbs, it’s tempting to use it to mix the filling too. That works great too, run it for about 3 - 5 minutes, scraping the bowl several times. Yes, you still have to start with very room-temperature cream cheese. ☺

ADJUSTING FOR A MINI CHEESECAKE PAN My full-size springform pan is 10 inches in diameter, has an area of 78 inches and holds 8 cups. My half-size springform pan is 6.5 inches in diameter, has an area of 33 inches and holds 4 cups. This means, roughly, that the recipe can be divided in half for the smaller pan. That said, because the area is smaller, the slices will be slightly thicker. I use two eggs for the smaller cheesecake.

ALANNA’s TIPS “Leave the sugar alone!” That’s the reaction when I question whether the cheesecake should be just a tiny bit sweeter. The cheesecake and sour cream layers are barely sweet, this is compensated by the very-sweet crust. Make sure to get a little of each in every bite! For ginger cookies, I’ve used both the widely available but less ginger-y Annas Swedish Ginger Thins and my preference, the extra-ginger-y 365-brand Ginger Snap Cookies, that’s the house brand at Whole Foods. Remember that Upside-Down Rhubarb Cheesecake? Same cookies! For 3/4 cups crumbs, you’ll need exactly 18 Annas ginger thins or 13 365-brand ginger snap cookies. I do love easy math! While you “may” use regular graham crackers crumbs for the crust (and I have), the crust just isn’t as special. If you do, add a little cinnamon and ginger to the crumbs. Make sure the pecans are completely cool before putting them in the food processor – warm pecans turn into pecan butter in an instant! Don’t be tempted, as I was just once, to dump in the whole can of pumpkin. That makes for something way more pumpkin-y than cheesecake-y.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!


Hands-on time: 35 minutes up front
Baking time: 1 hour
Cooling time: 3 hours
Chill time: 4 hours – overnight
Time to table: 24 hours
Makes 1 large cheesecake serving 12/24 with generous/thin slices
(easily halved for a miniature cheesecake that serves 9)
  • Butter, for the springform pan
  • 3/4 cup (85g) ginger cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (58g) toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, soft but not melted
  • 3 8-ounce (680g) packages lower-fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or more vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups (300g) canned pumpkin purée
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/16 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (360g) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or vanilla
  • Toasted pecan pieces

Heat oven to 350F/175C. Lightly butter a 10-inch springform pan. Place rack in center of oven and a cookie sheet (to catch any drips) on the bottom rack.

GINGER-PECAN CRUST In a food processor, process cookies until tiny crumbles, add sugars and process until fine. Move cookie mixture to a bowl. Add pecans to food processor, process until sandy, stir into cookie mixture. With your fingers work butter into cookie-pecan mixture until well-incorporated.

Transfer in dollops to springform pan. With the back of a spoon, press mixture into the pan to form the crust, first a half-inch up the sides, then evenly across the bottom. Freeze the crust while continuing.

PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE LAYER In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at a low to medium-low speed, mix cream cheese, eggs, sugar, cream, vanilla and bourbon for 5–10 minutes. Stir in pumpkin, cornstarch, spices and salt and mix for another 5–10 minutes, scraping down the sides every so often. (Yes, really, that’s a total of 10–20 minutes. Don't be tempted to "speed up" the process with a higher speed, that adds too much air into the mixture.)

Pour filling into crust, smooth and level the top.

BAKE Bake until center is just set about 50–60 minutes. The top may crack a little, this is not a problem.

SOUR CREAM TOPPING While cheesecake bakes, whisk together topping ingredients, let rest at room temperature, allowing sugar to dissolve and flavors to meld.

COOL BRIEFLY After cheesecake bakes, leave the oven on but transfer cheesecake to a rack and let cool outside the oven for 5 minutes.

ADD & BAKE SOUR CREAM TOPPING Spread topping evenly across the cheesecake, swirling a bit to create some texture to bake in. Bake for 5 minutes. Don't touch the cream cheese to see if it's done! It won't "look" done but will firm up as it cools.

COOL THREE HOURS Remove cheesecake from oven, while it's still warm, run a knife around the edge, separating the cheesecake from the springform pan. Leave uncovered, you don't want condensation to drip onto the surface, and let cool at room temperature for 3 hours.

REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT Carefully cover then refrigerate cheesecake until cold, at least 4 hours and preferably overnight.

TO SERVE Gently remove the side of the pan, lift off to a cake stand. Bring cheesecake to room temperature. Slice and serve, garnished with toasted pecans.

Full-Size Cheesecake, Per Slice, assumes 24/12 slices: 206/412 Calories; 13/25g Tot Fat; 7/14g Sat Fat; 58/117mg Cholesterol; 282/564mg Sodium; 17/33g Carb; 1/2g Fiber; 13/26g Sugar; 4/7g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 5/10 & WW PointsPlus 5/11.
Half-Size Cheesecake, Per Slice, assumes 9 slices: 275 Calories; 17g Tot Fat; 10g Sat Fat; 78mg Cholesterol; 376mg Sodium; 22g Carb; 1g Fiber; 17g Sugar; 5g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 7 & WW PointsPlus 7.
Adapted from Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake, I swear, I've been making this since it was first published in the still-much-missed Gourmet magazine back in 1990!

Pumpkin Cheesecake: A Make-Ahead Crowd Pleaser

Pumpkin Cheesecake, full-size or mini, barely sweet with ginger-pecan crust and bourbon, real crowd pleaser. Recipe, tips, WW points at #KitchenParade.

A full-size cheesecake works beautifully for a crowd. I like to cut thin slices for a Thanksgiving dessert buffet, real fans can always come back for seconds!

Sweet Endings for Thanksgiving Feasts

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars Pumpkin Pecan Pie American Apple Pie
~ more Thanksgiving recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

~ Honey Pumpkin Pie ~
~ Thanksgiving Cake ~
from A Veggie Venture, my food blog

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© Copyright 2014 Kitchen Parade

Sunday, November 16, 2014

One Quick Tip: Why Dried Beans Won’t Cook

Have you wondered why a pot of dried beans just won't cook? Or cooked beans that turn out tough, especially the skins? Or experienced a favorite bean recipe that every once in awhile, just doesn't turn out right?

When beans don't cook, you probably wondered if you soaked the beans long enough or if you should just cook the beans longer. You maybe questioned the recipe or worried that your slow cooker was going bad.

The real cause? Old dried beans. That's right.

Old dried beans don't cook, they just won't cook.

Why Dried Beans Won't Cook, Another Quick Tip from Kitchen Parade.

The Great Fall Pantry Purge: Throw Away Those Beans!

Many of us experience beans that won't cook in late autumn. This is how it goes, right? The temperature drops, suddenly all we can think about is a big pot of hearty bean soup simmering on the stove. So we check our pantries and sure enough, lucky break, there's a bag or two of beans leftover from last winter!

Should you make soup with those beans? Nope. Throw those beans away!

Think about it. Beans are harvested and dried during late summer to early fall, then sent to grocery stores. So by this fall, beans you find in your pantry are at least a year old. For dried beans? That's old, really old.

So every fall, I go to the big glass jar where I keep beans and just throw them away. It's hard – I really hate throwing away food – but I've learned that unless I throw the beans away, all the other ingredients I'll put in the same pot with the old dried beans will get wasted too. Better to throw away a few cheap beans than a whole pot of soup!

FYI this applies to other dried legumes too, like dried peas (including split peas) and lentils. I learned this the hard way just last week after throwing some French lentils into the slow cooker for Lentil Sloppy Joes. The lentils were at least a year old but I decided to cook them anyway. Bad idea: they took twice as long to cook and even then, didn't really cook. We're eating them but it's a struggle.

In my experience, the "old beans won't cook" experience doesn't seem to apply to rice, wild rice, barley, buckwheat, farro or quinoa. These aren't legumes (aka beans), of course, but are other starchy whole-food pantry ingredients.

How to Avoid "Old" Dried Beans

Buy dried beans from a store with high turnover.
Even when beans go on sale, buy only enough to use within a few months.
Check the packaging for expiration dates.
Write the purchase date right on the package.
In the fall, throw away last year's dried beans.

THAT'S IT! Really! One Quick Tip!

This is the latest in an occasional series of posts I call "One Quick Tip" ... because, well, each one includes just a single quick tip that's quick to absorb, easy to adopt, memorable to use. Something that'll make a difference in your kitchen life!

Do you have One Quick Tip you'd like to share? Leave a comment or send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. This time, I'd love to hear how you manage your pantry, perhaps spices, maybe different flours or nuts, maybe canned goods. Go ahead, share your good ideas!

Favorite Recipes for Dried Beans

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
At Last Black Bean Soup Ham & Beans Lucky Black-Eyed Pea Salad
~ more canned & dried bean recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade

© Copyright 2014 Kitchen Parade