Oct 02, 2017

Let’s Talk About Pumpkin Cheesecake

By MaryAnn Miano

Pumpkins are everywhere at this time of year. Pumpkin spice drinks, pumpkin soups, pumpkin pies – or you can simply stick to your jack-o-lantern pumpkin. If none of those autumnal treats thrill you, why not consider putting two favorite foods together into a pumpkin cheesecake? Observed annually on October 21, National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day seems the perfect time to take a beloved dessert and add the ubiquitous pumpkin to it.

Pumpkin cheesecake is traditionally made with graham cracker crust, as most cheesecakes are, and a pumpkin puree cheesecake filling. Combining these two ingredients of cream cheese and pumpkin gives both a bit of notoriety. You can opt to use cooked pumpkins that are mashed up into puree or you may choose to use ready-to-use canned pumpkin.

Cheesecake is a sweet dessert that is a mixture of fresh soft cheese such as cream cheese or cottage cheese, eggs, and sugar on a crust made from graham crackers, crushed cookies, pastry, or sponge cake. Pumpkin is added to the cheesecake recipe in various ways. It can be swirled throughout, mixed thoroughly with all ingredients, or layered. Cheesecakes can be prepared baked or unbaked, flavored and topped with fruit, fruit sauce, chocolate, or whipped cream. Adding heavy cream or sour cream to cheesecake helps soften the texture of the cheese and adds moisture.

Cheesecakes are derived from the ancient world. In Greece, a physician by the name of Aegimus wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes. Cheesecake was considered to be a good source of energy and served to athletes during the first Olympic Games, dating back to 776 B.C. However, the first Greek cheesecake recipe ever recorded was in 230 A.D. It was a basic recipe of mixing cheese to make it smooth and pasty, adding it to a brass pan with honey and wheat flour, and then heating the cheese cake until done.

The Romans, who conquered the Greeks, claimed the recipe and modified it to include crushed cheese and eggs. They baked the cake under hot bricks to serve warm. The Romans also used the cheese filling to fill pastries, calling it “libuma,” to serve on special occasions. Marcus Cato, a first century B.C. Roman politician, gets the credit for recording the oldest known Roman cheesecake recipe. As Romans expanded their empire, the cheesecake spread throughout Europe. Great Britain and Eastern Europe began experimenting with ways to put their own unique spin on cheesecake. King Henry VIII’s chef experimented by cutting up cheese into very small pieces and soaking them in milk for three hours. He then strained the mixture and added eggs, butter, and sugar.

It was during the 18th century that Europeans began to use beaten eggs instead of yeast to make their cakes rise. The cheesecake began to taste more dessert-like and less yeast-like. Of course, they brought these cheesecake recipes to the New World. James Kraft developed a form of pasteurized cream cheese in 1912, and in 1928, he acquired the Philadelphia trademark and marketed pasteurized Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which is now the most commonly used cheese and signature ingredient for this creamy dessert.

Show your love for the beautiful season of fall by baking a pumpkin cheesecake in honor of National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day.

 

MAPLE PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepared 10-inch cheesecake pan, ungreased, or springform pan with 3-inch sides, greased.

 

Crust

2 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp ground ginger

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

 

Filling

5 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

1 cup sour cream

2 ¼ cups granulated sugar

6 eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup pure maple syrup

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

¼ tsp ground allspice

3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp vanilla extract

 

Preparation

  1. Crust: In a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, ginger, and butter. Press into bottom of cheesecake pan and freeze.
  2. Filling: In a mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar on medium-high speed until very smooth, for 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Fold in pumpkin, flour, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, lemon juice, and vanilla by hand.
  3. Pour over frozen crust, smoothing out to sides of pan. Bake in preheated oven until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before serving.
  4. You can top cake with whipped cream, if desired.