I can’t remember exactly when the pumpkin spice thing took hold. Or how it came to be. You can google all that and get your own ideas. One thing comes to mind and it’s coffee:
I do also recall spice companies selling something called, “Pumpkin Spice,” which got the cook off the hook of buying cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mace, ginger, cloves, etc.
I just don’t ever remember buying anything called, “Pumpkin Spice” or “Pumpkin Pie Spice,” and maybe you don’t either, but it undoubtedly sold and continues to sell tons. The McCormick Spice website says they began selling it in 1934!
Instead, I made and make pumpkin pie and added the spices in the amounts I craved — extra cloves were my passion. I never put any of those things in coffee with the exception of a pinch of cinnamon in the grounds at Thanksgiving or Christmas if company was on the way. Coffee should taste like coffee. I might get the whole pumpkin spice thing if I realize folks are just nutty about wanting something to love come fall. (GOODBYE HOT SUMMER!!!) So they glom onto pumpkin spice for fun, for something to do. Sure. Makes sense.
Me, I just love pumpkin (and every other winter squash) like it is. Orange, sweet, stringy, and perky-happy out there on the front porch. Tasty in regular old Libby cans left for a year on the shelf, please. (No organic canned pumpkin, thanks. Aargh.) Maybe it’s because I have an October birthday. Or just that I love fall in general.
So over the years, I’ve made a ton of pumpkin whatever. Pies, bread, muffins, soups, puddings — you name it. It gets to where I might really have to think about how to come up with something new.
But when the first cool day arrives, there’s no longer any problem. No wondering. The waiting for a time when the oven can be cranked up and maybe even a sweater shrugged on come late afternoon is finally over. There could be, “Brrr…” coming out of my mouth.
This year, God was even better than usual. I already had in mind pumpkin cheesecake. Something with the fullness of my big, thick NY version (recipe courtesy Pagliacchi’s/Victoria, BC), but chock full of ginger, a tad lighter, and complete with spicy notes that might lean toward heat somewhere. Maybe in the crunchy bottom of some sort of nuts. While there’d be pumpkin and there’d be spice, there wouldn’t be “pumpkin spice,” per se. Nah. How about a dessert that could easily step in right after a big meal? You know. When folks go, “I couldn’t eat another thing.” And you say, “I think you might be able to eat this.” And they do. Score.
Because dessert doesn’t have to be the icing on the cake of a heavy old dinner. It can be part and parcel of the meal. I won’t say this is savory, but there is a savory balance to its sweetness. It isn’t 5 inches of fat on a plate combined with an equal amount of sugar lugging up your tummy. What it is, is good. It needs a wee dram along side and probably a hot fresh coffee, too. When you’ve got those added to the plan, try this:
pumpkin-ginger crunch cheesecake
- 9-inch springform pan, two-large sheets of aluminum foil, roasting pan or large heavy casserole dish (See COOK’S NOTES)
- 1 ¼ cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup finely chopped pecans, divided
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon EACH: ground ginger and cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon EACH: kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and ground cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup butter(4-ounces), melted
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- 1- pound cream cheese at room temperature (2 8-ounce packages)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon EACH: vanilla extract and almond extract
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger-can sub ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon EACH ground cloves and freshly grated nutmeg
- 4 large eggs at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream (can sub milk)
- PREPARATION: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Place oven rack at center. Strain the pumpkin by spooning it into a paper towel-lined fine mesh colander and pressing out excess liquid by running a rubber spatula or large spoon across the pumpkin a time or two. Set aside.
- CRUST: In a medium bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup of the chopped pecans, sugar, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir in melted butter until well-blended. Spoon into a 9-inch springform pan and press evenly across bottom and up at least ½-inch on the sides. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chopped pecans over the bottom of the crust. Refrigerate while you make the filling. (Can do this is the food processor, but be careful not to over-process as the nuts are easily chopped too finely.)
- FILLING: In a food processor fitted with a S-blade or an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, pulse or beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, almond extract, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg and pulse or mix well. Spoon or scrape in the strained pumpkin and pulse or mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing briefly after each addition. Stir in cream.
- ADD FILLING TO CRUST AND BAKE: Place two large sheets of aluminum foil around the bottom and up the sides of the the springform pan and place it in a roasting pan. Pour the filling into the crust in the springform pan. Place roasting pan on the oven rack, fill with hot water half-way up the sides of the springform pan, and bake for 55-60 minutes or until the cake is at 150 degrees F (use an instant read thermometer) or firm with the exception of the center, which should still be a little jiggly. (A baking pan full of water is called a bain marie and ensures even baking.)
- COOL/SERVE: Remove the roasting pan to a cooling rack. Holding the pan with an oven mitt or towel, carefully run a thin, small knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it. Let it sit in the water bath until water is barely warm—another hour. Take the cake out of the roasting pan, pour out the water, discard the foil or save for another use, and place just the springform pan back on the rack to cool completely: 2-3 hours. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. To serve, remove from the refrigerator and let rest 30-60 minutes before removing sides of the pan, cutting, and serving with Ginger Whipped Cream (see Notes), if you like. You can dip the knife into hot water, wipe it quickly on a towel, and then cut the cake for clean, neat slicing. You’ll need to repeat dipping in hot water and wiping for each cut.
- STORAGE: Cheesecakes store well in the refrigerator, well-covered, for up to a week and covered with foil or in a freezer bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, thaw overnight, wrapped, in the refrigerator before resting 30-60 minutes at room temperature and serving.
Need to make graham cracker crumbs by hand? Place crackers in a zip lock freezer bag, close securely, and use a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) to pound/crush the crackers into crumbs. You can do nuts like this, too. A mallet works, too.
Bringing eggs to room temperature quickly….Carefully place eggs in a medium bowl, cover with warm water, and let sit 10 minutes before using.
Baking a cheesecake in a bain marie (hot water bath) encourages an evenly-cooked cake without cracks.
I keep a jar of already-grated or minced ginger in my fridge for when I’m out of fresh ginger. By the way, fresh ginger can be stored in a little bag in the freezer or in a jar of sherry in the fridge. Peel it with a teaspoon and grate it on a rasp (microplane). If your rasp is a few years old, buy yourself a new one for Thanksgiving. They do become dull.
I’ve made this cake twice and am very pleased with it. I do hopefully have a couple of other people testing the recipe. If you’d like to do that, too, be my guest and happy baking!! Leave a comment letting me know how it turned out? Thanks!
You might also like my CRANBERRY-CITRUS CHEESECAKE WITH CINNAMON-NUTMEG GRAHAM CRUST:
MORE INFO THAN YOU WANTED:
LIFE GOES ON
Our ballots have come via USPS for years in Colorado. Mine arrived the other day and I’ve just voted right here at my own desk! I could mail it in, as there’s plenty of time, but Dave and I usually prefer to drive over to the county building and put ours in the 24-hour Drop Box. Totally simple.
The fires aren’t gone; we have a new one not 20 miles down the road right now. They do provide lovely sunrises.
I’m not overly fond of Virginia Creeper (invasive red vine in bushes and tree), but it does do lovely things in our back 40 come fall. We have little red in our fall landscape in Colorado Springs; most trees here turn gold.
I wish you breathing room and not-too-sweet fall treats,