The Challenge: Pumpkin Classics

November 19, 2010

When you think of pumpkin recipes, especially in the fall, everyone thinks of pumpkin pie. This Thanksgiving classic is good for any fall event or, for a pumpkin lover like my boyfriend, just about any time. Another less known, but even more rich pumpkin dessert is pumpkin cheesecake and with several autumn birthdays and the Thanksgiving potluck marathon approaching I turned my kitchen into a temporary pie and cheesecake factory.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Courtesy of the Food Network

I used a recipe I found online and having never made cheesecake before (pumpkin or no) I would consider it a major success. It was much simpler than I expected, but I admit I did cheat a little and buy the graham cracker crust, which was actually cheaper. The only issue is that the filling recipe made way more than enough for 1 cake – more like 3 – so I had to make an emergency crust run to the store.

For the filling basically soften an ungodly amount of cream cheese – three 8 oz packs – in the microwave or with patience and whip well. Add a cup + of pumpkin puree, eggs, sour cream, spices, flour, and vanilla extract. When well combined, ladle them into your graham cracker crust. The final step is to bake the cakes for an hour then let them rest for 15 minutes or more before chilling in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours.

One thing I love about this recipe is that it’s not quite as rich as a normal cheesecake, because it’s cut with the pumpkin. This means it doesn’t leave you with that rich dessert hangover feeling.

Pumpkin Pie

The Crust

Pie crust, oh pie crust, why do you hate me so? Every time I make crust it gets easier, but since my first attempt almost brought me to tears,  let’s just say it’s been a hard road. Following the “Flakey crust” recipe EXACTLY from my “How to Cook Everything” cookbook by Mark Bittman has helped.

Surprisingly, the person who has been most helpful in my learning process is my sister’s very meticulous, engineer boyfriend, Adam. As a serious pie lover, he has a lot to gain from improving my crust-making abilities.

For me it’s the dough handling that is the most difficult part: rolling it out without it getting glued to the rolling surface and getting it onto the pie pan before I rip it in two or it completely disintegrates.

Here’s a few tips from Adam to ease the frustration:
1. Before rolling out your dough lay a baking sheet or large cutting board on your rolling surface.
2. Lay a sheet of wax or parchment paper on top and then cover it with flour.
3. Roll out the dough and then lay your pie pan face down on top of the cutting board/wax paper layers.
4. Put one hand under the cutting board and the other on top of the pie pan and quickly flip them so the pan is on top and lift off the cutting board and wax paper.

Rolling the dough on top of the wax paper and baking sheet

Preparing for the flip

This technique is nearly full proof and very welcome after once having had to roll out/chill a ball of dough 6 times because of a series of pitfalls.

The Filling

Again for this recipe I refer to my “How to Cook Everything” book, which has a good, reasonably simple recipe. However, with this recipe I always forget that doubling is really like quadrupling and end up making 4 pies. It uses a lot of pumpkin though so this time I didn’t mind, especially since I had a lot of Thanksgiving themed potlucks coming up.

First, beat 3 eggs with ¾ cup sugar and then add the spices (½ tsp cinnamon and ginger, ⅛ tsp nutmeg). Mix in two cups of pumpkin puree per 1 recipe and 2 cups of cream. Blend well and then warm the mixture in a large saucepan until hot to the touch, but DO NOT BOIL as the cream will curdle. When done add the mixture to your pie crust and bake at 375º for 40 minutes (usually more) on top of a baking sheet. This recipe says to prebake the crust, but since the crust always seems to brown faster than the filling finishes, I always skip that step.

2 thoughts on “The Challenge: Pumpkin Classics

  1. Pingback: Pumpkin Challenge Complete! : : livin' sassy

  2. Pingback: Whiskey Molasses Pecan Pie : : livin' sassy

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