Daring Bakers April: A pumpkin cheesecake

As part of my campaign to release pumpkin from the shackles of autumn and into our kitchens year round, I decided to bake a pumpkin cheesecake for this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. The challenge, hosted by Jenny Bakes, was to take a basic cheesecake recipe and unleash our creativity on it. I was all set to push my culinary boundaries with an avocado and white chocolate version, when at the last minute I chickened out. I’m no Ferran Adria or Heston Blumenthal. Unique and daring flavour combinations are not my forte. I wanted a cake that I knew would be edible.

Because I was worried how a large amount of pumpkin would affect it, I ended up shunning the prescribed basic cheesecake recipe and choosing a bona fide pumpkin cheesecake instead. The base recipes were actually very similar so I don’t feel too guilty about my culinary insubordination. You can find the original cheesecake recipe at Jenny Bakes.

I enjoy making cheesecakes. For me, beating a thick cream cheese batter into smooth, silky submission is one of the most satisfying experiences in baking. Once the pumpkin was added however, this made quite a thin batter. So thin I was worried it wouldn’t bake firm. But it did! As always I baked my cheesecake in a water bath and left it in the switched-off oven for a full hour after baking; I find this always ensures a crack-free cake.

There are two camps of cheesecake lovers. I am a thick, New York cheesecake kind of gal; this was one for the light, mousse-like, cheesecake aficionados. Halfway through my first slice I declared that I didn’t like it. This was immediately met by naysaying from Ed’s parents Terry and Linda (my Daring Bakers tasting crew for the second month in a row.) They both loved the texture and taste, so I was pleased someone was happy. Surprisingly, as the week went on, I started to agree with them. By the second night, the flavours seemed to have melded and married and the fridge had firmed it up; it was quite lovely. By the third night I was seriously sold. My advice: make this a couple of days in advance.

Perhaps the last word should go to Ed (known from now on as the Hapless Wonder, since we’ve decided he’s wonderful and wondrous in many things – physics, drumming, juvenile humour – but ever so hapless and hopeless when it comes to being my baking assistant and general taste tester). He proclaimed that it tasted 'just like the icing on the carrot cake we had the other week'. Funny. Things made mainly of cream cheese tend to be like that.

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Adapted from Pumpkin Cheesecake II at Allrecipes.com
Crust:
1 1/2 cups (200g) ginger biscuits, pounded into crumbs
3Tbsp butter (I used 4 Tbsp in my version above and found it too greasy)
Filling:
3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
1 cup (250 g) canned pumpkin
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
3 packages cream cheese (each 8 oz /250 g)
1/4 cup (50 g) brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp whipping cream
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F / 175C. Grease and flour a 9-inch or 10-inch round springform pan. Cover the pan with aluminum foil halfway up the sides; this is to ensure that no water seeps into the pan when you bake the cake in the water bath. You may need several layers of foil to ensure there are no cracks for water to seep into.

Combine the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter and mix well. Firmly press mixture into the bottom of the pan.

Combine white sugar, pumpkin, 3 egg yolks, spices and salt in a bowl. Mix very well and set aside.

With an electric or stand mixer, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy; gradually add the brown sugar, the whole egg, remaining egg yolk and the cream, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and sift in the cornstarch; beat batter until smooth. Add pumpkin mixture and mix well. The batter should be completely smooth and free of lumps. Amy lumps in the batter will not melt during baking. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, place the cake pan into a large roasting dish and fill the dish with the boiling water at least 1/3 way up the side of the pan. Bake in the centre of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes. Do not overbake! The cake will still be somewhat jiggly in the centre when it is done. Turn off the heat and leave the cake in the oven for a further hour. Refrigerate for several hours before unmoulding and serving the cake.