I offered to do Christmas Eve dinner for the extended family this year, and as usual, I like to go for something a little non-traditional if I can get away with it. This year I made Pancetta and Bucatini, an absolute favorite of this household. For dessert though, I thought cheesecake would be a nice touch, but I wanted to add a little taste of the holidays to it. So, out came this pumpkin cheesecake and boy was it delish!
1 c. Crushed Gingersnap Cookies
1 c. Crushed Graham Crackers
1/2 c. (4 oz.) Melted Butter
3 (8 oz.) Packages of Cream Cheese
1 (15 oz.) Can of Pumpkin Purée
(not pie filling)
1 c. Sugar
1/2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. All Spice
1/4 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
Pecan Topping Ingredients
1 c. Plain Pecan Halves
1/4 c. Sugar
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
1 Egg White
2 tbsp. Water
Caramel topping for drizzling
Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
To make the crust: Crush the cookies using a food processor, mortar and pestle, or just a good old fashion wooden spoon like me (albeit the most time consuming method though). Pour in the half cup of melted butter and mix thoroughly. Press the cookie crumb mixture into your springform pan, spread throughout the bottom and up along the sides also. This will give your cake a nice crust around the edges as well. Place the pan with the crust in the refrigerator to set while you mix the other ingredients.
To make the cheesecake: Place the softened cream cheese in a mixer and mix on a low setting for a minute or two. Add the pumpkin purée and mix on a low to medium setting until blended. Add sugar and spices, then continue to mix. Finally, add one egg at a time ensuring the filling is mixed thoroughly before adding the other eggs (about 30 seconds of mixing). Your filling should be smooth and ready to pour into your set crust.
Smooth out the top if needed and bake at 350 deg F for at least 1 hour (I removed mine at 1 hour and 5 min). It should jiggle and the cheesecake filling will sink as it cools. Let it cool to touch and then place it in the refrigerator to cool overnight (at least 4 hours if you are short on time).
To make the pecans: Beat the egg white and water together until frothy. Place the pecans into the egg white bath and immediately drain in a colander. Place the sugar and spices into a plastic bag. After the nuts have drained for 3-4 minutes, place them into the bag and shake until they are coated with the sugar coating. Spread the nuts onto a microwave safe plate and heat on full power for 1 minute. Stir, then repeat for another minute. Let cool and then break the nuts apart. These coated nuts also make a good snack and can be made using almonds or walnuts as well.
Once the cheesecake has chilled, remove the springform edges of the pan. Above, you can see how pressing the crust on up the sides of the pan adds an additional rustic look to the cake. Slice off a piece, drizzle with caramel, and top with the sugar coated pecans. Eat, enjoy, and repeat as often as needed.