Spice Season Opening
Let this be known: I do not buy into the phenomenon of coy female food guilt. I don’t feel guilty about feeding myself good things. I don’t feel guilty about eating sweets when they’re around. If I do happen to binge a little (like the run-in I had with a pack of Oreos earlier this week), I don’t make myself feel bad about it, though I do try to do better next time.
However, I increasingly believe in the value of delayed gratification. When I want to buy myself fancy, shiny new things, I do try to wait. In fact, there was once a jacket that I visited weekly for three months before allowing myself to buy it. Of course, when I did finally bring it home with me, I could barely afford food for the next couple of weeks. But wearing the beautiful, buttery thing around the house made me feel better about my growing hunger and dwindling bank account.
Another thing I believe in delaying is my annual sugar-and-spice binge. From Thanksgiving through, approximately, February, I allow myself obscene quantities of all things involving any or all of the following: cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger, allspice. However, I don’t really dip into these flavors until the third week in November. I like to keep these warm fuzzy flavors to the season in which they’re most needed. Every year, it’s worth the wait.
This year, I’m inaugurating the Spice Season with a new-to-me recipe: Pumpkin Bourbon Spice Cheesecake with a Spiced Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust. You got that right – the word SPICE appears TWICE in the title of this dish. That’s the way we like it, this time of year.
The recipe comes from Baking Illustrated, but I did tweak it a little, as I generally do. I decreased the sugar in the filling by about a tablespoon and added about a tablespoon of Maple Syrup at the same time as the Heavy Cream. (Maple’s another exclusively Winter taste, as is pumpkin, obviously.) I also added almonds in an equal amount to the pecans in the crust. These things were good decisions.
It turns out, this dessert is perhaps the greatest baked good ever known to man. It’s creamy, spicy, sweet, and yet almost light (as light as cheesecake can be) and its crust is nutty and spicy and crunchy. The cream that I whipped up to serve with it is a dense, sweet, bourbony rich addition and every bit good enough to eat on its own. This cheesecake is kind of the sweet, supple, beautiful dessert answer to my lovely jacket. If I could slip into this cheesecake and wear it around, I would. It’s truly spectacular. Make this for your holiday crowd. They’ll thank you and you’ll thank me.
Pumpkin Bourbon Spice Cheesecake with a Spiced Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust
adapted from Baking Illustrated
For the Crust
- 5 1/2 graham crackers (3 oz.)
- 1 oz chopped pecans (original recipe calls for 2 oz)
- 1 oz slivered blanched almonds (my addition)
- 4 T unsalted butter, melted
- 3 T sugar
- 1/2 t ground ginger
- 1/2 ground cinnamon
- 1/4 t ground cloves
- Heat the oven to 325.
- Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ spring form pan.
- Process crackers, nuts, sugar, and spices in a food processor until finely ground.
- Place crumbs into medium bowl and mix butter evenly into crumbs.
- Turn crumb/butter mix into the spring form pan and use the bottom of a drinking glass to press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the spring form pan. Use a spoon to create a neat edge and press crumbs all the way into the corners of the pan.
- Bake about 15 minutes until fragrant and browned around the edges.
- Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.
- When cool, wrap the outside of the pan with a double layer of aluminum foil. Set the wrapped spring form pan into a roasting pan.
For the Filling
- 1 1/2 c sugar (minus 1 T)
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- 1/2 t ground ginger
- 1/4 t ground cloves
- 1/4 t ground allspice
- 1/2 t salt
- 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
- 1 1/2 lbs cream cheese, cut into small chunks, at room temperature
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 c bourbon
- 1 T maple syrup
- 1 c heavy cream
- Bring about 4 quarts of water to a simmer in a stockpot.
- When the crust is done baking, whisk the sugar, spices, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
- This part is ODD: line a baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin puree onto paper towels and place triple layer of paper towels on top. Press on paper towels until they are saturated. Peel back the top layer of paper towels. Flip the pumpkin onto a new layer of paper towels and repeat. Discard the towels.
- Beat the cream cheese at medium speed for 1 minute. To save myself typing, I will just say now that you should scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as well as the beater after every step from here on out.
- Add about a third of the sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined.
- Add half of the remaining sugar mixture and beat at medium-low until combined.
- Add the remaining sugar mixture and beat at medium-low until combined.
- Add the pumpkin and vanilla and beat at medium speed until combined.
- Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until combined.
- Add the remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until combined.
- Add the heavy cream, bourbon, and maple syrup and beat at medium-low until combined.
- Pour the filling into the springform pan and smooth the surface.
- Set the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough simmering water to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
- Bake until the center of the cake is slightly wobbly and the center of the cake reads 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 hours. (Beware, the cake can bake much faster depending on oven temperature and temperature of ingredients.)
- Set the roasting pan on a wire rack and cool until water is just warm.
- Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil and set on a wire rack.
- Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake. Cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.
- Wrap with plastic and refrigerate until chilled. Up to 3 days.
serve with Bourbon Mascarpone Whipped Cream
- 1 c heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 c light brown sugar
- 1/2 c mascarpone cheese
- 2-3 T bourbon
- pinch salt
- Mix mascarpone cheese with bourbon.
- Mix brown sugar and salt into whipping cream.
- Add mascarpone/bourbon mixture to whipping cream and sugar. Whip on high speed until peaks form.
On second thought, it would also be interesting to try substituting some maple sugar for some of the sugar in the cream. The maple taste I tried to introduce into the cheesecake was lost a little and putting it in the cream might be a good way to bring that flavor out without running the risk of changing the (perfect) texture of the cheesecake.
Vote for me! Go to the Bon Appetit Blog Envy Contest and vote for my cheesecake! Be sure to vote in all categories.