Ariel and I felt that a "Hump" Day Dinner would be the best way to celebrate getting through the middle of the week with my two roommates Natalie and Jenny and our friend Travis. The preparation for this dinner began a day earlier because Ariel was desperate to try out a new challah bread recipe from The New York Times magazine and I wanted to bake a cheesecake which needed to chill overnight before being served.
Tuesday evening Ariel and I got to work on our respective projects. I compiled all the ingredients I needed for Pumpkin Cheesecake (a family favorite at our Thanksgiving table) and she laid out everything she needed for the challah. Ready, set challah (Holla!) and we were off to a good start. I began by crushing graham crackers in a plastic baggie and then combining them with brown sugar and melted butter and forming the mixture into a crust in a springform pan.
Next, I began whisking pumpkin, spices, salt, brown sugar, and eggs in a large bowl. Next I beat cream cheese, a little heavy cream, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla in a separate bowl. This step would have been much easier had a mixer or beater been available, but since we moved in to our house not too long ago, we lack many proper kitchen appliances. I made do using a large spoon and a whisk. Then I combined the pumpkin and cream cheese mixtures and poured them into the pan and placed it in the oven to bake for an hour.
JAM note: Place some aluminum foil underneath the springform pan to ensure none of the mixture leaks from the bottom. The butter in the crust can make it a little greasy and the liquid can seep out during the baking process.
In the meantime Ariel activated the yeast with some warm water and began adding flour to create the dough. As Ariel worked with the dough, it became dry and unmanageable. She quickly realized she had misread the directions and had to throw away her first batch and start over. She could have shown her frustrations, but instead had a good laugh and with some help from Natalie got right back to work on a fresh batch. She will fill you in on the details.
Once the cheesecake was done baking, I let it cool for 5 mins and then added a sour cream and sugar topping and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Then the cheesecake cooled on a rack before being put in the refrigerator overnight. The smell of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg wafting through the house were divine. We all had to use all our willpower not to dive in and devour the whole thing right then and there.
For the crust:
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 stick (1/8 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the filling
1 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, cut into bits and softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
For the topping
2 cups sour cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Make the crust:
In a bowl combine the cracker crumbs, and the sugars, stir in the butter, and press the mixture into the bottom and 1/2 inch up the side of a buttered 9-inch springform pan.
Make the filling:In a bowl whisk together the pumpkin, the egg, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ginger, the salt, and the brown sugar. In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and the granulated sugar, beat in the cream, the cornstarch, the vanilla, the bourbon liqueur, and the pumpkin mixture, and beat the filling until it is smooth.
Pour the filling into the crust, bake the cheesecake in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is just set, and let it cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes.
Make the topping:In a bowl whisk together the sour cream, the sugar, and the bourbon liqueur.
Spread the sour cream mixture over the top of the cheesecake and bake the cheesecake for 5 minutes more. Let the cheesecake cool in the pan on a rack and chill it, covered, overnight. Remove the side of the pan and garnish the top of the cheesecake with the pecans.