Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gingersnap and Pecan-Crusted Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon Sour Cream Topping

This was my first attempt at making cheesecake, but it definitely wasn't without some challenges. I had successfully made my first cheesecake and placed it into the oven, thinking "that wasn't difficult at all!"... until I saw the 3 eggs lying on my counter- oops. The second time I made it, I tried to make a shortcut by not buttering my springform pan, and even though the crust looked lovely after it baked in the oven, while cooling, it completely collapsed into this mess:

And then the cheesecake wasn't setting in the oven... so I put it back in again. And again. And then when it had finally set, there were cracks in the top. But I thought- no biggie- I'm making a delicious Bourbon Sour Cream Topping so I can "cover" it... but then the topping also cracked.



Thus, I started to research on the web to see if there were any tips/tricks to making the perfect cheesecake. And of course, there were numerous websites saying "Don't do (that) or (this bad thing) will happen". Well, I did just about everything these websites said I shouldn't have. I was nervous to share this with friends, but I have to say- it turned out quite well. I am not a cheesecake fan myself, but our friends and my DB took large portions and said it tasted great. Rachel even said she'd take this over pumpkin pie any day! I've organized and listed various tips/tricks I've read, and am listing it here so you can now make a fool-proof cheesecake. Enjoy!

Tips & Tricks I learned to making Cheesecake. There may be some precautions, but the steps are not difficult:
Mixing
a) Be sure to eliminate all lumps in your cream cheese BEFORE you add the eggs. The eggs are what add the air in the batter.
b) Don't overmix the batter! The more you beat the batter, the more air you bring in, which can result in cracks in your cheesecake. Add the eggs last, and mix as little as possible once they're added into the batter.

Baking
a) Bake your cheesecake in water bath. The water will maintain an even temperature around your cheesecake, which helps prevent cracking.
- Wrap the outside of your springform pan well with foil. Use 2-3 heavy-duty foil sheets in a crisscross pattern, covering the pan to a height greater than where the water will reach.
- To ensure a good, non-slip surface, fold a kitchen towel or use a Silpat/silicone baking sheet on the bottom of your roasting pan.
- Place the foil-wrapped springform pan inside a larger baking/roasting pan that is filled with water. The water should go halfway up the pan.
b) Don't overbake the cheesecake. The cheesecake will continue to bake after it's removed from the oven. The cheesecake is ready when the edges are firm, but the center is still a "jiggly" and moist.

After baking
a) After it is removed from the oven, take an angled spatula and carefully run the tip around the top edge of the cake and the side of the pan. This will assist in having the cake pull away freely from the pan as it cools.
b) Invert a plate and place over the cheesecake to slow the cooling process. Cracks may form due to drastic temperature changes.
c) Loosen the clamp of the springform pan ONLY WHEN THE CHEESECAKE IS COMPLETELY COOLED.



Directions:
For the crust
3/4 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs (1-1/2 cups whole cookies, finely processed)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (3/4 cup whole pecans, finely processed)
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling
1-1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
(3) 8-oz packages cream cheese, cut into bits and softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp bourbon liqueur or bourbon if desired (Used Maker's Mark)

For the topping
2 cups sour cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp bourbon liqueur or bourbon, or to taste

For decorating
16 pecan halves, for garnish
Caramel sundae syrup, for garnish

Make the crust
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a bowl combine the cracker crumbs, the pecans, 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. (Here is a helpful way to press the crust mixture of the side of the pan evenly.)
3. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Make the filling
1. In a bowl whisk together the pumpkin, the egg, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ginger, the salt, and the brown sugar.
2. 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.
3. 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 & Decorate
1. In a bowl whisk together the sour cream, the sugar, and the bourbon liqueur.
2. Spread the sour cream mixture over the top of the cheesecake and bake the cheesecake for 5 minutes more.

3. Let the cheesecake cool in the pan on a rack and chill it, covered, overnight.
4. Remove the side of the pan and garnish the top of the cheesecake with the pecans.
5. Place pecan halves on top of cake, and drizzle with caramel sauce.

Source: Recipe adapted from Gourmet, Cheesecake Tips and Tricks from Lesley's Recipe Archive

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