I know, I know, what's with all the pumpkin recipes? I don't know, I'm on a pumpkin kick apparently. I didn't realize I was even that big a fan of pumpkin! But this dessert will be great for any holiday parties in your future. It's delicious and elegant, and cheesecakes always impress people for some reason.
I always thought cheesecakes were hard to make - before I made one, that is. Turns out, they're not! Well, yeah, there's the whole cracking issue, but there are things you can do to avoid cracks, and the cheesecake still tastes great with the crack. And other than that, a cheesecake is usually a lot quicker to make than, say, a layer cake or a complicated pastry. The other great thing is that cheesecake is so rich, one cheesecake feeds a crowd. And you can make them 1-2 days ahead of time. I almost always include cheesecake at all my dessert parties. And there are so many options for flavors, crusts, and toppings, it's a great opportunity to be creative!
In January, I'm teaching a baking course for winter study. They're letting me use the college bakeshop! I'm totally excited, but I've never baked with commercial equipment before, so I'll be doing a lot of practicing with all the equipment in the next month. Did you know there was such a thing as a walk in oven?? Scary. I baked this cheesecake in one of the convection ovens there, which I'd never used before, and I didn't lower the temperature enough to compensate, so there's a crack in this one. I had planned on piping some chocolate ganache rosettes around the edge to hide it, but I ran out of time. Hey, the chocolate swirl hides it a little anyway!
For the Crust:
2 1/2 cups oreo crumbs
7 tablespoons butter, melted
For the Cheesecake:
2 1/2 cups sugar
32 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
6 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Preheat the oven to 325F. Spray a 10" springform pan with baking spray (see options below if you don't have a 10" springform). Wrap your springform in heavy aluminum foil - use 2 or 3 layers. The foil should come almost to the top of the pan.
Make the crust: Melt the butter, and stir the butter in to the crumbs in your pan. Gently press the crumbs down evenly over the surface of the pan. I like to use saran wrap or a plastic baggy to keep my fingers from sticking to the crumbs. Bake for 15 minutes, then cool on rack.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil for the water bath.
Beat the cream cheese in a stand mixer for several minutes until smooth. Add the sugar, and beat until light. Beat in the sour cream.
Beat in the pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla until just combined. Add the salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, beating until just combined.
Reserve about 1 cup of batter in a small bowl, and pour the rest of the batter into your springform pan.
Melt the chocolate, and stir in to the 1 cup of reserved batter. Drop spoonfuls of chocolate batter all over the top of your pumpkin batter. Run a butter knife through the batter to create the swirls. Don't swirl too much, or you'll just stir the batters together rather than creating the swirled effect.
Place the cheesecake in a larger pan inside the oven (an aluminum roaster pan works well if you don't have anything else). Carefully pour the boiling water into the larger pan, being careful not to splash water on the cheesecake. The water should come about half way up your springform pan. Bake the cheesecake for about an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. The outside of the cheesecake should be set, but the center should still jiggle when you gently shake the pan. I'd start watching your cheesecake after an hour to be safe, much earlier in a convection oven.
Turn the oven off, and leave the cheesecake in the oven (in the waterbath) for another hour. After an hour, remove the waterbath from the oven. Carefully remove the cheesecake, and peel off the aluminum foil. Bring to room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Remove from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with rosettes of chocolate ganache or whipped cream if desired, but it's plenty good on its own.
See tips below to keep the cheesecake from cracking.
-Feel free to omit the chocolate swirl. Just pour all of your batter into the crust and bake. If you also want to omit the chocolate crust, a graham cracker or gingersnap crust are other good choices. Just substitute graham cracker crumbs or gingersnap crumbs for the oreo crumbs. To make this a gluten-free recipe, omit the crust altogether (this is a big recipe: I made one 9.5" cheesecake, a 4" mini without the crust, and 3 dozen bite-size cheesecakes in mini-muffin tins).
4" Cheesecake with No Crust (Gluten-Free)
-I think a brownie base would also be great on this cheesecake.
-If you don't have a 10" springform pan, you can use a 9" - you'll want to make 3/4 of the recipe. It's ok to fill the batter close to the top of the pan, but be sure to leave about 1/2" on top.
How To Keep Your Cheesecake from Cracking
1. The water bath greatly helps prevent cracks in your cheesecake, because it makes the cheesecake cook more slowly. The problem is that water almost always leaks into the springform pan. You can use a regular cake pan, rather than a spring form - no leaks, but you have to flip the cheesecake out, and then flip again to make it right side up. That's kinda scary. When using an oreo or brownie base, the small amount of water that leaks in can make the crust a little fudgier which I like. So I usually use the water bath, and wrap it with at least 3 layers of aluminum foil.
2. It's very important to have all ingredients at room temperature. Take the eggs, sour cream, and cream cheese out of the refrigerator way ahead of time. But, of course, life happens, and sometimes you forget! You can fake it if you have to: let the eggs rest in warm water for 10-15 minutes to bring them to room temperature. You can also microwave the cream cheese (not too much! use 5-10 second increments and low power) to bring it to room temperature.
3. Don't overbake the cheesecake. The middle should still jiggle a lot when you turn the oven off.
4. Some people swear by just reducing the oven temperature and letting the cheesecake bake for longer (with no water bath). I've never tried this method, but let me know if you do!
5. Cracks come from quick and drastic temperature changes. The water bath keeps the cheesecake from baking too quickly, and leaving the cheesecake in the oven keeps it from cooling too quickly. Placing a warm cheesecake in the fridge may also cause cracks.
6. Even if it cracks, it still tastes great, so don't worry about it! And if it really bothers you, make a sour cream or chocolate ganache topping and cover it up. No one will ever know.