Now let’s get to the serious business at hand: Thanksgiving dessert.
Oh, I know what you’re going to tell me, that this is a pie holiday and that offering up a cake at Thanksgiving is like offering up a latke at Christmas. Well you’re speaking to a latke person at Christmas, so of course I’m going to steer you in a cake-direction—especially after that discussion in one of my podcasts where we determined that Christians are pie people and Jews are cake people. And if there’s one cake that Jews do better than anyone else, it’s cheesecake. And this one, with its combination of a pumpkin and chocolate is a whopper of a Thanksgiving dessert. It’s so good, your guests will actually be excited to eat it, which is more than I can say for pumpkin pie.
The recipe comes from FineCooking.com and like all the best cheesecake recipes, it asks you to cook the cheesecake in a water bath. The water bath ensures even cooking and that the cheesecake has an almost custard-like consistency. I’m going to tell you a little secret, though: I skipped the water bath and no one knew the difference.
The thing is if you skip the water bath, this cheesecake is a total cinch to make. You grind up Nabisco chocolate wafers in a food processor with some sugar and melted butter and press it into a springform pan. Then you make the filling by whipping up cream cheese, pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla extract, eggs, an egg yolk and cream in mixer.
The trickiest part comes next and it’s really not that tricky. Chop up bittersweet chocolate, heat some cream, pour the cream over the chocolate and wait two minutes. Then whisk: voila, ganache.
You mix some of the pumpkin batter in with the ganache, pour the batter into the cake pan and then drop in dollops of the chocolate mixture on top, swirling it around with a knife. The recipe says to make cursive Ls but I found that difficult; so I just swirled it this way and that until I was happy with what I saw.
Truthfully, I was slightly concerned that the batter was too pale. The pumpkin hadn’t turned it as orange as I thought it should be: would this look like a Thanksgiving cheesecake or a prop from The Golden Girls? Turns out, the oven works a magical transformation on the cake, turning it just the orange color you want it to be. And I have to say, this cake is an absolute beauty; everyone cheered when I brought this out before slicing it up.
So if you must make pie this Thanksgiving, by all means, be my guest. But everyone else? Do yourself a favor and make this cheesecake. Your pumpkin pie eating friends will look on with envy.
Recipe: Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake
Summary: A Thanksgiving dessert adapted from FineCooking.com.
- 5 ounces chocolate wafer cookies (try to find Nabisco)
- 2 Tbs. granulated sugar (for the crust)
- 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 pound cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar (for the filling)
- 1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Begin by blending the cookies and the 2 Tbs sugar in a food processor until it looks like black sand. Pour in the melted butter and pulse until the sand looks moist. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan, working out towards the sides and then up about halfway. It helps to use a measuring cup to press down and push up. Don’t worry if it breaks apart; you can always patch it in with more crumbs.
- Bake in the oven 8 to 10 minutes until firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Now make the filling: start by beating the cream cheese in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for a minute. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Then add the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the eggs, egg yolk and 1 1/4 cups cream and work in until everything is consistent. Set aside.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a metal bowl and heat the 1/3 cup of cream in a small pot until just bubbling around the edges. Pour over the chocolate and allow to sit for two minutes, then whisk. Whisk in 1 cup of the pumpkin batter.
- Pour the pumpkin batter into the prepared crust. Now drop big spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture at various points on the surface of the cake: you want to add enough that it appears at the top and doesn’t sink to the bottom. Use a steak knife or a tooth pick to make swirly patterns with the chocolate. (Don’t drag too deep or you’ll break apart the crust.)
- When you like the way it looks, pop into the oven and bake for 75 minutes or until only the very center wobbles. At that point, turn the oven off, but leave the cheesecake in there with the door open for another 45 minutes.
- At that point, remove the cake to a cooling rack and allow to come to room temperature. Then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. That’s all there is to it.
Preparation time: 1 hour(s)
Cooking time: 2 hour(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8