Pastry chef Danica Pollard has reassuring words of advice for the cheesecake-phobic among us: “Cracks should be acceptable,” she says. “There’s no reason to be ashamed.”
Over the past decade, pumpkin-spiced cheesecake has become a Thanksgiving dessert classic. “It’s easy and well-received, so it’s a shame it can make people so nervous,” Pollard says.
Pollard’s recipe skips the traditional waterbath, which can be a frustrating undertaking for the home cook. Instead, she bakes the cheesecake at a very low temperature to avoid those pesky cracks. But even when she ends up with a crack the size of the San Andreas fault, she just smothers the top with cinnamon-flavored whipped cream.
For the pie crust-phobic among us, trading pumpkin cheesecake for pumpkin pie just got easier.Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake With Cinnamon Whipped Cream Makes 12 servings
Special equipment: 1 (10-inch) springform pan
Crust:1 1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs 6 tablespoons butter, melted
Cheesecake:3 (8-ounce) bars of cream cheese, at room temperature 1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon salt 4 large eggs 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Whipped cream:1 cup heavy whipping cream 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 cup granulated sugar
At least 8 hours before serving, but up to a week ahead:
In a medium bowl, combine the crumbs and the butter, stirring until well mixed. Press mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of a standard 10-inch springform pan for the crust. Bake in a 300-degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
For the cheesecake: Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees and position rack in the middle. In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, brown sugar, spices and salt; beat on medium speed until completely smooth and light. Add eggs one at a time, mixing briefly between additions, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula. Add pumpkin puree and vanilla extract and mix until well-blended. Scrape the filling from the bowl into the prepared crust. Place springform pan on a baking sheet and bake for 2 to 21/2 hours, or until the center has almost no movement when jiggled back and forth and is solid in the center when lightly pressed with your fingertips.
Carefully remove cheesecake from oven and run a paring knife blade around the edges of the springform pan. Allow cheesecake to cool completely at room temperature before unlocking springform latch. Refrigerate cheesecake or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. To thaw, unwrap the cheesecake and place in the refrigerator. The cheesecake is easiest to slice when still about halfway frozen.
Just before serving, whip the cream:
Place cream, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix cream on medium speed until thick enough to form firm peaks when a spoon is dipped into the cream and lifted out. (It is a good idea to stop the mixer occasionally to check the thickness so as not to overmix.) Refrigerate whipped cream until ready to serve.
Top whole cheesecake with whipped cream using a spoon or butter knife to make decorative dips and peaks, or cut cheesecake into desired number of portions, then dollop whipped cream. Finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg, if desired.Per serving: 529 calories (61 percent from fat), 36 grams total fat (21 grams saturated), 176 milligrams cholesterol, 45 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams protein, 456 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.