Cheesecakes – Pumpkin and Gingerbread

For as long as I can remember, I have only really liked naked cheesecake – a plain, New York style suited me very nicely. I remember having a taste of cheesecake with raspberry or some other kind of syrup on it, and just thinking it was an abomination. Thus I went through life, declining cheesecake that was not naked because Ew gross gross.

Recently I was tasked with being a guinea pig for a friend who had made pumpkin cheesecake. What drew me in was the gingersnap crust – I love gingersnaps. So I decided to try it, just in case it was good. Surprisingly not gross. Yes, the gingersnaps helped, but overall it was good.

I celebrated two thanksgivings this year, one with one portion of the family, then a second over this last weekend with my grandparents, who tasked me with bringing some yummy baked goods. Not really feeling terribly creative, I opted for the cheesecake – I already had some over-baked molasses cookies I could use for the crust. To my surprise, as I have only once made cheesecake, the recipe called for a LOT of pumpkin because it makes a LOT of filing. I have finally run out of pumpkin, but I had just enough to make half a batch of cheesecake. This is where I got a bit creative – I’m saving as much of my ingredients as possible for the upcoming Bake-a-thon, so I needed something easy that I have a lot of that would go well with that molasses cookie crust. Oh, look! more molasses. Turned out the basic bits of both recipes were mostly the same, so I just split the filling in half by weight at the point where the two recipes diverged. Voilà the following recipes.

***Keep in mind that these are full recipes below – turns out that even though cheesecakes look like they are a mile tall even without the full amount of filling, they really aren’t. Besides, halving the recipe is difficult unless you are using measurable egg, as it calls for 5 of them.

Molasses Cookie Crust

1 dozen Molasses Cookies, crumbled
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil bottom and sides of springform pan. Grind cookies, brown sugar and ginger in food processor until finely ground. Add butter and pulse to blend. Transfer mixture to prepared pan; press into bottom and 2″ up side of pan. Bake crust until set and slightly darker, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Cheesecake Filling

adapted from BonAppetit and Martha Stewart

4 8-oz packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl unit light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating on low speed to incorporate each addition. Add vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Pumpkin Version

15 oz pumpkin puree
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Beat in pumpkin, then add flour, spices, and salt. Transfer filling to cooled crust. Bake until filling is just set in center and edges begin to crack (filling will move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 70-80 minutes. Cool 1hr. Run knife around sides of pan to release crust. Chill cheesecake uncovered in pan overnight.

Gingerbread Version

1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

Beat in molasses, spices, and lemon zest. Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until cheesecake is set but still wobbly in the center, 70-80 minutes. Cool 1hr. Run knife around sides of pan to release crust. Chill cheesecake uncovered in pan overnight.


2 cups mini marshmallows or large marshmallows cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
1 6oz greek yogurt (don’t go non-fat)

Stir marshmallows and milk in medium saucepan over low heat until marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Cool marshmallow mixture to room temperature, stirring occasionally. (This is somewhat important – I was driving down to southern California at this point in the process, and didn’t take the opportunities I had to stir. When it came time for the next step, I had to use a hand-mixer to get the mixture to incorporate as the marshmallow had set – very annoying.) 

Add greek yogurt to the marshmallow mixture; fold gently just to blend. Pour topping over cheesecake and spread evenly, leaving 1/2″ uncovered around the edges. Chill to set topping, at least 1hr.

Bonus Round!

Love cheesecake but hate eating it with a fork? Muffin pans make marvelous mini-cheesecakes – just be sure to use muffin liners otherwise the crumb crust will hate you for all eternity.

The big differences: for the crust, spoon the crust mixture into each of the muffin cups then use either a very small cup or a 1/4 cup measure to compact the crust. Remember to make sure to have it go up the sides of the muffin cups a bit. Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on how thick you put the crust. Proceed as above and scoop the filling into each muffin cavity. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set, but still wobbly in the center. Cool, then spoon or pipe the marshmallow topping onto the bites – get creative, because that’s awesome.

Molasses Cookies

I love molasses cookies. Outside of my chocolate chip cookie recipe, that’s probably my favorite type of cookie to ever exist. I have been trying to find a good molasses cookie for a while. I made a few different ones, and they always seemed weak – they didn’t have enough molasses flavor, usually due to a low ratio of molasses to flour. Very sad, I must say.

This month’s Bon Appetit came in the mail, and they did their normal cookie tableau, and they happened to have a molasses cookie recipe. Just believe me, if you like a good solid molasses flavor, try these out. Not 100% what I would like, but it’s the closest I have found and I just might futz around with the recipe to refine it a bit.

Molasses Cookies

from Bon Appetit

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
Coarse sanding or raw sugar (for rolling)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and salt in a small bowl. Whisk egg, butter, granulated sugar, molasses and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Mix dry ingredients just to combine.

Place sanding sugar in a shallow bowl. Scoop out dough by the tablespoonful and roll into balls (if dough is sticky, chill 20 minutes). Roll in sugar and place on baking sheet 2″ apart.

Bake cookies until they are puffed, cracked, and just set around the edges, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and cool.

After a long gap…. Pumpkin Espresso Bread

Holy buttons, it has been a good long while since my last post – about a month and a half. In my defense, life has been crazy around here: lots of working, a Halloween party,more working, helping people move. Lots and lots going on. Add to that the presence of a new kitten in our lives, and you get a LOT going on.

By the way, meet Trixie:

Trixie Hobbitses

She hasn’t quite moved in yet – she was rescued with her sister when they were about 4-5 weeks old, and we are keeping them together until they’re at least 8 weeks old to try to bypass more trauma. Her fully name is Archaeopteryx Pearl Hobbitses Wobblebottom. Pearl is her given name, but we deemed her much more of a Trixie due to her speedy-zoom nature (think Speed  Racer). She  is also known as Trixter, Trixie Hobbitses (say it aloud if you don’t get it), and Little Miss Wobblebottom. She is becoming much more coordinated, but sometimes when she walks around – especially after eating – she staggers around a bit like a drunk. It’s adorable.

As you can imagine, I am trying to spend as much time with her, as well as bringing her into the house to meet Ginger and get them acclimatized to each other, as I can before she fully moves in with us. Ginger is a bit reticent around other cats, and is very confused as to why this little whippersnapper keeps invading the house – but he’ll get used to it.

At any rate,  back to the baking! I haven’t been baking as much as I would want lately, as we have until the last couple of weeks been short-staffed, but I’m trying to get that to change. I haven’t made anything horrendously interesting that I haven’t posted before – mostly pumpkin scones, pumpkin coffee cake, and orange-cardamom sugar cookies. (Apparently I haven’t posted the cookies yet – must do because they’re pretty awesome.) I am baking the following recipe this morning, and it’s definitely worth sharing.

Pumpkin Espresso Bread

from A Pastry Affair

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp espresso powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan or insert cupcake liners into pan.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, pumpkin, oil, milk, eggs and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour, baking soda, espresso powder, spices and salt. Spread batter evenly in loaf pan or spoon into muffin tin.

In a small bowl, mix together all topping ingredients. Sprinkle evenly over the batter.

Bake loaf for 50-60 minutes, or muffins for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before cutting and serving.

pumpkin espresso

A very busy start to Autumn

Hooooboy, it’s been busy around here. There are lots of transitions going on at work, and I’m doing what I can to keep everything right on trucking as it should. I’m also trying to ensure that I make my baked goods on schedule. Let me tell you, it’s been a little hectic at times, but I’m keeping up with it. It’s a great exercise in time management and keeping-myself-sane. It’s fun.

In the mean time, I have been getting a jump on planning what I will make for the holidays to send to people. So far I have two Bake-a-Sundays planned, and there’s gonna be a whole lot of baking going on. To give you an idea, among the items planned are…

  • cardamom-orange sugar cookies
  • almond roca
  • apple cider caramels
  • pumpkin molasses cookies
  • pumpkin fudge
  • peppermint bark snowflakes
  • nutmeg maple butter cookies

And many more besides. Luckily I have some friends that are joining me for this adventure, so I think I’ll actually be able to stick to this whole little plan thing. It might even be a lot of fun.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have you ever seen something – a picture, something on TV, through a window – and knew without a doubt that it would be amazing? This following recipe was like that for me. I mean, look at this photo:

How can you resist that? Add to that my love of a good chocolate chip cookie, and my passion for peanut butter…. I’m just slightly ashamed I hadn’t thought of this first. Once I saw this on Pinterest I knew I had to make it. I’m not sure if I actually took pictures of the finished product. Let me tell you the cookies looked a lot less clean-edged than this. Of course, I made it on a Thursday morning, so I had to be a bit more creative with my balling in order to get everything done on time – I just used my cookie dough scoop and did a half-and-half method. Much less time consuming, but much less pretty.

But seriously – oh so delicious. Once I had one, I knew it was the worst thing for me to do while on my pseudo-diet. (It’s mostly just calorie counting, and each of these 3″ cookies pack a whopping 91 calories or so.) They are very much irresistible for those of us who love PB and chocolate yummies. Don’t blame me if you eat the whole batch – I warned you.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Chocolate cookie dough
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
1 cup chocolate chips

Peanut butter cookie dough
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate cookie dough:
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer until lightened in color and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix until well-combined. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients together, then slowly add dry ingredients to wet until combined. Add milk and chocolate chips. Set dough aside to refrigerate until firm.

Peanut butter dough:
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer until lightened in color and fluffy. Add peanut butter and mix until incorporated, then add eggs and vanilla and mix until well-combined. Mix in dry ingredients, then chocolate chips. Set dough aside to refrigerate until firm.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Once doughs are firm, line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. From here you have two options: you can create one ball of each dough, then smoosh those two balls together into one ball; or you can go with my method and dip cookie dough scoop in one dough and fill halfway, then top off with the other dough. Whichever way you do it, simply ensure that you place the cookies on the baking sheet with adequate spreading room.

Bake cookies 11-12 minutes – they will look a little puffy and slightly undercooked, but will achieve the correct texture once removed from the oven and through the cooling process. If you continue baking past this point, you run the risk of having overly crisp cookies, and it prevents adequate flavor melding when eating.

Do yourself a favor and bake these only when you’re going to share them with people – I haven’t been eating many of my baked goods recently, but I’ll tell you I had a good half dozen of these just that day, and many more in the subsequent days. They are pretty damn perfect.