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.

Topping

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.

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