Posts Tagged ‘Pumpkin’

For some people, there’s nothing like scent that bring them back to a half-remembered past. For people who grew up with allergies like me, those memories come back through sound.

After dinner with friends last night, we sat around a television to hang out, and I put on a Muppet Christmas Carol on Netflix. I had meant for it to be background noise that would make the room feel more like Christmas, but found out that it was one of our friend’s favorite movies, and so it turned into the main event. A few minutes into watching it, I realized I had never seen it — I just thought I had because the opening sequence was the trailer preceding another Muppet movie my older sister bought for our baby sister on the first Christmas break that she returned from boarding school. As I watched this movie, a million feelings came back: being ten; my awe of the United States from my sisters’ stories, gifts, and pictures; watching my little sister grow up, feeding her solid food while she watched Gonzo; how special that Christmas felt because after my sister being away for a semester, I realized how precious our time together as a family was.  All this from watching the first five minutes of Rizzo and Gonzo talk and sing about Michael Caine in the late 19th century. Memory is a funny thing.

Tonight’s dessert: a mix of the recent past (Thanksgiving) and present (Christmas):  swirled pumpkin chocolate cheesecake

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crust

  • 1/4 cup melted butter (1/2 stick)
  • crushed graham crackers (half a box)

filling

  • two packages (or one pound) of cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup of sugar (half white, half brown)
  • three eggs
  • one cup of pumpkin puree
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • half tsp nutmeg
  • one tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 oz chocolate, melted in a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water

To make the crust, crush half a box of graham crackers (two packages from the Nabisco brand) in a food processor, then add the melted butter and process until the powdery grahams turn into a wet sand. Pour the wet sand into a spring form pan that’s been greased and press with your fingers all around to create a  nice brown floor. Stick this in the freezer for ten minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Blend the softened cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth, then add the sugar and blend. Once mixed thoroughly, add the rest of the ingredients, except the melted chocolate. Pour one cup of this mixture to the melted chocolate, and then the rest into the now slightly frozen spring form pan. Then, add two teaspoonful dollops of the melted chocolate into the spring form, too, as though making polka dots. To make a marbled design, run a toothpick or knife through the polka dots, and create a letter L, making sure not to run the knife too deeply as to upset the graham cracker bottom. Once you’ve created your design, stick the pan in the oven for one hour. Then, remove and cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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It’s difficult to describe fall outside of its scientific traits to someone who’s never experienced it.  Before coming to the United States, I used to confuse fall for summer and spring all the time, and I have friends who still do the same, given that they live in countries with only two seasons (hot and rainy) and don’t use the four seasonal markers to describe any specific time of year. But really, don’t the seasons mean more to us than just that it each gets three months of the year? I’ve heard people walk into a cozy room and remark that it felt like winter, or watch the flowers in a greenhouse and say that it felt like spring. Fall for me brings the excitement of a new school year and the melancholy of awkwardly learning new experiences in a new place. I’ve only ever moved to a new place in the fall and thus associate the leaves turning brown with a little bit of anxiety. Fall: when it’s crisp and breezy but not so cold that you call it winter; when you hear the crunch of dead leaves under your feet; bust most of all, when you taste and smell hot apple cider, pumpkin soup, and braised turkey. Last night, I wanted to bring a fall dessert to a party, so I went with Smitten Kitchen’s marbled pumpkin cheesecake because the photograph in the cookbook looked so good. I don’t like either pumpkin pie or cheesecake, but together, the two somehow gave birth to this deliciously light but warm breed that tasted like fall.

Seriously, though you must get the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. Just reading it makes me hungry and all the recipes have so far been foolproof.

pumpkin

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust
From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman
Ingredients:
Crust:
4 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 16 cookies), coarsely broken
3 ounces graham crackers (five and a half 2 1/2-by-4 7/8-inch graham-cracker sheets)
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Cheesecake batter:
4 ounces cream cheese, well softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk

Pumpkin batter:
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Few fresh gratings of nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream

Directions:
Make crust: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Finely grind the gingersnaps and graham crackers in a food processor (yielding 1 1/2 cups). Add the melted butter, and process until the cookie-crumb mixture is moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.

Make cheesecake batter: Mix together the ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

Make pumpkin batter: Beat the egg and the egg white lightly in a large bowl. Whisk in the pumpkin, sugars, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in the cream.

Assemble tart: Pour the pumpkin batter into gingersnap-graham crust. Dollop the cheesecake batter over pumpkin batter, then marble the two together decoratively with a knife. Try not to pierce the bottom crust as you do. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool the tart completely on a rack, or in the fridge if you like it cold. Serve immediately and refrigerate any leftovers.