Hey, y’all! I don’t know if I’m back or not but I’m here now and that’s what counts. I’m not going to wax on how bizarre this year has been thus far. Freaky is the new norm. Everyday this week I’ve asked myself, “How can it be Thanksgiving? Good Lord, we haven’t even had summer yet!” But we HAVE and, oh, how that makes me long for those unencumbered years when I was a kid. Those holidays when our only responsibility, our only chore, was to bathe ourselves, dress in the outfits our mothers laid out for us and be ready for the Thanksgiving feast by whatever time we had been instructed. As a child I was given free rein on Thanksgiving day. Mama was busy baking off frozen Mrs. Smith’s pies, apple and pumpkin, to later make the three minute journey down Las Olas Boulevard for our dinner at my Aunt Sunny’s and Uncle Luke’s house. And although my aunt didn’t really cook, i.e. instant mashed potatoes and jarred gravy were her triumphs, our fun loving cousins, Berkeley and Chip, always made the holiday a great source of pleasure. While our parents and grandfather were inside enjoying cocktails and canapes, we children played tag around the pool or dangled our legs off the dock searching for elusive crabs while on the look out for ripples in the water, a sure sign of schools of small fish. One long ago Thanksgiving stands out although it started innocently enough. Mama had given me my marching orders and gave the “okay” to go down the street to my friend Kippy’s house to play. Off I went. We wandered up and down the seawall behind people’s houses, crushing barnacles and looking for any treasures that might float by. After quite some time we raided her pantry, each grabbing a box of cherry jello, and made sure her dreadful, mean-ass mother didn’t catch us. We sat on the seawall under the Sea Island Drive bridge and ever so slowly poured small ant hills of pink jello powder into our upturned mouths. It was delicious. I didn’t have a watch but it was also time to go home. I walked down the street and as I turned into our driveway I saw my mother’s car, the family car, was gone. I ran into the house, we never locked our doors, and yelled, “HELLOoo! Is anybody home?” Silence. They had left me. Not only did they not leave me a note, THEY DIDN’T EVEN TRY TO FIND ME. I got that hot feeling, you know…. the one you get when you know you’re in deep doo-doo. Somehow I found my mother’s telephone book, called Aunt Sunny’s house and sprang into action. I don’t remember whom I spoke with or who picked me up but I remember taking the fastest bath on record and brushing my hair until it shone. I also tied a pale blue satin ribbon in my hair… Mama would like that. Lord, I was terrified. The next thing I remember is making my 10-year-old walk of shame into their house. The first person I saw was Uncle Luke. The gods must have been smiling down on me because not only did he like me but he was the black sheep of the family. He came from big Pittsburgh steel money and did whatever he pleased, not always the wisest path to take. When I asked him if I was in trouble he just laughed and, with a twinkle in his eye, replied, “Not a chance, sport!” The grownups had all had a cocktail or two so I was safe. I slipped off with my cousins and my parents never even mentioned my absence. That’s the power of alcohol and, boy, was I thankful. Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!
This cheesecake is not only a do-ahead marvel but it’s also silky, creamy and damn good. It’s based on a recipe from the “Best of Gourmet 1991”, however I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years. The gingersnap crust is fragrant and warm in taste while the pumpkin adds an earthy Autumn flavor all wrapped around savory cream cheese and who doesn’t like cream cheese? I mean, I love pumpkin pie, I do, but this year has been so out of the box that, well, I guess I’ll stay outside of the box. And that’s okay! This cheesecake melts in your mouth and will catch you unaware as flavor after flavor makes itself known. And it’s a do-ahead! This cheesecake freezes magnificently thus giving you more refrigerator space. Prior to storing it in the freezer I cut the cake into individual portions and tuck slips of wax paper in between each slice. When I take the turkey out of the refrigerator early morning I place the cheesecake in fridge to defrost at it’s leisure. It’s simply a dream of a dessert. Enjoy!
Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Pecan Crust
- 1 cup gingersnap crumbs, approximately 24 cookies
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
- Very lightly cover a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick cooking spray. A 9-inch round tart pan with high sides also works quite well.
- Combine all ingredients thoroughly.
- Place half the cookie crumb mixture in the middle of your pan. Press firmly and spread evenly towards the rim using the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup.
- Evenly distribute the remaining crumbs around the edges of the pan and press firmly 1 inch up the sides. For this I use my fingers.
- Place crust pan on a small baking sheet and chill for at least one hour or until ready to fill and bake.
- 1 1/2 cups plain canned pumpkin
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, if unable to eat cinnamon substitute with 3/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 8-ounce boxes cream cheese, not fat free or reduced fat, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- Pre-heat oven to 350°.
- With a whisk thoroughly mix pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt and brown sugar. Set aside.
- In a separate, large bowl beat the cream cheese using a hand mixer until light and fluffy.
- Add remaining ingredients, sugar, cream, cornstarch, vanilla and bourbon and mix until completely smooth.
- Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the filling is just set or barely jiggles.
- 2 cups full fat sour cream
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- In a small bowl whisk all ingredients until smooth.
- Slowly pour over cheesecake. Spread to the edges with an offset or spatula.
- Return cake to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes more.
- Remove cake from oven and cool on a rack but still in the pan. When completely cool, cover with wax paper and chill overnight or until ready to serve. I place the entire pan in a high side, much larger, round baking pan. Then I cover the whole thing with wax paper and that way avoid messing up the top of the cheesecake. To freeze, slice into portions and separate pieces with wax paper. Tightly wrap with plastic wrap then with tin foil. Freezes well up to one month.