I made my own birthday cake. Is that weird? I don’t care. I loved doing it. Really, it’s like my own present to myself to spend time in the kitchen, babying a precious cheesecake.
This cheesecake is just what I’ve been craving. It’s so rich, yet tangy. I used Nancy’s cultured cream cheese! I’m not paid to say this or anything, but, MAN that made a difference. The flavor was much more developed then other cheesecakes I’ve made.
Sometimes my cheesecakes crack. It feels like there is no rhyme or reason, but I guess a cracked cheesecake is nothing to cry over, really. I mean in the scheme of things, you made a cheesecake, so you’re pretty much winning, right? Besides, a little chocolate ganache never hurt anyone.
I also used a fresh pie pumpkin for this cheesecake, which, while added to the prep time, was pretty easy to do. I think fresh pumpkin adds an earthy-ness and a little extra punch of pumpkin flavor, but canned pumpkin will work just fine.
To make your own fresh pumpkin, cut a small pie pumpkin in to chunks and put it in a small pot with a lid (about a 2-3 quart pot) and add an inch of water to the bottom of it.
Steam it for 30-40 minutes, then scoop out the flesh. Puree the flesh in a food processor until smooth. This can be done up to a week ahead, or just make sure it’s cooled before you use it for the cheesecake.
The best tip I can offer you for cheesecake: make sure all the ingredients are completely room temperature. I leave my cream cheese and eggs on the counter for hours. It makes the cheesecake mixing super easy and you don’t run the risk of over mixing (which is I guess one thing that can cause cracking.)
Other then that, just make sure to make it a day ahead (or two) before you want to serve it. Chilling time is important! I have tried to rush cheesecakes before and ended up with cheese soup. Not good.
For the crust you can use a chocolate wafer cookie. If you want to make it really special, you can make your own wafer cookies. Try out this recipe, but do watch them carefully, they burn in an instant! Chocolate wafter cookies.
- For the Crust
- 1 1/4 cups crumbs from 8 ounces chocolate graham or chocolate wafer cookies
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 pinches kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- For the Filling
- 4 packages (8 ounces each) Nancy’s cultured cream cheese, very soft
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin-pie spice
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- Ganache Topping:
- 4 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
- 4 ounces dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons cold brewed coffee
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in center. Assemble a 9-inch nonstick springform pan, with the raised side of the bottom part facing up (this will make it much easier to cut and serve the cheesecake, or remove it from the bottom part of the pan, so this is important!)
- For the crust, place the crackers in the work bowl of the food processor and blend until finely ground. Add in the sugar and the salt, blend for a few more seconds, then pour the melted butter all over the mixture and blend until the crumbs lightly hold together when pressed. Dump the crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan and press them evenly into the bottom of the pan and part of the way up the pan (the crust will not go all the way to the top of the pan, but it will go up about 1 inch all around. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool while you make the filling.
- Make the filling: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar on low speed until smooth and there are no large chunks of cream cheese. Add pumpkin puree, pie spice, vanilla, and salt; mix just until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next. Add in the flour and mix until just combined.
- Place springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour filling into springform, and gently smooth top. It is okay if there are some slight ripples, it will even out more in the oven. Transfer to oven; reduce oven heat to 300 degrees and bake 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let cheesecake stay in oven 2 hours more and do not open the oven at all. After 2 hours, take the cheesecake out of the oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.
- A few hours before serving (or up to a day ahead) make the ganache.
- Over a double broiler, melt the chocolate chips, salt, coffee and heavy cream together. Cook the chocolate chips, heavy cream, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the cheesecake from the fridge, and carefully unmold it and set it on a cookie sheet or serving plate (make sure it will fit in the fridge, because you will need to return it to the fridge in a minute). Starting in the center using a spoon, cover the top of the cheesecake with the ganache. Allow the ganache to drip down on the sides a bit.
- Place the ganache covered cheesecake in the fridge and allow the ganache to harden for at least 30 minutes or up do a day ahead of serving time.
- Slice with a sharp knife to serve.
Happy Birthday to ME!