Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake
I often post about the most important women in my life, my mother and grandmother but I rarely post about my dad. Why? Because if I did, I would not have many secret left to you…we are very much alike…very much. Sometimes, I find that disturbing because it’s like looking at your personality in a mirror, with all your faults and cracks. See, my dad talks a lot but he never really reveals much about himself. He’s private, he does not ask questions. He’s discreet, he does not want to make you uncomfortable.
All these apply except when it comes to cheesecake….Oh he will be a true gentleman and wait patiently for dessert but then only two words will be uttered by this General: "cheesecake please!" and then I dare you to try to get a bite from his plate. If you have never been met with a cold grey stare, (yep, his eyes are grey, for real), wait until you try to sneak a nibble from his plate. You have guessed it, I am the same…
When I was growing up in France, we did not know cheesecakes. I had vaguely heard of "gateau de fromage blanc" or "tarte au fromage blanc", there were not traditional of my family so it was not until I moved to the US that I had the pleasure of trying the cream cheese based cheesecakes (which can easily substituted with Kiri in France). When I became in charge of the pastry kitchen at the restaurant, I kept the cheesecake on the menu and gave myself a little playroom by changing it every time I had to make a new one which was probably every other day (creme brulee being the most popular, go figure…). I loved the traditional flavor of vanilla, chocolate and berries but I also loved to stray a little with Earl Grey cheesecake, Apple Tatin, and Pineapple Upside Down. It helped that I had an awesome waitstaff to tell me frankly if it was going to fly or not, but one that was sure to hit the spot in November – December was always the Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake. What was best is that I could use up all those giant cans/vats (Libby’s multiplied by 20) of pumpkin puree….useful but not my favorite color at 4am! I could not turn enough of these and every time a friend would ask me to bring cheesecake for dessert, I would *always* bring something else…enough of that thing (and I am not the only pastry cook in this case!).
However, with the years going by, I am slowly making cheesecakes again for fun…and my father…and Sugar High Friday this month. Leslie, from Definitely Not Martha has chosen Beta Carotene as the theme this month and that includes "gourds and roots – pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, etc…" So there you have it, I decided to make a yummy cheesecake and pretend it was healthi-er because loaded with good for you pumpkin and topped with even better for you fresh pomegranate. For the crust I just crushed some locally made pecan pralines, and scattered them at the bottom. The recipe makes one large cheesecake but in traditional Tartelette fashion I made four small ones and eight two-bite ones. I wish I could send a couple to my father but he is just going to have to lick his screen…sorry dad!
Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake:
1 cup pecan pralines, crushed
1 1/2 cups solid pack pumpkin
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla
whipped cream and pomegranate seeds to decorate
Scatter the praline crumbs at the bottom of one 10 inch springform pan, lined with parchment paper and coated with cooking spray (or several pans if you decided to go minis).
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a bowl whisk together the pumpkin, the egg, the cinnamon, the nutmeg, the ginger, the salt, and the brown sugar. In a large bowl with an electric mixer cream together the cream cheese and the granulated sugar, beat in the cornstarch, the vanilla, and the pumpkin mixture, and beat the filling until it is smooth.
Pour the filling into the crust, bake the cheesecake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the center is just set. Let the cheesecake cool in the pan on a rack and chill it, covered, overnight.
When ready to serve, spoon some whipped cream and pomegranate seeds on top.