A while ago I was perusing one of my favorite blogs, Creampuffs in Venice, and saw that I missed a terrific blogger event thrown by Ivonne, Mary, Peabody and Kate. While I was too late to participate, I desperately wished I had joined in. Then I remembered it was impossible because I didn't own a food processor and the cheesecake and crust wouldn't work without one. In this season of holidays, gift-giving and fantastic baking and cooking, I thought, "WHAT?! Am I crazy? How could I NOT purchase one? Really, I have the space, I finally have the storage, I have the will, I have the inspiration." The next day, I bought my first-ever Cuisinart. It has changed my life. In less than a week. It arrived two days before Thanksgiving. I've been going to town ever since. Tears of joy speckled this creation, my decadent and very scrumptious variation on their theme from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book.
Here is my own "Kabocha Squash Cheesecake with Pecan-Ginger Crust."
And, yes, I made my own squash purée instead of using canned pumpkin purée Why go for that tinny and metallic undertone when you can have moist, flavorful and fresh purée right out of your favorite new kitchen appliance? The other ladies went a lot further than I in their adornments and finishings, mine was no pastry art. But it was delicious and and exhibited such a creamy, light and moist texture as a result of applying the proper machinery to the task!
For my purée, I started out by cutting a large kabocha squash in half, scooping out the seeds and putting a tablespoon of butter in each half and a little pinch of turbinado sugar. I had preheated my oven to 350˚ Farenheit. I then wrapped the cut side of each half of squash in aluminum foil and baked them on a half-sheet pan for about an hour. When they were tender, I removed them and let them cool enough to touch and peeled them with my very favorite knife. After peeling, I cut each half into rough hunks and tossed them into the food processor, ready to test my new machinery. It astounded me. Very quiet, rock solid (it didn't move on the countertop at all) and it made very quick work of the squash. I pureed each half in one round, surprised that it didn't take more batches. Ah, the beauty of 11-cup capacity!! Next, I strained a cup of the purée using a simple mesh strainer and kitchen spatula. I realized after doing this that straining was a residual effect of all my years of manual work with immersion blenders and drink blenders. Their shoddy results never left me a choice. The behavior was just ingrained in my technique. Truthfully, my food processor did such an amazing job on the squash, that I really didn't see a difference before and after sending it through the strainer. As you can see, very little pulp or fiber was left behind. The squash basically went straight through the strainer. My mind, only afterward, grasped with glee the fact that I may never have to do that sloppy technique again! Oh, Let's Give Thanks to Modern Kitchen Technology this year! And, my spacious pantry which enables its storage!
Here's the rest of how the cheesecake came together, represented by my adaption of Tish Boyle's recipe.
1 c. all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 c. pecans
1/4 c. chopped crystallized ginger
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter, diced
1 T cold water
1 c. kabocha squash puree (original recipe calls for pumpkin)
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 lbs (567g) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 T. cornstarch
4 large eggs
Toasted and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds:
1/4 c. raw pumpkin seeds, preferably hulled
½ tsp. olive oil
1 T. Turbinado sugar
pinch of ground cloves
For the crust:
Position oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9x3-inch springform pan. Wrap the outside of the pan in heavy-duty aluminum foil to protect against leakage in the waterbath.
Finely grind pecans and crystallized ginger in food processor. If you have a large processor, add flour, sugar and salt and process until combined; add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the cold water slowly until the dough just comes together. Stop right away, don’t continue to process or you’ll overwork the dough. It should come out very soft, smooth, almost velvety. Use a spatula to scrape the dough into your prepared pan. Smooth and press the dough in an even layer in the bottom of pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the crust just starts to brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. Wash the bowl of the food processor for re-use.
For the filling:
Reduce oven temperature to 325˚F. In a medium bowl, whisk together squash puree, heavy cream, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
Add the softened cream cheese to your food processor and pulse very gently 5 or 6 times with the dough attachment to cream it together. If you don’t have at least an 11-cup or 14-cup processor, you’d be better off using a stand mixer or hand mixer here because it nearly filled my bowl to capacity. Gradually add the sugars, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, and pulse gently until well combined. Blend in the squash mixture; add the cornstarch and pulse just until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, pulsing after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Place the foiled springform pan in a large roasting pan or baking pan; carefully pour enough hot water into the large pan to come 1 inch up the sides. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes until the center is set but still a bit wobbly (the cake will set completely when chilled).
Remove cheesecake from water bath to a cooling rack. Carefully remove the foil and run a thin knife tip around the edge of the cake to prevent cracking. Cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
For the Toasted and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds:
Set a small skillet on medium heat on the stovetop and wait for it to get hot. Add the raw pumpkin seeds and the olive oil. Toast the seeds, tossing frequently, until you see them go from their dark green raw hue (if hulled) to a light golden brown hue. Sprinkle the seeds with the turbinado sugar and cloves. Toss completely and remove from heat.
Remove the cheesecake from the refrigerator no more than one hour before serving, and release and remove the springform pan. When the cheesecake is just shy of room temperature, slide it onto your serving platter and slice. Garnish with the toasted pumpkin seeds. Apparently the original recipe also calls for whipped cream or any other artistic flourish. Enjoy this absolutely warm, delicious, creamy, light and spicy treat.