Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

For the third year in a row I am fortunate enough to have two Thanksgivings: one with my family and one with my in-laws. I am going to be meeting my cousin’s son Joshua for the first time at our celebration on Thursday and going ice skating with my niece’s on Saturday after celebrating with my in-laws on Friday. I love Thanksgiving for the family, friends, and food. Once I became interested in cooking I always wanted to help with Thanksgiving and this year my aunt (who is hosting), my mom, and I are splitting the cooking duties. I’ve been assigned to several dishes, including a squash dish, a pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, a loaf of my cinnamon carrot bread, and a few dipping sauces to go with sweet potato fries to be served as an appetizer.

The pumpkin pie is to be my biggest achievement from this list for two reasons: one, I’ve never made one before and two, it is seen as the essential Thanksgiving item. After doing a little bit of poking around online, I’ve decided to do a twist on the regular pie and do a cheesecake pie instead, which is basically a lighter version of a cheesecake. I’m also using fresh pumpkin instead of canned and making my own gingersnap cookies for the crust. I thought of going as far as making my own cream cheese, but I have not started experimenting with cheese-making yet and I did not feel this was the appropriate place to start (but stay tuned, home cheese-making will show up in future posts).

I planned on doing all of my cooking on Wednesday, but since I was using fresh pumpkin I started that piece of the recipe on Tuesday. I bought a medium-sized, locally grown sugar pie pumpkin from my local co-op. If you choose to go this route, make sure you use a pie pumpkin. Not all pumpkins are pie pumpkins (i.e. you cannot use the pumpkin you carved for Halloween), so be sure you get the right kind or the results could be some bad-tasting pumpkin pie. I cut the pumpkin in half and scooped out the seeds. (I saved the seeds to roast with salt, pepper, and oil for a crunchy snack.) I placed the pumpkin halves cut-side down on a cookie sheet with a non-stick mat on it (wax or parchment paper works fine too) and baked for about one hour until the flesh was fork tender. I let the pumpkins cool to room temperature and then scooped out the soft flesh into a bowl. This happened late in the evening, so I placed it in the fridge for use the next day.

The next morning I made a cup of tea and got started on my crust. I made the gingersnap cookies the night before, overcooking slightly so they were dry but not burned. Today I placed the cookies in a plastic bag and smashed them with a rolling pin. You can also do this with a food processor, but I don’t have one so this method is a good but manual replacement. I mixed the cookie crumbs with a little melted butter and some sugar, then put the mixture in a 10-inch pie pan, pressing it on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. I then baked the crust until it was crisp and not too dark. I then left the crust to cool while completing the filling.

To finish the pumpkin, I placed it in a saucepan over low heat with a little bit of water. Using a potato masher, I mashed the pumpkin until it was a smooth, mashed-potato consistency. If you have a blender, you can use that to puree the pumpkin, which is much faster than my method (alas, my blender broke and I have yet to replace it).

To make the filling I mixed sugar, ground ginger, and softened cream cheese together. I added the ginger so I could taste it but not so that it was overpowering the rest of the flavor (if you really like ginger, consider adding finely chopped crystallized ginger in place of the ground ginger). I also used fresh nutmeg; if you can find it, I highly recommend using it over the pre-ground version. If not, just use the same amount of pre-ground nutmeg.

After adding the remaining ingredients, I pulled out about ¾ of a cup of the mixture without the pumpkin, then added the pumpkin to what remained in the bowl. I poured the pumpkin mixture into the pan and then added what I had reserved, using the opposite end of a wooden spoon to swirl the reserved mixture into a pretty pattern.

I placed the pie pan on a cookie sheet (to prevent the bottom of the crust from burning) and baked for about 40 minutes or until the filling was set. To find out of the filling is set, gently shake the cookie sheet that the pie is on. When it is baked to a slight wiggle, it is done. The center is always the last to be baked, so make sure it is not moving too much before you take it out. If you start to get dark spots on the top, tent with aluminum foil, being sure that it does not touch the pie filling. Cool it for two hours (or until it is at room temperature) and then chill until about 30-45 minutes before you serve to allow it to return to room temperature.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Makes 1 10-inch pie

1 gingersnap crumb crust for a 10-inch pie, cooled (you can find this on most cooking websites)
3/4 c sugar
1 heaping tbsp ground ginger
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/4 c heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 c fresh pumpkin puree (or mashed fresh pumpkin)

Make gingersnap crumb crust and set it aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the sugar and ginger in a large bowl, then add cream cheese and mix with a electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, milk, flour, nutmeg, and salt and mix until smooth.

Reserve about 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Add the pumpkin to the remaining cream cheese mixture and mix with an electric mixer until blended.

Pour pumpkin mixture into gingersnap crumb crust. Stir reserved cream cheese mixture and drizzle over top of pumpkin mixture. Using the opposite end of a wooden spoon, swirl the cream cheese mixture to make a pretty design. Place the pie on a baking sheet and bake until center is just set, about 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Chill, loosely covered with foil, for at least 4 hours. Remove from the fridge 30-45 minutes before serving to allow pie to reach room temperature. If any moisture appears on the top of the pie, blot with a paper towel prior to serving.

Adapted from Epicurious.com

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