Having just made both apple and pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, I decided to avoid pie altogether when Christmas rolled around. I settled on the idea of making a pumpkin cheesecake, so that my sister (an avid pumpkin pie lover) would not feel deprived, but I wouldn’t need to be bored in my baking either.
I browsed half-a-dozen recipes online and considered the pitfalls of cheesecake making. The problem with many cheesecakes, in my opinion, is they are too heavy; it feels almost like eating a block of solid cream cheese, in terms of density. Pumpkin is a wonderful ingredient for lightening up rich recipes, so we’re halfway there already. But I was disappointed with the relatively small amount of pumpkin called for in many of the recipes, and astounded at the amount of cream cheese others called for. (Three8-oz packages, Paula Deen?) So, once again, I found myself improvising. I know you’re all surprised.
The only thing I have changed in this recipe (vs. the original run) is the topping, which I originally made with pureed cottage cheese, since that was what I had in the house. Don’t grimace. It was totally tasty. I just would have used sour cream and put a thicker layer on, had I had some in the fridge.
Also, I used a spring-form pan (as is traditional with cheesecake), but I know a lot of home bakers don’t necessarily have one. In that case, simply use a regular pie pan and press your crust not only into the bottom, but up the sides as well, for a sort of pumpkin cheesecake pie.
Graham Cracker Crust:
- 8 low-fat graham crackers (1 package)
- 1 Tbsp white sugar
- 6-8 Tbsp melted butter
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling:
- 2 8-oz packages Neufchâtel or low-fat cream cheese
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 16-oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 eggs
Sour Cream Topping:
- 1 cup low-fat sour cream
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350° F. Generously grease or spray the inside of a 9-inch spring form pan (or pie plate). In a food processor (or in a zip-lock bag), crush graham crackers into fine crumbs. Combine with sugar, then slowly add melted butter until it comes together to resemble a loose, crumbly dough. Press into the bottom of the pan (or up the sides, if you’re using a pie plate) and bake 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In the meantime, cream the Neufchâtel until soft and fluffy. Stir in sugar, spices, and salt. When they are well incorporated, add pumpkin, vanilla, and finally eggs. Mix only until evenly combined. Scrape this filling into your pan, then wrap the outside (ie, bottom and sides) with aluminum foil. Place into a larger casserole or roasting dish, and add enough hot water to come halfway up the side of the pan. Bake 30 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325° F.
Meanwhile, whip together sour cream and powdered sugar. After baking for another 10-20 minutes, the cheesecake should be slightly puffed around the edges, but still wobbly in the middle. At this point, spread the sour cream topping over the pumpkin filling, and return to the oven for 8 minutes. Pull the cake, still inside the water bath, out of the oven, and run a sharp knife around the outside. Tent with tinfoil and let cool at least 1 hour, until the water bath reaches room temperature. Then, remove the cheesecake to a rack to fully cool before covering with cling-wrap and chilling at least 4 hours.