‘Tis the Season for Baking

With the Fall season having just arrived, here is a recipe guaranteed to amaze the most difficult to impress in one’s household.unknown

One might not want to follow the procedure that some, who live in pumpkin-puree-free areas of the earth, are forced to endure.  Searching out the ripe pumpkin, baking it, scraping out the flesh, and then blending the results, might not appeal to the faint hearted. Instead, be kind to oneself and visit a supermarket.

Mini Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecakes

INGREDIENTS

For the crust:

¾ cups graham cracker crumbs

¼ cup finely chopped, toasted pecans

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

(1) 8 ounce package ⅓ less fat cream cheese, softened

½ cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the salted caramel sauce:

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

2 drops fresh lemon juice

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes

½ teaspoon fleur de sel or finishing salt

For the whipped cream:

¾ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Ground cinnamon, for garnish (optional)

Fleur de sel or finishing salt, for garnish (optional)

Prepare the crust:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the inserts into the bottom of each of the (12) cavities of a mini cheesecake pan, and spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Place the graham cracker crumbs, pecans, brown sugar, and pinch of salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Add the butter and stir until the mixture is well coated with butter. Drop 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the mixture into the each of the (12) cavities, and press down firmly with the back of a teaspoon. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack while and make the filling.

Prepare the filling:

  1. Beat the cream cheese in a medium bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the brown sugar, pumpkin, sour cream, egg, vanilla, and spices, and beat until smooth and well combined. Fill each cavity with the filling, leaving about ¼” of space at the top. (There may be a bit of filling leftover.) Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until set. Begin checking for doneness after 10 minutes, as oven temperatures vary considerably. Cool 20 minutes on a wire rack, then using a finger, push up through the hole in the bottom of each cheesecake and remove each one. Use a knife to loosen the sides if necessary. Remove the metal insert if they’re easy to remove at this point, and cool completely in the refrigerator for 2 hours (or overnight).

Prepare the salted caramel sauce:

  1. Place the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted, stirring just a bit to combine the ingredients. Once the sugar has melted, increase the heat to high and do not stir. The mixture will bubble rapidly, then the bubbles will become bigger and slower, and it will begin to color. The edges will normally color first, and you can swirl the pan ever so gently to distribute the color so the mixture doesn’t burn. When the caramel is a golden amber color, remove it from heat. Slowly whisk in the cream a bit at a time, as the mixture will bubble over if you add too much, then whisk in the butter and finishing salt. If the caramel has hardened, place it back over medium low heat and whisk until it’s smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Prepare the whipped cream:

  1. Place the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the sugar, and beat at medium high speed until medium peaks form. Whisk a little more by hand if for increased thickness. Place in a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice, and pipe the whipped cream over the chilled cheesecake. Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top, then drizzle the caramel sauce over that. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.

The sample cheesecake was tested by volunteers selected at random from a fourth period French class. Since the cheesecake was not refrigerated, the whipped cream topping had liquified by the time the cheesecakes were tasted. One of the lucky participants included Tristan Fabiunke, a freshman, who thought they were delicious.  “The pumpkin cheesecake was quite tasty,” said an anonymous student, “even though the topping was melted.”  

Despite the whipped cream complication, the product was still bursting with fall flavors.  The recipe, although a bit time-consuming, is easy enough for the average high school baker to complete successfully, and truly worth trying. This recipe is highly recommended for any family gatherings, parties, or even just for a fun baking project.

This recipe was brought to you by Marcie and her “Flavor The Moments” food blog.

Article by Tulsi Caroll

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