A Short Story about Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust and Warm Bourbon Praline Sauce
As many of my followers know, my mother ran a restaurant in Houston, TX during the 1980-1990’s. In addition to the excellent sandwiches, and salads, desserts were a well known specialty. During the Holidays the restaurant would get overwhelmed by special orders for cakes, pies and other holiday treats. At Thanksgiving orders for desserts were in high demand, particularly the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust which was made from scratch and very time consuming to prepare.
In hopes of slowing the flood of orders, my mother raised the price of the Pumpkin Cheesecakes from $40 to $65 per cake, which was a significant increase during the 80-90’s. Her scheme however, backfired and the orders for the Pumpkin Cheesecake quadrupled. Apparently in those days people reasoned that a $40 cheesecake was fantastic, but a $65 cheesecake must be out of this world and everyone had to have one. We ended up making Pumpkin Cheesecakes around the clock to fill the high demand.
- You can make your own Old World Gingersnap Cookies or purchase your favorite brand (Whole Foods 365 Ginger Snap Cookies are great) to use in this recipe. (Adding a little bit of extra sugar helps keep the cookie crumbs from clumping)
- When making any type of cookie crust for cheesecakes, once formed freeze the crust to solidify the butter (after mixing the crumb with butter/sugar). This makes the crust easier to deal with when adding the filling.
- The Warm Bourbon Praline Sauce is great on this cheesecake, but is also great as a topper for ice cream or Crepes Kovacs. Add a tablespoon of your favorite bourbon or whiskey for another layer of flavor.
- To make clean slices, use a long, thin sharp knife heated in a pitcher of very hot water. (You can also use a baker’s propane torch.) Using a dry towel, clean off the water and make the cut. Reheat the knife in the hot water and clean between cuts.
- Don’t use pumpkin pie filling for this recipe. That type of pie filling is already spiced and sweetened. This recipe is made to add your own honey and spices. If you only have pumpkin pie filling available just leave out the sweetener and spices.
Gingersnap Pumpkin Cheesecake with Warm Praline Sauce
- 9 inch Springform pan
- food processor for grinding cookies into crumbs
- baking sheet pan
- cooling rack
- stand or hand mixer
- 4 Qt. sauce pan
- measuring spoons
- measuring cups
- high temperature rubber spatula
- mixing bowls (assorted sizes)
- sharp thin slicing knife
Gingersnap Cookie Crust
- 1½ cups gingersnap cookies, crushed for thin crust (add more if you wish a thicker crust) Homemade Gingersnap Cookies Recipe
- ¼ cup granulated or caster sugar
- ⅓ cup butter, good quality / melted or very soft
Pumpkin Cheese Cake
- 1½ lbs cream cheese, softened (3 boxes, 8 oz each) Neufantel cheese works great as well.
- 1 cup honey (Preferably Acacia honey, but Alfalfa, Fireweed, Clover, Avocado, Aster and Beechwood varieties work as well)
- 5 oz evaporated milk
- 15 oz pumpkin puree (plain-not sweetened)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature and beaten in one at a time
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg (if you use canned ground nutmeg use ½ tsp.)
- ⅛ tsp ground clove
Sour Cream Topper
- 2 cups sour cream, good quality or homemade (alternatives Mexican sour cream or thick French crème fraîche)
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp bourbon (optional)
Warm Bourbon Praline Sauce
- 1 cup Warm Bourbon Praline Sauce (optional) Warm Bourbon Praline Sauce Recipe
Making the Gingersnap Cookie Crust
- Break up the gingersnap cookies your hands and place into a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse until a coarse cookie meal has formed.
- Remove from the processor into a medium sized mixing bowl. Using your hands work the melted/softened butter into the ground cookies crumbs.
- Set a 9 inch springform pan on a sheet pan and spray the springform pan with vegetable spray. Optional and I'll admit overkill (safety) to get the crust to release from the pan after cooking.
- Using your hands, press the cookie crumb crust into the springform pan. Work the crumbs to cover the bottom of the pan completely in a thin layer and freeze for 10 minutes. (If you desire a thicker crust use more.)
- After the bottom layer of the cheese cake crust has firmed up, add the remaining buttery cookie crumbs and work the mixture up the sides of the springform pan. Once everything is place take a spoon and evenly smooth out the bottom and sides of the crust to make a uniform thickness. Take your time here. Place the formed crust on a sheet pan.
- Carefully place the springform pan (along with the sheet pan) in the freezer. Freeze for 15 minutes or until the crust is firm and set up. Reserve frozen until needed.
Making the Sour Cream Topper
- In another mixing bowl add the sour cream, sugar, bourbon (optional) and vanilla. Whisk together until incorporated. Reserve and keep cold.
Making the Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling & Baking
- Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C.
- Add the softened cream cheese and honey to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the cream cheese/sugar mixture on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- Add the evaporated milk and pumpkin puree. Mix until thoroughly combined on medium speed.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for 45 seconds before adding the second egg. Beat the second egg for the same amount of time.
- In a separate mixing bowl, add the cornstarch, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground clove. Run the mixer on low and pour the spices/cornstarch into the pumkin/cheesecake mixture. Continue mixing on low until everything is well incorporated.
- Pour the pumpkin cheesecake batter into the reserved gingersnap crust and place the cheese cake on the sheet pan and place into the 350°F/177°C oven on the center rack. Bake for 55-60 minutes.
- After approximately 1 hour, turn the heat off and leave the cheesecake in the oven for an additional hour. The residual heat will gently set the cheesecake filling in the center. Otherwise the top of the cheesecake will collapse when it's cooled. IF this happens, the cheesecake is still delicious, just not at its full potential.
- After the cheesecake has been in the unheated, but still warm oven for at least 1 hour and the center is set, remove the cheesecake from the oven. (If for some reason the center is a little too wobbly, turn the oven onto it's lowest setting for 15-20 minutes or so to help set the center.)
- Turn the heat back on to 350°F/177°C.
- Spoon on the Sour Cream/Crème Fraîche Topper to the cheesecake and return to the oven for an additional 8-10 minutes. This will set the Sour Cream/Crème Fraîche Topper.
- Remove cheese cake from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool for 15 minutes minimum.
- To remove the outer ring of the cheesecake, take a thin knife and run it around between the crust and the outer ring of the pan to loosen. Be careful and make sure your knife can move all the way around the cheese cake. Undo the restraining clip of the ring and carefully remove the outer ring. (If the crust is still stuck in some areas use the thin knife to separate and lightly push the crust back onto the cheesecake.)
- Allow to cool thoroughly for another 1 hour before attempting to slice. For best results chill the cheesecake overnight.
Final Garnish and Slicing
- To get those uber clean slicing lines, fill a pitcher with very hot tap water.
- Place your slicing knife in the pitcher and allow the blade to become hot.
- Wipe off the water and make a slice. Repeat this process with each cut.
- Place a slice of the Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust on the center of a serving plate. Top the cheesecake with Warm Bourbon Praline Sauce (Optional) and serve.