Perfect for the Holidays: Lemon Ripple Cheesecake bars and Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake

The above pictured lemon ripple cheesecake bars are not something I can really take any credit for.  I saw a picture of them on-line at Food & Wine and decided to make them.   It’s a great recipe, they’re easy, elegant looking and delicious.  I was also happy to see that the brand name organic cream cheese at Whole Foods was only $1.79 for 8 ounces.  And given my rant about fake cheese by way of Kraft singles on the worst and most over priced burger I have eaten in history I hastily have to say that Cream Cheese is actually cheese even though it seems more like a processed product (to me). After doing some research I see even though it is contested I think Cream Cheese actually gets in under the wire and can proudly lay claim to the “cheese” in its name.  

A few tips about this recipe; the crust after you have made it in the food processor seemed too dry to me – don’t panic – it actually works perfect as written.

Lemon can easily be replaced with Lime or if you feel exotic Passion Fruit.

For some inexplicable reason my 9″ square pan has disappeared so I used my favorite Spanish clay ware dish which is 8 x 10″ and everything worked out fine.

Finally, if in spite of the proof that Cream Cheese is actually a cheese, you can splurge and use Fresh Goat Cheese, which is for sure more expensive than cream cheese, but often can be found sold in big prepackaged logs which are not going to totally destroy your budget. Whole Foods has their own brand of goat cheese which is around 4 bucks for 4 ounces?, Often you can find good deals on French Chevre as well, if you live near the East Village and are looking for a deal check out: East Village Cheese.  This will give your cheese cake a more sour and complex flavor you might want to add a few tables more sugar, but really I think a simple swap out would work fine.

Ok so cake number 2 was going to be my lead story in this post, but then like the ditz I am I didn’t take a picture of it until it was almost half eaten.  So I tried to salvage what I could and take a slice picture:Still looks pretty edible?  I think it’s the perfect reinvention of the tradition pumpkin pie most of us will be eating this Thanksgiving.  Even though it is called a cheese cake I almost want to call it a mouse cake – the cream and eggs in this give it a sophisticated lightness not usually associated with cheesecake.

I’m not a fan of buying a packaged cookie like graham crackers to make a base for a cake, something about using a processed product for a “home made” dessert just seems wrong to me.   Graham Crackers where initially made with Graham flour, a near impossible thing to get these days (although I have seen it around) but then when I looked at the ingredients of the organic Honey Grahams at the grocery store they just used whole wheat flour.  So long story short: this crust is my attempt at replicating a Graham Cracker crust without have to buy the crackers.

 Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 400 F

I don’t like using canned pumpkin, but if you want to a 15 ounce can works great instead of making your own puree.  Just make sure to drain and dry the canned stuff in the same way as is described below.

Slice in half a small (1-3lbs) eating pumpkin (cheese pumpkins are my favorite but really any squash works) scoop out the seeds and place face down on a backing sheet filled with enough water that it comes up about 1/2 “.  Cover  loosely with tin foil for 30 minutes.  Remove tin foil and turn the pumpkin over and continue to cook until the flesh is soft.  Remove from the oven, cool until east to handle,  scoop out the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Puree.

Place the puree on a 4 layer thick pike of paper towels.  You want to try to remove as much liquid as you can from this mixture – over a 2 hour period change the towel several times.

Meanwhile in the bowl of a food processor place 3/4 cups of lightly toasted Pecans (or walnuts) and pulse until finely ground,  then add 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour,  1/3 cup of brown sugar 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Briefly pulse to blend, then add 1 teaspoon of molasses and 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (1 stick), pulse briefly again.  Finally add 1 large egg and  3 Tablespoons of roughly chopped crystallized Ginger. Pulse just to combined the mixture.

Butter the sides (not the bottom) of a 9″ springform pan.

Press the crust dough into the prepared pan and up the sides as far as you can go.  The crust should be about 1/4 ” thick (or as thick/thin as you like really).  Cover the dough with a piece of parchment using an elastic band to hold it in place (or use an old plastic bag you want to recycle – I think buying plastic wrap a waste of money and bad for the planet so I am always looking for ways to find substitutions).

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or over night.

When ready to pre bake the crust:

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Prick the crust all over with a fork (sides too!) and bake for about 20-25 minutes you want it to look dried out and pre cooked but not brown.  It’s just giving the crust a  head start on cooking so don’t stress about how long you cook it.

Let the crust cook completely before filling.

Preheat the oven to 300 F.  Place a 9 x 13″ pan half filled with water in the lowest shelf of  the oven.  

Measure out 1 3/4 cups of the dried out Pumpkin Puree and reserve.

Place into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachement 1 pound of Cream Cheese (or goat cheese),  over medium speed beat until light and fluffy then add:

1 1/2 cups of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon each of: freshly ground Nutmeg, ground Cloves and ground Allspice, 1 teaspoon of Cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of Salt beat over medium speed, scrapping down the sides as needed, until the mixture has regained some of it’s former fluff.  Turn off the machine and add the pumpkin puree turn the speed back to medium – when the pumpkin is well incorporated add , 1 at a time, 5 large room temperature eggs.  Beating well after each addition, scraping down the sides as needed. Slow down the speed and gradually add 1 cup of room temperature Heavy Cream, 1 Tablespoon of fresh Lemon Juice and 2 1/2 teaspoons of brandy (or Vanilla)  process until creamy and well mixed.

Pour into the prepared crust (If the filling overflows the crust it’s no big deal – it’s why you butter the sides – it will solidify as it cooks and once cooled is easy to remove from the pan).

Place the springform pan onto a baking sheet and into the center of the oven.  Cook for about 2 hours.  You want the cake to be solid, but it will still retain a little jiggle just make sure it’s not loose or liquid in any way – if that’s the case cook more it should feel solid when you touch the center of the cake.  The water should prevent cracking, but doesn’t always so no big deal if it does you can easily cover any unsightly cracking with whipped cream! Another way to deal with cracking is to back it at even a lower temperature for longer.

When cook place on a wire rack to cool.  When cooled to room temperature take a spatula or knife and and run it around the cake pan before loosening the latch on the pan. Remove the sides of the pan and chill for at least 4 hours or longer.

Trust me this is a really wonderful, elegant, creamy and light (though very rich) option to the standard pumpkin pie.  It’s worth the time and effort.



About urbanfoodguy

I'm a self taught cook with a dedication to buying and eating food that is as humanely and sustainably raised as possible. Which is why in addition to recipes you will see a lot of environmental/political reporting here. I started cooking when I was about 6, it's something I always loved to do. Watching Graham Kerr - aka "The Galloping Gourmet" - was what got me started and I have never really looked back. Over the years I've been a private chef, a caterer, and a food stylist for magazines such as Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Real Simple, Oprah, Martha Stewart's Everyday Food and many more. I've also worked in the prep kitchen for the Food Network on the Bobby Flay and Paula Deen shows. Now I work at home in my kitchen sharing with you here recipes that I create or that other people have created that inspire me and I think you will like. I love my neighborhood (the Lower East Side of Manhattan) and I love to travel. Because NYC is such a big place I tend to focus mostly on my 'hood and the ones that are close by: The East Village, Bowery, Chinatown and Williamsburg. My love of travel has no limits really, I'm always ready to get on a plane. I was lucky enough to have a business for many years that allowed me to spend a lot of time in South East Asia. These days I've been spending time in Mexico, Germany, Canada and the West Coast of the U.S., but check back you never know where I might end up. I do consulting, cooking classes, and freelance lifestyle writing so if you are interested please send me a note:
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