"Thanksgiving dinners take 18 hours to prepare. They are consumed in 12 minutes. Half-times take 12 minutes. This is not coincidence." — Erma Bombeck
The holidays are upon us, like it or not. This time of year is hectic; from Thanksgiving to New Years, the great race has begun. There are meals to be cooked, gifts to be hunted down and family to entertain. Now, I cannot help you entertain your 25 cousins or keep Mother-in-Law from scrutinizing your turkey. What I can do is give you some great recipes and ideas to make the food you cook memorable for the family and impressive to your pesky relatives all without making you want to tear your hair out. The key to the holidays is preparation. There is nothing worse than Thanksgiving day creeping up, black Friday just around the corner, shopping on your mind and the realization that you have not even planned the food the holiday meal.
Mood Food will be celebrating the holidays with seven weeks of seasonal food, ideas for warming the house with wonderful smells and tips to make feeding the crowd a little less stressful. This week we begin with Thanksgiving dessert. Generally, baking the after-meal treats is a process — a process no one has time for with a 20-pound turkey in the oven. Mood Food can fix that. By the time we are ready for Thanksgiving your turkey will be brined, you will have the dry ingredients for your stuffing all bagged up and ready for broth, your side dishes will be ready for the oven two days before hand, and while we are at it, why not make dessert ahead of time so that all you need to remember to do is leave yourself a note to pull it out of the freezer.
We begin this holiday race with a great alternative to pumpkin pie. Someone else will bring the pie (you know they will), so why not show them up by having a scrumptious pumpkin cheesecake on the table. This cheesecake boasts four layers of flavor — a vanilla crust, creamy traditional cheesecake, fluffy and savory pumpkin cheesecake and decadent marscapone topping.
Let’s cook and bring a little wow to dessert.
Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
Spring form pan
3 medium size bowls
Six packs of cream cheese at room temp
(just buy the regular blocks of cream cheese — less cost and just the same)
2 tblsp vanilla extract
1 can of pumpkin (unseasoned-not pie filler)
2 tsp pumpkin spice
2 tsp cinnamon
2 c crumbled vanilla wafers
1 c white sugar
All purpose flour (amount depends on thickness desired but aprox. 1c)
½ c melted butter or margarine
Orange food coloring (or a mix of yellow and red) optional
Optional: Marscapone Topping
1 small tub of marscapone cheese (room temp)
¼ c confectioners sugar
½ tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp cinnamon
Putting It All Together
Run the vanilla wafers through the food processor. Now, vanilla wafers, in my opinion, make a better crust for a pumpkin-flavored cheesecake. Graham is traditional; however, the flavor is a little off for this dessert. In the microwave melt the butter until it is just liquid but not boiling. Add the vanilla wafer crumbs to the butter and mix until well incorporated. Spray the pan with non-stick baking spray, even if it is a non-stick pan. This will help release the cake later. Press the buttered vanilla wafer crumbs into the the bottom of the pan evenly and push up onto the sides just a bit (just so the crumbs go over the seal between the bottom of the pan and the spring side). Set this aside.
With a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until almost smooth, a few lumps are OK. Add the eggs and the sugar and mix well. Add one tablespoon of the vanilla and mix lightly. Now to determine thickness. If you like a thick, rich cheesecake, add flour and mix until the batter begins to pull away from the sides. If you like the cake fluffy and light, only add a few tablespoons. Take half of the batter and pour in over the crust, spread evenly and set aside in the refrigerator while you are preparing the next layer. This is important, letting the mix set in the fridge will prevent the mixing of the two layers.
To the rest of the batter add the can of pumpkin, the pumpkin spice, cinnamon and the rest of the vanilla. If you are adding the food coloring you should do it at this point. Now, the food coloring is purely for show. It will give the pumpkin layer of the cheesecake a bright, vibrant orange color and will look beautiful when you slice it. Next is the flour, if you are adding it; just follow the previous guidelines.
Pour the pumpkin batter on top of the traditional cheesecake already in the pan. Place in the oven and bake at 325 for approximately an hour and a half. You want the center of the cheesecake to rise evenly with the sides and be firm to the touch. After an hour start checking it often so that it does not crack.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the counter until it can be picked up with bare hands. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge overnight. This dessert can also be made now and frozen until Thanksgiving. Just remove it from the freezer and put it in the fridge a full day before to let it it defrost.
If you have opted for the topping you may prepare it right before serving or before freezing. Take all the ingredients and whip with a hand mixer until light and airy. Spread on the cheesecake, sprinkle with a little cinnamon for garnish and serve.
If you are not responsible for a large dessert this Thanksgiving, there are some alternatives to this recipe that will allow the use of the same batter. Filled sugar cookies are a great alternative. Make your favorite sugar cookie recipe and while they are on the baking tray, take the back of a spoon and make a little well in each of them. Fill the well with the cheesecake mixture and bake. When they are done baking, sprinkle with crumbled vanilla wafers and sugar while they are still hot.
Another option is to make mini cheesecake cups. Fill a cupcake tin with liners. To the bottom of each add a little of the crust mix and fill the cups about ¾ of the way full. Bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Before serving, “ice” with whipped cream.