Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall has reached the River City. The recent rain-soaked afternoons and chilly, mist-filled breezes have given way to an overwhelming need to be surrounded by all things comfortable, e.g. warm blankets, soft sweaters, a favorite warm beverage and of course, something sweet to nibble on.

Every year our neighborhood has a picnic the last weekend of September. It's meant to celebrate the end of Summer and herald the start of another Fall. When I was reflecting on what I'd like to bring, I thought about pumpkin-flavored desserts. It seems like most pumpkin desserts are quite plain. Instead of being paired with different flavors, they typically stand alone in a dish. I understand that pumpkins have a subtle taste, but, why not harness that lovely, earthy flavor and add it to something else to make it even better? Thus, the idea of a Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake was born.

Below, is a recipe I pieced together using several different recipes. The pumpkin cheesecake recipe, I adapted from Paula Deen. It's a creamy, softer cheesecake with a hint of pumpkin that interacts beautifully with the denser texture of the dark chocolate cheesecake. I actually got the dark chocolate cheesecake recipe from a Kroger ad. Kroger knows their stuff; no joke. I think what really ties the whole cake together is the ganache topping. It's subtly sweet so it doesn't overpower the other flavors, but, at the same time, it does give the cake a nice tart bite.

This Fall, I hope you can take some time out of your busy day to sit down and enjoy the little things, like curling up with a good book, drinking a nice warm cup of tea or even eating a piece of cheesecake while watching the leaves fall outside your window. Remember, Fall comes only once year. Don't let it go to waste!

Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake

2 cups Chocolate Graham Cracker crumbs
1 Tbsp Sugar
1/4 cup melted Butter

Dark Chocolate Cheesecake-
8 oz. softened Cream Cheese
2.5 oz. melted Dark Chocolate
1 room-temp Egg
1/4 cup  + 1 Tbsp Sugar
1.5 Tbsp Cocoa powder
Pumpkin Cheesecake-
10 oz. Pumpkin purée
16 oz. softened Cream Cheese
2 room-temp Eggs + 1 Egg yolk
4 Tbsp room-temp Sour cream
1 cup Sugar
2-3 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground Cloves
1/8 tsp ground Nutmeg
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Flour
1 tsp Vanilla

3/4 cup Whipping Cream
6 oz. chopped Dark Chocolate
1 Tbsp Sugar

Butter a 9" spring-form pan. Chop/smash the graham crackers until they've reached a fine consistency. Stir in the sugar and melted butter. Press the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the prepared pan. Set aside.

Prepare the dark chocolate cheesecake by first melting the chocolate, either in a double-boiler or the microwave. Allow the chocolate to cool until it's lukewarm but still pourable.

In a large bowl, blend the cream cheese, sugar and cocoa powder together until smooth. Mix in the egg. Add the chocolate. Make sure to scrape down the sides. Pour the filling into the crust. Smooth out the top.

Prepare the pumpkin cheesecake by blending together the cream cheese and pumpkin purée in a large bowl. Mix until smooth. Add the eggs and yolk. Mix well. Pour in the sour cream, sugar and spices. Make sure to scrape down the sides. Finish by adding in the flour and vanilla. Mix once more. Pour the filling into the crust; spread it out evenly.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes. Let sit until it reaches room-temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours. It's best over night.

Once the cheesecake is completely firm, prepare the ganache topping. In a saucepan, heat the chocolate, sugar and cream. Stir until completely smooth. Let the ganache sit until it reaches room-temperature.

Pour the ganache into the center of the cheesecake and spread it to within a 1/2 inch of the edge of the cheesecake. Refrigerate the cheesecake for 1 hour to ensure the ganache is set.

If you want to get fancy, you can sprinkle the top with some edible glitter and drizzle some melted chocolate.

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