Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake, Your Way

So here we are, one day before Thanksgiving, and I urge you to count your blessings and be mindful of the tangibles, and intangibles, in your life for which you are grateful. Someone recently told me they are grateful for this recipe (below)! But if your gratitude has more to do with the people you love and care for, then why not consider making it for them? This one-bowl, crustless cheesecake sets beautifully after a day in the fridge and actually improves with age. The topping can be done your way -- I like to use a medley of pecans, white chocolate chips, and candied ginger, but you can use chopped-up Heath Bars, granola, crushed chocolate wafers, gingersnaps, tiny marshmallows, shredded coconut, dried cherries, or glacéed fruit. And whilst I make it in a 10-inch removable-bottom cake pan, it can also be made in a large square pan and cut into brownie-like pieces (as it's done in the photo. It's from an article I wrote for the fall issue of Real Food magazine.)

Wishing you all a happy and nourishing Thanksgiving Day.

Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake Having the cream cheese at room temperature is key to a smooth and creamy texture.

24 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream 1/4 cup cornstarch 3 extra-large eggs 15-ounce can pumpkin puree 1-1/2 cups sugar 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon ground ginger 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract soft butter for greasing pan

Suggested toppings: 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans 1/3 cup white chocolate chips 3 tablespoons candied ginger, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, crème fraiche, and cornstarch until smooth. Add eggs, pumpkin puree, all but 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Heavily butter a 10-inch, removable bottom cake pan. Pour in batter. Bake 30 minutes. Top with pecans, white chocolate chips, and ginger (or toppings of your choice) or the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake 40 minutes longer until firm. Remove from oven and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.  Serves 12

Nice to sip with bourbon or brandy or Drambuie.  (It's in the back of your liquor cabinet.) Enjoy!

Italian Cheesecake by Way of Atlantic City

In the nick of time this morning, a recipe for a radically simple Italian cheesecake popped up on my computer screen.  It was sent to me by Anne Kabo of Margate, New Jersey who is the wonderful baker featured in Radically Simple. Anne generously taught me how to make her richly decadent cream cheese cake, better than any New York style cheesecake I've had.  You can find it on page 318 of Radically Simple (now available on Amazon!  A great gift for Mother's Day -- if not for Anne's cheesecake recipe alone!)   But yesterday Anne told me about another cheesecake -- this one based on ricotta cheese and little else.  She found it in the local Atlantic City newspaper which features recipes from affable home cooks.  Anne eyed it and made it immediately (and brought it to a friend in the hospital.)  She added fresh raspberries dusted with confectioner's sugar on top but exclaimed that it was delicious enough without.  Anne knew this recipe would appeal to me because it fit the criteria for each one of my radically simple recipes -- which balance the elements of time, ease and number of ingredients.   And...whose procedures can be explained in 140 words or less!  Not quite Twitter but close.  This genuinely appealing recipe has no crust, can be make in one bowl, and has only six ingredients.  Anne says, "It bakes up beautifully with no cracks -- unlike the other cheesecake I make."  Am running to the store to get some nice fresh ricotta....see you there!  The recipe comes from Alice Cologna of Mays Landing, New Jersey by way of the Life Section Editor of the Press of Atlantic City, Steven V. Cronin, who writes a weekly column called "Legacy Recipes." Atlantic City Italian Cheesecake I'm inclined to add a pinch of sea salt to this.

Butter for greasing the pan 3 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese 6 extra-large eggs (or large if you have those) 3/4 cup whole milk 1-1/4-1-1/2 cups sugar (sweetness is up to you) 3 tablespoons corn starch 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter an 8- or 9-inch spring form pan.  Mix all the ingredients in a standing mixer until smooth.  Pour into the pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Cool for an hour before placing it in the refrigerator.  That's it!  Serves 10

A Great Cheesecake

Cheesecake recipes are precious legacies.  Many get handed down from generation to generation more sure-handedly than the family china.  A good cheesecake is the crown jewel of the American dessert cart and, "Whose is best?," is the mythology that keeps us talking. And asking.  Which brings us to the reason that"cheesecake" is the third most requested recipe on the Google hit parade.  As far as I know, no one in my family ever made a cheesecake.  We loved Sara Lee's (truly) -- the one from the freezer case in the supermarket (and I enjoyed eating it frozen!)-- and we would venture as often as possible to Junior's -- a New York cheesecake institution.  Over the years, the cheesecake wars included Miss Grimble, Turf, Eileen's, and Lady Oliver's (the company of Rachel Hirschfeld, who delivered her velvety cheesecakes to New York's top restaurants in a white Bentley.)  When I was the chef at Gracie Mansion for Mayor Koch (in 1978!), Turf was the cheesecake we used -- I topped it with small strawberries and glazed them with melted currant jelly laced with a bit of Cassis.  When President Jimmy Carter came to visit, I bought a peanut cheesecake enrobed in crackly caramel, from a wonderfully fun restaurant called Once Upon A Stove.  I served it, with a glass of milk, alongside the Carter nightstand on the second floor bedroom.  He enjoyed it tremendously.

Before writing Radically Simple, I, like the other women in my family, never made a cheesecake.  And that's why I am eternally grateful to Anne Kabo of Margate, New Jersey, who taught me how.  Anne, through a complex family saga, is a relative of sorts and a cherished one at that.  The radically delicious cheesecake recipe that follows belongs to her, as does the lovely photo she took.

A Radically Simple Cheesecake Anne Kabo, one of the best home bakers I know, created one of the best cheesecakes I've had.  The crust doesn't need to be pre-baked and, compared to most recipes, it is radically simple.  It also freezes beautifully.  You can cover any cracks with shaved white chocolate or simply adorn the cake with ripe berries.

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature 5 ounces honey graham crackers 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans 1-1/4 cups sugar 3 extra-large eggs, room temperature 16 ounces cream cheese, broken into pieces 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 1 tablespoon cornstarch 24 ounces sour cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a deep 10-inch springform pan with 2 tablespoons of the butter.  Finely crush the graham crackers, nuts, and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor.  Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter; stir into the crumbs until moistened.  Pat the crumbs onto the bottom and 1/2-inch up the side of the pan to form a crust.  Using a standing mixer, beat the eggs for 3 minutes.  Add the cream cheese and mix until smooth, 2 minutes.  Add the remaining 1 cup sugar, vanilla, cornstarch, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Beat on high for 2 minutes.  Add the sour cream and beat 1 minute longer.  Pour into the crust.  Bake 50 to 55 minutes until firm. Cool on a rack.  Cover and refrigerate until very cold.  Serves 16