How Sweet It Will Be
I fell asleep on the sofa last night pretty early and never wrote yesterday. A busy day, full of cleaning out and re-organizing the freezers to get them ready for some new venison that will arrive later in the week. Also making room for the fall veggies I froze from my CSA share. I feel quite guilty for not writing yesterday.
Making sure I don’t fall asleep today – at least not until after writing something. Actually thought about this subject a few days ago.
I’m making a pumpkin cheesecake for Thanksgiving dessert. I made one of these maybe 25 or 30 years ago and it was WONDERFUL. There was a beautiful picture of it on the front of a food magazine, with glazed walnuts or pecans in a neat design on top. Gingersnap crust. But I have been searching for the last two months for the recipe. No success. Of course, I can’t remember what magazine, nor really what year, definitely before 1998, probably before 1986, but memory really fails when I go back that far. All I can remember is the deliciousness.
So, I am sharing the process of creating this pumpkin dessert. I grew sugar pumpkins in my garden this summer in anticipation of this dessert. But my farmer also gave me a “Cinderella” pumpkin and I decided to use that instead. So first step was to remember that I had to cook the pumpkin TODAY so it would have time to cool before I needed to add it to cheese and eggs tomorrow. Cut in half and roasted, it is beautiful and orange when cooked. The pumpkin also made some beautiful seeds which I’ll roast tomorrow. Good for gnashing and to garnish salad.
Now this was the easy part. Since I couldn’t find the recipe I made 100 years ago, I have been looking at all kinds of recipes. Food Network, Epicurious, All Recipes.com? How much butter in the crust? Should I used a raw crust or a baked crust? How many eggs – 3, 5, 6?? What’s the difference any way? So I read 100’s of reviews to try to answer the how many eggs part. I have lovely organic eggs from Oliver’s farm, but I haven’t yet figured out the difference on the outcome of 3, 5 or 6 eggs. Rich yumminess, no doubt. I make custards with 2 eggs per cup of milk (or half-and-half if I’m feeling decadent).
How long do I need to cook this? At what temperature? Do I actually need to put it in a waterbath or can I bake it dry? And how long do I need to let is sit in the warm oven once the oven is off? Betty Crocker (1 hr 20 min @ 325, no waterbath, 30 mins)? Paula Deen (1 hour @ 350, no waterbath, 15 mins)? Martha Stewart (45 mins @ 300, no waterbath, 2 hours)? Who REALLY knows what she’s talking about? None of these famous bakers used the waterbath. Almost everyone else says you need to wrap the springform in foil and immerse to half its depth in hot water in the oven. At least they almost all agree that I should cool the cake overnight.
Then there’s the topping or glaze or whatever. I remember that the one from ancient times had a glaze in which the perfect walnut (or pecan) halves were arranged. So I found a glaze made of heavy cream and maple syrup reduced. It won’t be the clear glaze from the other cake, but it will be very praline-like and I like that approach. But I don’t have pecan halves, I have lots of little pieces, so this will be more than praline “like”, it will be soft praline on top of the cake.
Heavy cream, sour cream, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk?? Sour cream? Why put that in something sweet – only makes it need more sugar? Evaporated milk NOT – tastes like the inside of a can. Sweetened condensed milk – why, when I have raw sugar in several varieties and real cream, never seen the inside of a can. But then, how much sugar. I want it sweet, but I don’t want it too sweet. Sweet like jam is too sweet. But the pumpkin the way it is now is boring and not sweet enough.
Turbinado sugar, demerara sugar, sucanat, rapadura, plain old organic cane sugar, or maybe brown sugar? What would provide the best flavor? Will the cane sugar dissolve. Maybe I should use powdered sugar? Something with not too much molasses. Otherwise it’ll overwhelm the pumpkin. So many things to think about. So many things to decide.
So tomorrow, I will mix cream cheese, cream, eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, sugar, salt, sour cream, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, five-spice powder, butter, and LOVE. And Thursday, we’ll have a sweet dream for dessert. Maybe it will look like one of these: