Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust

When mom told me that I could make all of the desserts for Thanksgiving/Chanukah this year, I was beyond excited.  About 2 seconds later, I got overwhelmed - how many people would there be?  What should I make?  How many desserts should I make?  Should I make more, smaller things, or fewer, larger things?  I asked mom for advice and she told me that there would be 6 of us and beyond that, I could do whatever I wanted.  In other words: ahhhh!

See, I felt like I had some giant shoes to fill.  My gramma doesn't do much baking or cooking anymore, and she never did for holiday things (keep reading and you'll see why), but she DID (does) always go bananas with the amount of food.

For every Thanksgiving except for this one, there's always a 20-ish pound turkey, a couple of pounds of boneless chicken breast, two kinds of rice, mashed potatoes AND sweet potatoes... you can see where I'm going with this.  And that's just the real food.  Dessert always involves the same amount of stuff: multiple kinds of cupcakes (chocolate AND vanilla/mini AND regular size, etc); at least two kinds of cookies; apple, blueberry and pumpkin pies; chocolate cake, jello and sometimes there's ice cream in the freezer that she forgets about.

So, even though I knew nobody would be "judging" me and everyone loves my stuff, I felt like my gramma had set the bar wicked high and that I wouldn't even come close.  In determining what to make, I had to figure out what was the most important.  As I thought about it, I realized that for gramma, it's not Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie - even though I don't think I've ever seen her eat more than a little sliver of a slice, I think it's just one of those things that she needs to have on the table in order for her heart and head to be like "ahhh, now this Thanksgiving is complete".  She has a really hard time letting go of the reins (so THAT'S where I get it from!), so I knew I wanted to make her pumpkin pie.

Of course, I couldn't make any pumpkin pie.  No.  Instead, I make pumpkin pie cheesecake with a graham cracker crust.  Talk about stacking the deck against myself.  I had made this recipe before, but only once.  Probably two years ago.  And I used a box mix cake for the base and made it bars, not a pie.  That said, I remembered the bars being delicious and easy to make, and a graham cracker crust seemed like a really good idea.  Plus, since it's cheesecake, I figured it would be easy to make a day or two ahead of time since it's gotta sit in the fridge anyway.

You guys.  I am SO GLAD I made this.  The graham cracker crust was the PERFECT compliment to the pumpkin mixture.  I topped my slice with some homemade whipped cream and it was absolutely to die for.  Since the filling recipe is for bars and I made a pie, you'll actually end up with leftover filling.  I made cupcake sized cheesecakes, but realistically, you could probably get two 8" pies out of this.  I don't really know how to do it, but I'd recommend making one to freeze and one to eat, because you'll definitely want some more before next Thanksgiving.


Oh, and if you're wondering.. my gramma loved it!

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Graham Cracker Crust

For the crust:
2 c. graham cracker crumbs (about 18 crackers)
6 Tbsp butter, melted
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

For the filling:
8 oz. brick cream cheese, room temperature
14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
15 oz. can pumpkin puree
2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9 1/2" pie plate. (Note: I used a disposable one to make life easier, I think it was 8" or so - use whatever size you have available!)

Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugars and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of your pie plate.  Bake until firm, about 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat paddle attachment, beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Gradually beat in sweetened condensed milk.  Add eggs, pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice.  Mix well.  Batter will be loose.

Place cooled pie plate on a small baking sheet.  Pour pumpkin mix into crust.  Bake until center is set but still wobbly, about 45 minutes.  To double check, insert a sharp knife into the center of your cheesecake, until it touches the crust - it should come out clean.  Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

*To make cupcakes: press about 1 EATING sized teaspoon of graham cracker crumbs into the bottom of your cupcake wrappers.  Bake until firm, about 5 minutes.  Add 2-3 EATING sized teaspoons on pumpkin mix and bake about 20 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then refrigerate in an airtight container overnight.

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