Friday, October 22, 2010

and the winner is...

“It’s a pie!”  “No, it’s a cake!”  This was the argument I somehow got in the middle of when I asked the culinary director and her assistant at my workplace for the pumpkin cheesecake recipe that has been such a hit lately.  They were getting into the process, what is in it that makes it a pie or for that matter a cake.  I really don’t know what the final decision was, and honestly, I didn’t really care.  Thankfully though, I did get the recipe and a disgustingly huge slice to take home for snacking on that night after work.  

This pumpkin cheesecake has a gingersnap cookie crust that is so buttery, it just melts in your mouth.  The filling has of course cream cheese (a boat load), pumpkin, some spices and a splash of bourbon, just because it sounds good.  It is so creamy and delicious, and the pumpkin adds a beautiful color as well. The topping, which I think just makes this “pie” is the praline top.  A pecan, brown sugar, butter mixture that is baked until bubbly, hardens as it cools and then is crumbled on top to give an extra texture and flavor bump. It is so good.

This recipe serves twelve, so invite the gang over, and call it whatever you want, they won’t care.  They’ll just think you’re a rock star!


Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake
from Bon Appetit

For praline
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans

For crust
2 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 9 ounces)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For filling
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 large eggs
1 15-ounce can solid pack pumpkin
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make praline:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheet with foil. Stir sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts and mixture comes to boil; boil 1 minute without stirring. Mix in pecans. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet. Bake until sugar syrup bubbles vigorously, about 8 minutes. Cool praline completely. Break into pieces. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight.)

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Stir cookie crumbs and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Add butter; stir until crumbs are moistened. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Bake crust until set, about 8 minutes. Cool. Double-wrap outside of pan with heavy-duty foil. Place in large roasting pan.

Make filling:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in flour and spices. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Beat in pumpkin, bourbon and vanilla. Transfer to crust.
Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to reach 1 inch up sides of springform pan. Bake cake in water bath until center is just set, adding more water to roasting pan as needed, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Remove cheesecake from water. Cool in pan on rack. Remove foil. Run small sharp knife between cake and pan sides. Chill until cold; then cover and chill overnight.
Release pan sides. Place cake on platter. Sprinkle praline over, leaving 1-inch plain border at edge. Cut cake into wedges.

Serves 12

Friday, October 1, 2010

dig the fig

Whether fresh or dried, figs have long been prized for their promise of sweetness. Of all fruits, figs contain the most sugar, which may explain why they have been honored for centuries as aphrodisiacs and symbols of abundance, understanding, and love. Versatility is a great descriptor of this fruit, whether baked, roasted, stewed, dipped or stuffed this fruit can take many forms and pairs well with sweet or savory dishes.

I’ve been playing around with some different recipes for fig jam and have come up with a deliciously sweet preserve that uses only tender, hand-harvested fruit picked at the peak of ripeness, a touch of citrus, a spicy kick from black peppercorns and then topped off with cognac. The result is an earthy sweet jam with a bright fruit character.

This is a natural to pair with an aged sheep’s milk cheese, spread over a roasted pork loin, poured on top of ice cream or even spooned over ricotta pancakes at breakfast.

No matter which culinary vehicle you choose to serve with this fig jam, it is well worth the effort.


Drunken Fig Jam
makes 3-  ½ pints

2 lb. black mission figs, stemmed, cut into ½ inch pieces
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups sugar
¼ cup Cognac or brandy
½ cup orange juice
1 tsp. black peppercorns placed in cheesecloth “purse”

Zest (yellow part only) and juice the lemon. Combine figs, zest, lemon juice, sugar, Cognac, orange juice and the “purse” of black peppercorns into a heavy large deep saucepan. Bring fig mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced by half, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture to crush the larger fig pieces, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the peppercorn purse and take off the heat.

Ladle mixture into 3 ½ -pint sterilized glass canning jars, leaving ¼ -inch space at the top of the jars. Remove any air bubbles using a chopstick or skewer. Wipe jar threads and rims with a clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process jars in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Cool jars completely, store in a cool dark place up to 1 year.