Monday, November 15, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Brown Sugar-Bourbon Whipped Cream

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Entertaining, Holiday 2010 issue
Serves 12 to 16
 Perfect Pumpkin Cheesecake

For the crust:
9 graham crackers (5 oz), broken into large pieces
3 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
6 Tbl unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan

For the filling:
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 pounds (3 8-oz packages) cream cheese, room temperature
1 Tbl vanilla extract
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup light brown sugar
pinch kosher salt
2 tsp bourbon

For the crust: Pre-heat the oven to 325°F.  Arrange a rack in the lower-middle position.
Generously butter the bottom and sides of a  9-inch spring-form cake pan and set aside.

Combine the graham crackers, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in the bowl of an electric food processor.  Pulse until finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses.  Transfer the crumb mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the melted butter, then mix with a rubber spatula to evenly moisten.  Transfer the crumb mixture to the buttered cake pan and spread into an even layer.  Using your fingers and the heels of your hand, press the crumbs evenly into the bottom of the pan.  Bake until browned around the edges and fragrant, about 15 minutes.  Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, about 30 minutes.  When cool, wrap the outside of the pan with four layers of foil (to protect the cake from the water bath), then set the cake pan in a large roasting pan. 

For the filling:  Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil.  Meanwhile, in order to drain some of the water from the pumpkin puree, lay a triple layer of paper towels, two sections of towel per layer, on a clean surface.  Evenly spread the pumpkin puree over the towels with a rubber spatula, the cover the pumpkin with a second triple layer of paper towels.  Press firmly until the paper towels are saturated with water.  Reserve the pumpkin puree, discarding the towels.

Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and salt in a small mixing bowl, then set aside. 

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitter with the paddle attachment.  Beat at medium speed to soften slightly, about 1 minute.  Scrape the paddle and the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Add about one-third of the sugar mixture to the cream cheese and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute.  Scrape the bowl and, in two additions, add the remaining sugar mixture, scraping the bowl after each addition.  Add the pumpkin, vanilla and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 1 minute, then scrape the bowl again.  Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute, then scrape the bowl.  Add the remaining eggs and again beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 1 minutes, again scraping the bowl.   Add the heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape the bowl and paddle one last time then give the batter a final stir by hand.

Pour the filling into the spring-form pan, and smooth the surface with a rubber spatula.  Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan.  Bake until the center of the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken, about 1 1/2 hours.  Set the roasting pan on a wire cooling rack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes.  Remove the cake pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and set it on the cooling rack.  Run a thin paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the cake.  Cool to room temperature, about 3 hours.  Cover with plastic and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days. 

For the whipped cream: Combine the cream, sour cream, brown sugar, salt and bourbon in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk at medium speed about 1 minute, then increase the speed to high and continue to beat until fluffy and doubled in volume, about 1 minute more. 

Remove the sides of the spring-form pan.  Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the pan bottom to loosen, then slide the cake onto a serving platter.  Let the cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then slice into wedges, topping each slice with a dollop of Brown Sugar & Bourbon Whipped Cream.