I really wanted to tell you about the history of cheesecake.
I wanted to tell you how the first record mankind has of cheesecake dates back two millennia to Ancient Rome. I wanted to tell you how — fast forwarding 1,000 years — the Roman conquering armies spread the good news of cheesecake to Great Britain and Scandanavia, and how, by the mid 16th century, charming recipes like the one below were popping up in cookbooks all over Europe:
To make a tarte of Chese: Take harde Chese and cutte it in slyces,and pare it, than laye it in fayre water, or in swete mylke, the space of three houres, then take it up and breake it in a morter tyll it be small, than drawe it up thorowe a strainer with the yolkes of syxe egges, and season it wyth suger and swete butter, and so bake it. (from: A Proper newe Booke of Cokerye)
(Thankfully, the modern recipe for cheesecake has been tweaked just a little.)
I wanted to tell you how New Yorkers, in their very typical New York way, like to say that cheesecake wasn’t really cheesecake until it was cheesecake in New York. And how one audacious man named Arnold Reuben claims to be the father of cheesecake (let it be noted that Mr. Reuben also claims to have begotten one the world’s most loved sandwiches). I even wanted to make a side mention about the invention of cream cheese, cheesecake’s principal ingredient, which happened to be a happy accident stumbled upon by some American dairymen in the late 1800s who were attempting to duplicate the popular Neufchatel cheese of France. Thank the Lord they weren’t successful.
I wanted to tell you all of this — truly I did — but I really think I should just cut to the chase and tell you the recipe. This pumpkin cheesecake is worth the fuss of crumbling graham crackers. It’s worth the excess of buying three — yes, three — packages of cream cheese. And it’s absolutely worth the four excruciating hours of waiting for it to cool in the refrigerator. Fall is here, folks, there’s no going back now. So let’s stuff our face with pumpkin cheesecake!
incredible pumpkin cheesecake
Adapted from Paula Deen
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 2 packages)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted (you might need more)
3 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Anthony has perfected his graham cracker crumbling method, so at the risk of others taking credit for his genius, I’d like to share that method here. Place the graham crackers in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and seal tightly. Next, take a rolling pin and roll over the bag — while applying steady pressure — until the crumbs have reached desired fineness. Voila! Wasn’t that easy?
In a medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter and stir to combine. The texture of the crumbs should be somewhere between wet and dry sand — not mushy but able to hold itself together. Adjust the amount of butter as necessary.
Place the mixture in a 9-inch springform pan and press flat and evenly to form the crust. Build up the sides of the crust as much as you can, but don’t panic if it’s not perfect (it won’t be). Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.
Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices (be generous with the spices!). Next, add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.
(IMPORTANT: You must put the springform pan on a baking sheet before placing it in the oven. We neglected to do this at first and quickly realized our mistake as buttery sugary goo leaked onto the floor of the oven, began smoking, and set off the smoke alarm. Please do as I say, not as I do.)
Place cheesecake in the oven for one hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours before serving.
In conclusion, this dessert is creamy and cold, crunchy and sweet, buttery and pumpkiny and cinnamony in all the right places. If you don’t make it before the last golden leaves fall from the trees, you surely will regret it.