Friday, November 26, 2010

Everyday Yumminess: Mini Bourbon-Pumpkin Cheesecakes

Dessert-baking is tricky for the solo diner. You can only scale things back so far, and then you'd better hope it freezes well so you don't have to eat the dessert twice a day for a week. This was my conundrum at Thanksgiving. I had my eye on this Bourbon-Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe at Epicurious, but what am I going to do with a whole cheesecake? Luckily, I found these awesome mini-cheesecake pans and my problem was solved. Look how adorable:
I followed the recipe almost exactly, but at the last minute I decided that I should also make my own pumpkin purée. I started with a couple pie pumpkins. It would turn out that one was more than enough, but I'd never done this before so I decided to play it safe and buy a second one just in case...
The pumpkins are stemmed and halved. (This is when it's great to have a nice, cheap hacking cleaver like the one above that I got for $6 ten years ago and have been using ever since...) The seeds are collected (see below) and the guts are scooped out...
... then the pumpkin halves go face-down in a roasting pan with an inch or so of water.
After about 90 minutes in a 350°F oven (or whenever the pumpkins are tender), the pumpkin is done and should be allowed to cool before the next step (so as to not burn your fingers).
The skin is removed, and the flesh is added to a food processor in chunks and puréed until nice and smooth. That's it. Super-easy.
The best part of homemade pumpkin purée? Toasted pumpkin seeds! I did mine with a little (Amish) butter, sea salt, and granulated garlic. So very, very yummy.
Back to the cheesecake. The dry ingredients for the crust are pecans and graham crackers (both of which go for a ride in the food processor), brown sugar, and white sugar.
Melted (Amish) butter is added to the mix, and everything is mixed until well-combined. I used my Smood (from the good people at DreamFarm) to make sure I broke up all the little chunks of brown sugar.
I wasn't sure how quantities would work out when converting from cheesecake to mini cheesecakes, so I prepped both a "small" cheesecake pan and my "mini" cheesecake pan. I used the tamper from my espresso machine to press down the crust for the small cheesecakes...
... and the bottom of a shot glass for the mini cheesecakes.
These chill for an hour while you prepare the filling (and do your dinner prep). The filling contains everything pictured below plus white sugar and brown sugar.
I used one brick of full-fat cream cheese and two of reduced-fat cream cheese (rather than three bricks of full-fat) since it seemed like a more reasonable choice. The resulting cheesecake was plenty rich and creamy, so I may even use only reduced-fat cream cheese next time. The pumpkin purée is combined with the eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, bourbon, and cream.
This is set aside and the stand mixer is then used to combine the cream cheese, white sugar, cornstarch, and spices. I should note here that most people have realized by now how vastly superior fresh-grated nutmeg is to pre-ground, but I feel the same way about cinnamon. If I need a small amount I grate the sticks on a microplane (just like you would do with nutmeg), but for larger amounts like this recipe called for I just crack a few cinnamon sticks in half and toss them in my spice grinder. The flavor is so much more vibrant. Anyway, this mixture is beaten until smooth and creamy...
... then the pumpkin mixture is incorporated, and you have yourself some yummy, yummy filling.
This turned out to be exactly the right amount of filling for my two prepared trays of crusts.
These went into a 350°F oven until set (about 20 minutes for the mini cheesecakes, 33 minutes for the small). They had a tendency to soufflé up a bit, but they fell back down to as they rested.
After these cool for a few minutes, they're topped with sour cream mixed with a little sugar and a little bourbon. I made half the amount that the recipe calls for, and it was more than enough.
The cheesecakes go back in the oven for 5 minutes or so, then cool to room temperature for a few hours before heading into the fridge to chill. In the meantime I decided to caramelize some pecans for the tops of the cheesecakes, mostly following a recipe I found here.
A little (Amish) butter, a little water, some brown sugar, and a pinch of salt combine in the pan and are allowed to bubble away for a while... The nuts are added and tossed in the caramel for a few minutes.
When the pecans are done, they're spread out on a Silpat to cool and turn from gooey to crunchy...
A pecan half on top of each cheesecake finishes off the presentation of these adorable desserts. The "small" would be great for a dessert at the end of a light meal, but I love the "mini" version for the end of a dinner party or during the holidays when so many people bring so many desserts.
Because the recipe is said to freeze well, I can pop a bunch of these cute little (2" diameter x 1.25" tall) cheesecakes in the freezer and pull out one whenever I'm looking for a little delicious dessert with no work involved. I highly recommend both this recipe and the mini cheesecake pans. I can't wait to play with them some more. Cheesecake is no longer a crazy thing for me to make for myself...

Note: I haven't been asked to endorse any of the products that I rave about in my blog. They're just super-cool things that I've found and that I want to spread the word about so other people can enjoy them, too...

No comments: