Monday, December 7, 2015

"The Pumpkin Cookbook" - Pumpkin and Raisin Cheesecake for Thanksgiving

Date I made this recipe:  November 26, 2015 – Thanksgiving Day 2015

The Pumpkin Cookbook by Hamlyn (Publishing)
Published by:  Hamlyn (Publishing)
ISBN: 0-600-60383-0
Recipe:  Pumpkin and Raisin Cheesecake – p. 46

While I have never been a huge fan of pumpkin pie, my husband says he likes to have something of the pumpkin variety for dessert for Thanksgiving. Funny, I never took him for one of those "Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie" people but you learn something new every day.

Frankly, I am "over" this year's "pumpkin-goes-with-everything" craze that has been hitting grocery stores and coffee shops since – I swear – mid-August.  Starbucks led the way with promises of "pumpkin lattes, coming soon" while it was still quite warm and enjoyable outside and, it should be noted, SUMMER, and this just ticked me off.  And then one by one, other coffee shops followed suit and soon you couldn't step into a grocery store without someone wanting you to sample this simply divine pumpkin [fill in the blank) item, new for fall! 

I mean the ingredient was everywhere and in everything and given that it was, in fact, mid-August when this whole nonsense started, by the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was practically belligerent when going into a grocery store:  "NO, I don't want your damned pumpkin 'whatchamacallit'!  Get thee gone, you pumpkin Satan!" 

I fully expected to hear warning calls over the stores' PA system:  "Attention shoppers.  There's a crazed woman in Aisle 3, muttering about pumpkin.  We repeat, there's a crazed woman in Aisle 3.  Please clear the area."

But like I said above, my hubby wanted something pumpkin for T-Day (so predictable) that I had to gird my loins and gear up to make something of the pumpkin variety.  And so I decided that this year, I was going to find a fresh baking pumpkin (at Trader Joe's) and make something that would just dazzle us and make our Thanksgiving Day complete.

That "something" was today's recipe for Pumpkin and Raisin Cheesecake, upon which we pinned our Thanksgiving Day hopes and dreams and I wish I didn't have to inform you that our dreams were dashed but they were.  Two problems:  1) the pumpkin flavor just didn't come through.  Call me spoiled, but I have never had a fresh pumpkin anything in my life and while I don't exactly love canned pumpkin, it works for me better than this.  And 2) missing from the Pumpkin and Raisin Cheesecake was anything resembling the "cheese" portion of our program.  This recipe does not use cream cheese and in my opinion, this is what killed it.  Instead, it used a pound of cottage cheese and some heavy cream and eggs and those ingredients did not produce the type of cheesecake we were used to. 

To add to our disappointment, our usual and customary turkey dinner takeouts, obtained from one of our favorite restaurants, did not come up to snuff.  And so there we were, sitting there all deflated by dinner and our pumpkin dessert and then to add to my angst, my Green Bay Packers lost their game against the Chicago Bears by four points after a valiant rally and I was all "Bah, Humbug" before we ever got to Black Friday, the unofficial start of Christmas. 

Although I would not make this particular recipe again, many in the book sounded really good like "Pumpkin and Root Vegetable Stew" and "Pumpkin Curry."   I have a feeling that pumpkin in a savory dish is better than a sweet dish but that could just be me. 

So.  Next year I think we're going to pass on doing the turkey takeout ("Let's all take a year off to course correct, shall we?") and if I simply must make something with pumpkin to satisfy my husband, I think I'll go back to using canned pumpkin.  I know, right?  I should be using fresh pumpkin like the Pilgrims (allegedly) but once bitten, twice shy.  We'll see how that goes.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, thankfully (or should that be "Thank"fully), we are now done with this pumpkin nonsense and are now fully into our "Fa La La La Latte" and our "Gingerbread Latte" and whatnot for the Christmas season.  And no doubt by January, Starbucks will start touting some awful concoction for spring and summer (Kale latte, anyone?) and I will commence grumbling once again.  It's what I do and I do it well.

Since I am posting this blog after the fact (what a busy couple of weeks), I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving repast and your very own pumpkin "whatchamacallit!"

(By the way, all was not a total loss as the cheesecake crust was delicious but then again, what's not to like about gingersnaps and liqueur-soaked raisins!)

Pumpkin and Raisin Cheesecake – makes one 8"/9" springform pan
1 cup raisins
3 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur (Grand Mariner)
6 ounces gingersnap cookies
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 pumpkin, about 14 ounces (Ann's Note:  check your grocery stories just after Halloween and make sure you buy a "sugar" pumpkin, suitable for cooking)
1 pound cottage cheese
2 eggs
½ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup superfine sugar
Finely grated zest and juice of ½ an orange
To serve:  lightly whipped and sweetened cream and caramelized orange zest slivers

Ann's Note:  If you buy the pumpkin early, peel, scoop out the seeds , cut into cubes and freeze until needed.

Put the raisins into a small bowl with the liqueur and leave to soak for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly oil the sides of an 8-inch springform pan.  Put the cookies in a zip-top freezer bag and crush them with a rolling pin.  Ann's Note:  or put them in a Cuisinart and pulse them until crumbled.  Transfer to a bowl and add the melted butter.  Stir until evenly mixed.  Turn the mixture into the pan and pack down onto the base and slightly up the sides.  Ann's Note:  I used a 9-inch pan in which case, I didn't have much to pack to the sides, oh well.

Scoop out the pumpkin seeds and fibers from the pumpkin, then cut it into large wedges.  Put the wedges in a steamer over a pan of gently simmering water and cook for 15-20 minutes until the flesh is tender.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Put the cottage cheese in a food processor and blend for about 1 minute until completely smooth.  Scoop the pumpkin flesh into the processor and blend until smooth.  Add the eggs, cream, sugar, and orange zest and juice and blend briefly until smooth.

Scatter the raisins over the cookie base, stirring any remaining liqueur into the cottage cheese mixture.  Ladle the mixture over the base.

Bake the cheesecake in a preheated oven at 350F for 40 minutes, until the center fees just firm to the touch.  Leave it to cool in the pan, then chill until you are ready to serve.  Serve with lightly whipped and sweetened cream topped with caramelized orange zest slivers.

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