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Pumpkin Cheesecake Round-Up

I’ve come up with a few new recipes for Thanksgiving this year, that I’ll post throughout the week.  For today, though, the subject is cheesecake! On my “Vegan Thanksgiving Hotline” (and in my e-mail in-box) there were some questions about pumpkin cheesecake.  As you know, I’m a fan of pumpkin cheesecake — I’ve been making them every year since the mid 1980s when I used to make them for restaurants.  Over the years the recipe has changed somewhat. In my pre-vegan days I used dairy cream cheese, when I went vegan I began using silken tofu, and then when vegan cream cheese came out, that became the “cheese” in the cake!  I only use the non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese and I love the convenience of it.  It does contain soy, so if you’re soy-intolerant, you can make a thick cashew cream cheese alternative by pureeing soaked cashews with water in a high-speed blender.

For your convenience, I’m re-posting the recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cranberry Drizzle (from 1,000 Vegan Recipes).  I’ve also included several variations, including my favorite streusel-like topping, as well as my tips for making great vegan cheesecakes.

Pumpkin Cheezecake with Cranberry Drizzle
Dense and rich with spiced pumpkin flavor, this dessert is a natural for your Thanksgiving table. The gorgeous orange color offset by the vivid drizzle of cranberry makes a beautiful presentation. I especially like using ground gingersnaps for the crust. From 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson © 2009, John Wiley and Sons.
Crust:
1 1/2 cups vegan ginger snap or graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup vegan margarine, melted
Filling:
2 (8-ounce) containers non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese
1 (15-ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Cranberry Drizzle:
1/3 cup cranberry sauce
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon melted vegan margarine
1. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Place the crumbs in the bottom of the pan, add the melted margarine, and mix with a fork to blend. Press the crumb mixture into bottom and sides of pan and set aside.
2. Make the filling: In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and pumpkin and process until blended. Add the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg and process until well blended.
3. Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave cheesecake in the oven for another 15 minutes. When done, edges should be golden and starting to pull away from sides of pan, and center should be soft set. Remove the cake from the oven and cool at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving or overnight (my preference).
4. Make the topping: In a blender or food processor, combine the cranberry sauce, maple syrup, and margarine and blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a squeeze bottle or small pitcher and drizzle the over the top of the cheesecake. Keep refrigerated until needed.
5. To serve:  Cut the cheesecake and place each slice on a dessert plate.  Spoon about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the cranberry mixture over the cheesecake slice and onto the plate.  Do not put too much sauce on the cheesecake or it will overpower the pumpkin flavor.

Topping Variations:
Instead of the cranberry drizzle, you can top the cheesecake with any of the following:
* “streusel-type topping” (shown in top photo): Combine some pecans, dried cranberries, and vegan butterscotch chips in the food processor and pulse them until well chopped.  Stir in a little agave, if desired, to make it easier to use.  Spoon the topping on the outer rim of the cheesecake right after it comes out of the oven so it can melt into the cheesecake a bit. 
* chopped toasted pecans (or other nuts) sprinkled over the entire top or just around the outer edge
* maple-glazed pecan halves
* vegan whipped cream (can be flavored with rum extract)
* crystallized ginger (that has been ground to a powder) lightly dusted around the outer edge of the cheesecake
* chocolate curls

Cheesecake Variations:
Add 1 teaspoon of rum extract to the batter
Add additional spices for a more deeply “spiced” flavor: a combination of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves are good. 
Instead of a gingersnap or graham cracker crumb crust, try crumbs made from shortbread cookies or chocolate cookies.

Cheesecake Tips:
1. Bring cream cheese to room temperature before using.  (Use non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese.)
2. For best results, make your filling in a food processor or use a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, but don’t use a blender because the mixture is too dense to mix properly.
3. For the crust:  I usually use about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of crumbs for a 9-inch cheesecake.  If you prefer a crisp crust rather than a soft crust, you can prebake the crust for 10 minutes and let cool before adding the filling.
4. When making the crust, add the melted margarine to the crumbs a little at a time — you need just need enough to moisten the crumbs.  Usually 1/4 cup of melted margarine is enough, but it depends on the amount of crumbs you use and also how “dry” they are. For example, when I use ground shortbread cookies (instead of graham cracker crumbs) I find that there’s more moisture in the cookies, so I need to use less margarine.  Sometimes the crumbs are very dry and I need a little extra margarine.
5. Always grease your springform pan (either with margarine or nonstick cooking spray).  Make sure your springform pan is properly closed before using. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven to bake.
6. For pumpkin cheesecake, I like to use light brown sugar (which packs tightly into cup).  If you’re using a different sugar, you may want to add extra to make it sweet enough.
7. Before scraping the batter into the crust, taste it — you can add a little more spices or sugar if desired.
8. I usually bake cheesecakes for 45 minutes and then leave them in the oven for a few extra minutes to gently continue cooking.  A few tiny cracks may appear around the edge.  If it overbakes, you may get more cracks.
9. Cool the cheesecake at room temperature for at least an hour, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  I prefer to bake it the night before to allow for more chilling time.

Halloween Pumpkin Cheesecake

It’s Sweet Tooth Saturday and just two days ’til Halloween, so how could I not make a Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin cheesecake??  This is my basic pumpkin cheesecake recipe, with the addition of the happy Jack face that I made by combining melted chocolate with some chocolate cookie crumbs that I spread out and chilled before cutting into shapes.

Here’s another pic of Jack from another angle — I used a chocolate cookie crumb crust to give more of an “orange and black” appearance to the cheesecake.

I’ll keep this post short today because it’s snowing (in October!!) and the power keeps flickering on and off.  It’s a heavy wet snow and the leaves are still on the trees, so limbs are snapping everywhere.  I don’t know how long we’ll have power today, but I couldn’t let Sweet Tooth Saturday go by without sharing Mr. Jack o’Cheesecake!

And I couldn’t let Caturday slip by without a photo of Gary “Long-legs”!  Gary is a very tall boy, and this photo gives you an idea of just how long his legs are.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Streusel Topping

This year’s Thanksgiving pumpkin cheesecake was similar to the one I make every year, but as usual, I just had to do something a little different for the topping to keep it interesting. This time, I made a streusel-type topping by combining pecans, dried cranberries, and vegan butterscotch chips.  I pulsed them in a food processor to chop them up well and stirred in a little agave.  Instead of covering the entire top, I just framed the outer rim with the streusel. 
As Jon said when he had his first (!) slice, “You start out thinking you’re eating the best thing in the world, and then you get to the part with the topping on it and it’s even better.”  With that kind of review, I think this new topping may just have to make the rounds again next Thanksgiving!  Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

There’s still time to enter my final Weekly Vegan MoFo Cookbook Giveaway!  Just leave a comment here for a chance to win a copy of my new book, Party Vegan!

Pumpkin Cheesecake


Pumpkin cheesecake is a Thanksgiving tradition in our house, so I make it every year without fail. I like to change up the toppings from year to year, just to keep it interesting.

This year I’m serving it with Cranberry Drizzle, from 1000 Vegan Recipes. For an extra nuance, I’ve also topped it with caramelized pecan halves. The cranberry drizzle is then drizzled onto each slice of cheesecake after plating. By “drizzle,” I mean just spooning about a tablespoon or so per serving onto the slice. That way, there’s just a hint of the sweet-tart cranberry flavor — if you put too much on, it will overpower the pumpkin flavor.

Other toppings we enjoy on pumpkin cheesecake (besides the caramelized pecans and/or cranberry drizzle) are:
– chopped toasted pecans (or other nuts) sprinkled over the entire top or just around the outer edge
– vegan whipped cream (can be flavored with rum extract)
– crystallized ginger (that has been ground to a powder) lightly dusted around the outer edge of the cheesecake
– chocolate curls

Different variations I’ve used on occasion include adding a teaspoon of rum extract to the batter or adding extra spices for a more deeply “spiced” flavor: a combination of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, or cloves are good.

Sometimes, instead of a graham cracker crumb crust, I use crumbs made from vegan gingersnaps or shortbread cookies — or even chocolate cookies. (This time I used shortbread cookie crumbs.) Here’s the cheesecake before adding any toppings:


I often get e-mails asking for tips on making cheesecakes, so I thought I’d include some here:

1. Bring cream cheese to room temperature before using. (Use non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese.)
2. For best results, make your filling in a food processor or use a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, but don’t use a blender because the mixture is too dense to mix properly.
3. For the crust: I usually use about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of crumbs for a 9-inch cheesecake. If you prefer a crisp crust rather than a soft crust, you can prebake the crust for 10 minutes and let cool before adding the filling.
4. When making the crust, add the melted margarine to the crumbs a little at a time — you need just need enough to moisten the crumbs. Usually 1/4 cup of melted margarine is enough, but it depends on the amount of crumbs you use and also how “dry” they are. For example, when I use ground shortbread cookies (instead of graham cracker crumbs) I find that there’s more moisture in the cookies, so I need to use less margarine. Sometimes the crumbs are very dry and I need a little extra margarine.
5. Always grease your springform pan (either with margarine or nonstick cooking spray). Make sure your springform pan is properly closed before using. Place the pan on a baking sheet in the oven to bake.
6. For pumpkin cheesecake, I like to use light brown sugar (which packs tightly into cup). If you’re using a different sugar, you may want to add extra to make it sweet enough.
7. Before scraping the batter into the crust, taste it — you can add a little more spices or sugar if desired.
8. I usually bake cheesecakes for 45 minutes and then leave them in the oven for a few extra minutes to gently continue cooking. A few tiny cracks may appear around the edge. If it overbakes, you may get more cracks.
9. Cool the cheesecake at room temperature for at least an hour, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours. I prefer to bake it the night before to allow for more chilling time.

Here’s the cheesecake still in the springform pan:


If you’re still looking for ideas for Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to check out my menu and recipes on Vegan.com.

Post-Thanksgiving Post


I had planned to take photos of my Thanksgiving dinner, but only managed to remember in time for dessert. So here is a photo of my Pumpkin Cheesecake. I was originally going to dust the top perimeter with crystallized ginger, but at the last minute decided on chopped pecans instead. It was very yummy, although there was so much food for dinner, we didn’t even want to think of dessert until several hours later.

For dinner, I basically made the menu as posted on Vegan.com (you can see a photo of the food there — and all the recipes, too). The seitan roulade has been the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinner for over 20 years. I sometimes make a different stuffing for it — this year it was a veganized version of my mother’s chestnut stuffing. It was so good. The roasted sweet potato sticks were a big hit — I sprinkled them with cranberries and some of the chopped pecans I had left from garnishing the cheesecake.

I hope everyone had a very happy vegan Thanksgiving!