A pumpkin cheesecake to erase the tragedy that is the pumpkin pie.
My mind overflows with visions of orange. Pumpkin: pumpkin spice muffins, pumpkin scones, pumpkin crème brulee, and pumpkin praline pie. Unfortunately, visions precipitate desire, and it’s compounded by the color orange which is reputed to stimulate hunger. So off I go in search of canned pumpkin.
Six supermarkets covered in two days leave me empty handed, devoid of that familiar orange container of Libby’s canned pumpkin. I’m convinced that destiny is against me – that or the Thanksgiving crowd has hoarded them all.
So I make my own pumpkin puree – I buy and roast a whole pumpkin ‘til it’s soft, I mash it, and then I take the extra step of pushing it through a strainer to make it extra fine. We’re talking five kilos of mash here. At the end of this mad, self-induced punishment, my arms are sore and I’m orange all over. My Bin takes one look at me and jokes, “Oh well now, orange-you-orange?” (Aren’t you orange?) Smart ass.
But I’ve got my pumpkin and it’s just in time for the Thanksgiving dinner at Pino Kitchen Studio owned by my friend, Chef Ed Bugia. I make a Pecan Crunch Pumpkin Pie to bring, a velvety revelation replete with spices and cream.
I’d like to say it was a success but it turns out to be an inordinate embarrassment for me. Through whatever egregious chemical reaction may have occurred, my pumpkin pie filling has turned green (!), the same green of army fatigues. And mold. Eeew. Needless to say, no one dares touch my pie at the party and I go home with a full plate, my spirit empty.
My pie has been upstaged by a pumpkin cheesecake, an awesomely orange custard baked just ‘til set, chilled, and then garnished with a whiskey-cream glaze. It is – in a word – stupendous, and if the girl who made it wasn’t so nice, I would have loved to hate her.
I’m determined to convince myself that there’s nothing wrong with my homemade pumpkin puree, so I decide to make my own pumpkin cheesecake. Tweaking my cheesecake recipe, I modify the measurements to accommodate the puree and add just enough spice to perfume, not permeate the delicate custard. Set and baked in a water bath for a long, moderate bake, I sit off in a corner, my fingers crossed.
The cheesecake bakes up with a sleek surface and saffron-like in hue, so restrained is its orange color. Once it cools, I let it chill in the refrigerator while I make a brown sugar and Bourbon cream sauce to go with it. It’s a simple harmony of two kinds of cream – light cream and sour cream, brown sugar, and Bourbon, although whiskey is more than acceptable.
I host my own Thanksgiving dinner, where I’ve cooked a 13-pound turkey and made a meal, and I serve the pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. It holds its own, a blushing, brilliant gold beside the maple- pecan pie and the banana pudding. Everyone tries it and while some of them are naturally averse to pumpkin, I’m with the few who adore it. Uninterrupted in smoothness, it’s a symphony of spices opening up to one another and lingering in the back of the throat. It’s a luscious, spicy state to be in as sweetness tiptoes in, titillating, before the lushness of the cream carried by the boldness of Bourbon swaggers in and rounds everything out. Perish that pumpkin pie, I love this pumpkin cheesecake.