Change is Good

I come from a family of extremely talented chefs. Our Thanksgiving is also what I like to call “deliciously unconventional.” While we have the usual mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top and various cranberry sauces, we also have wild rice with water chestnuts, pickled grapes, caramelized pearl onions, 2 preparations of turkey (one roasted, one smoked), purple cabbage coleslaw, and cucumber salad. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think I was the only one of my friends that hadn’t tried stuffing until last year.

As much as I love all the sides, Thanksgiving is all about the desserts. It is the only time of the year that my sister makes her famous apple cranberry pie, which is so good, that I would be content with eating just that. It is also the time of the year that I get to experiment with recipes suited for a larger crowd. Therefore the selection process takes a few days to complete. This usually consists of my sister and me sending each other links back and forth on gchat while we’re both at work.

This year, we agreed that the Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake from Smitten Kitchen would be the other dessert that we would make. What could be bad? The only problem was that my aunt called my mom the day before Thanksgiving to tell her that there would only be 9 people at dinner, not the 18 that we were anticipating. My aunt said that we probably wouldn’t need a second dessert, and that she could put out some fruit to go with the pie.

I wasn’t having it. I agreed that I wouldn’t make an entire cheesecake, but I decided that I wanted to keep the general pumpkin cheesecake theme. After searching various sites, I returned to trusty Martha Stewart for a recipe. But since I’m always trying to make things my own, I changed her recipe around a little. Sorry Martha, I hope you’ll forgive me and still leave me your empire when you retire. The original recipe for the Chocolate-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars is here. Or you can follow the steps that I took:

Preheat your oven to 350° and line an 8″ square pan with aluminum foil

Place 4.5 ounces of gingersnaps and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar in the food processor

Pulse until your gingersnaps become gingercrumbs

Add in 4 tablespoons of melted butter, and pulse until incorporated

Place your gingersnap base into your prepared pan, and bake for 8-10 minutes

Since I was following the original recipe, which said to bake the crust for 12-15 minutes, my crust came out a little blackened. I have to say though, and my sister confirmed, that the crust tasted pretty darn good despite being slightly overbaked. It tasted more caramelized than burnt. Works for me!

Blend two blocks of cream cheese (I used neufchâtel) in your food processor until smooth

Add 2/3 cup sugar, 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 3 eggs, 3 tablespoon flour (I just realized that I totally forgot to add flour), 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp cloves, and 1/2 tsp nutmeg to the food processor, and process until combined

Set up a double boiler- I use a saucepan with 1″ of water in the bottom, and a metal bowl placed on top. Make sure to use an oven mitt when handling the bowl!

Add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the bowl and stir frequently until melted

I used semi-sweet chocolate, but you could use milk or dark chocolate too.

Once your chocolate is melted, take the bowl off of the saucepan to cool slightly.

Measure out 1 cup of the pumpkin cheesecake mixture, and add it to the bowl of melted chocolate

Stir to combine the cheesecake and the chocolate

Pour the pumpkin cheesecake mixture onto the now cooled crust

Drop tablespoons of the chocolate pumpkin cheesecake mixture into the pumpkin cheesecake

I placed 8 large dollops and a few smaller ones with the chocolate pumpkin mixture, and just kept adding to them until there wasn’t any mixture left

The dollops do not expand outward, but sink to the bottom, which is a good thing. I didn’t want to make too many circles because I wanted there to be a nice pumpkin-chocolate swirl

To make a swirl, place a knife at one side of the pan, and then drag it across to the other side

Continue to do this all the way up the pan widthwise, and then do it lengthwise

Pop it in the oven for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean

When the cheesecake cools, put it in the fridge for a few hours

Although the original recipe states that it makes 16, I cut the cheesecake into 32 bars. I think that people are more likely to eat dessert after a big meal if it is in smaller portions. Notice how most people ask for just a sliver of pie?

If you make the bars smaller, then you can also trick yourself into thinking that it’s not that bad if you go back for seconds or thirds. They’re that good. So good, in fact, that I think these will have a permanent place on the Thanksgiving dessert table


Chocolate-Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from Martha Stewart

For the crust:

  • 4.5 ounces gingersnaps
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 packages bar cream cheese, (8 ounces each)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with  aluminum foil. Set aside.
  2. In a food processor, blend cookies with sugar until finely ground; add butter, and pulse until incorporated.
  3. Transfer crumb mixture to prepared pan, and press gently into bottom. Bake until fragrant and slightly firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. Place cream cheese in food processor; blend until smooth. Add sugar, pumpkin puree, eggs, flour, and spices; process until combined.
  5. Place chocolate in a double boiler or a microwave-safe bowl; microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until melted, or stir in double boiler until melted. Add 1 cup pumpkin mixture; stir to combine.
  6. Pour remaining pumpkin mixture into prepared crust. Drop dollops of chocolate mixture onto pumpkin mixture; swirl. Bake about 50 minutes.
  7. Cool in pan. Cover; chill until firm, at least 2 hours (and up to 2 days).

How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? Did you try out any new recipes or stick to the oldies but goodies? We’d love to hear about your kitchen adventures! Email the Positive Regard girls at apositiveregard (at) gmail (dot) com

–Ariel

 

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