Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake

The game plan for this past weekend was to make chocolate cupcakes. That was completely derailed. when I saw America's Test Kitchen 'Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake.'

We both love pumpkin. Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin loaf. You can't go wrong with pumpkin! Be ready for plenty of pumpkin entries this fall!

This is the best cheesecake I've ever had. My brother concurred- this is in top 10 of things to come out of the oven.

My favorite trait was the texture. It was so smooth and soft! It was thick but not dense. All you needed was a few bites and to be content the rest of the evening. With a cup of chai or coffee? Heavenly! The pumpkin to cream cheese ratio was right on. It's like the super version of pumpkin pie- luscious and rich with all the spices. It's super easy to bake. In other words... MAKE THIS CHEESECAKE.

What makes this recipe interesting to me was the methodology. I've used water baths (baƱo maria) to cook flans- but never a cheesecake. Apparently this is a common practice because it helps keep the moisture in the oven. How do you make a water bath? Simple.
  1. Boil some water (amount varies based on size of roasting pan)
  2. Wrap the spring form pan in aluminum foil (some recipes do not require the foil like when I make flan)
  3. Place springform pan in the middle of roasting pan
  4. Pour in filling and place in oven- this way you don't awkwardly carry a roasting pan full of water around the kitchen
  5. Carefully pour enough water so it reaches the halfway mark of the springform pan
Note: remember to heat the water before you pour it into the pan. If you don't- do not panic. It will turn out just fine, you may just need to give it a few extra minutes.

Crust

5 ounces graham crackers (9 whole crackers), broken into large pieces
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted

Filling

1 1/3 cups granulated sugar (10 1/3 ounces)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese , room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
5 large eggs , room temperature
1 cup heavy cream

For the crust... adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray.

Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan.

Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

For the filling... bring about 4 quarts water to simmer in stockpot.

Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in small bowl; set aside.

To dry pumpkin... line baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Spread pumpkin on paper towels in roughly even layer. Cover pumpkin with second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until paper towels are saturated. Peel back top layer of towels and discard. Set down triple layer of paper towels and flip onto fresh sheets. Once more, cover with another triple layer of towels and press firmly until saturated. Leave it to the side.

In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula. Add about one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition. Add pumpkin, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand.

Set springform pan with cooled crust on 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil. In other words- wrap your spring form pan in tin foil! Set wrapped springform pan in roasting pan.

Pour filling into springform pan and smooth surface; set roasting pan in oven and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 hours.

Set roasting pan on wire rack and use paring knife to loosen cake from sides of pan. Cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil, and set on wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

Slide thin metal spatula between crust and pan bottom to loosen, then slide cake onto serving platter. Let cheesecake stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve.