How to make a spiced pumpkin and caramel maple pecan cheesecake

Pumpkin2

With so many pumpkins being used for recreational purposes at this time of year, I like to turn my attention to making the most of those that should be used for eating, rather than carving.

While pumpkin is an immensely versatile fruit in savoury recipes, for me one of the finest ways to use it is in a dessert. Combining rich pumpkin flesh with dairy and spices really helps to bring out its intense, almost fudgy flavour: the quintessence of autumn.

If you’re sceptical, I hope this cheesecake will convert you.

Firstly, here’s how to make pumpkin puree:

You can now buy canned pumpkin puree in many large supermarkets, but it is also quite economical to make your own. To make pumpkin puree, roast de-seeded chunks of pumpkin (Muscat, Crown Prince or Hokkaido pumpkins work particularly well – avoid pumpkins meant for carving as they are very watery) in the oven at 180°C until completely tender to the point of a knife.

The amount of pumpkin you need to roast depends on which variety you use, as some are waterier than others. A good rule of thumb, though, is that for 400g of puree you need around 1-1.5kg of pumpkin.

Scoop the soft flesh away from the skin and place in a blender (discard the skin). Blend to a puree, the place in a sieve lined with muslin or cheesecloth for at least an hour, or overnight, to allow any water to drip away (this would make for a soggy cheesecake). You can freeze any leftover puree.

Here’s how to make a spiced pumpkin and caramel maple pecan cheesecake

It has a buttery biscuit base topped with a delightfully silky pumpkin cream, enriched with a warming hint of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The taste is of caramel and autumn spice, and a topping of lightly salted caramelised pecans in maple syrup brings out those rich, butterscotch flavours even more. I like to top it with fresh blackberries, whose welcome tang is a perfect partner to the pumpkin.

 


Ingredients

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 70g butter, melted, plus a little extra to grease the tin
  • 600g full-fat cream cheese
  • 400g pumpkin puree (homemade or from a can)
  • 130g light brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange, very finely grated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp each of ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 eggs

For the topping:

  • 80g pecan nuts
  • 20g butter
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • Blackberries, to decorate
  • Icing sugar, to decorate

Method


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin with butter and line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper.

 

2. Blitz the biscuits in a food processor to fine crumbs. Mix the biscuits with the melted butter, then press into the bottom of the cake tin with the back of a spoon. Bake for 10 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven. Turn the heat down to 160°C.

 

 

 

3. Meanwhile, using an electric whisk or a food processor, blitz together the cream cheese and pumpkin puree. Add the sugar, orange zest, vanilla and spices, then finally beat in the eggs, before pouring into the prepared tin.

 

4. Place an oven tray of water at the bottom of the oven, then put the cake into the oven (on a shelf, not in the tray of water!). Bake for about an hour, until it has mostly set but still wobbles a little in the middle. Remember that it will set more as it cools, so you don't want it to be completely solid.

 

 

 

5. Leave the cake to cool in the oven with the door ajar (this helps to stop it cracking), then take it out of the tin and put on a plate.

 

6. For the topping, heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Roughly chop the pecans, then add to the butter. Fry for a minute, then add the maple syrup and a generous pinch of salt. Fry for another couple of minutes, until the pecans are sticky and fragrant. Leave to cool slightly, then tip them over the top of the cake.

 

 

 

7. Put the cake in the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours before serving. Dust with icing sugar and decorate with fresh blackberries to serve. Edible flowers also look nice, if you can find them – I use nasturtiums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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