Double Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake with Salted Caramel Sauce
|This has been quite an uneventful week in the kitchen. Well, what I should say is uneventful for my blog as I've already blogged about pretty much everything I've made this week. With the change in weather temperatures (holy crap it snowed here - it's only October for crissakes! Have I mentioned how much I love Cleveland winters? No? Yeah well cuz it SUCKS. Okay.. well it doesn't suck as much as New York winters.. sorry to complain about our dusting of snow when some of you NY'ers got a COUPLE FEET of the nasty stuff) we've both been craving comfort foods. Cooking in your kitchen when your teeth are chattering and you are bone weary from working in the cold (Hubbs) doesn't make for easily coming up with new and exciting dishes. All we've wanted is the stuff that makes you feel cozy, warm and happy to have a working furnace. ha!|
Hubbs did make one request yesterday morning. He'd really like cheesecake. Who am I to say no to such a request? I was torn between a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake or a pumpkin cheesecake. My sis, who is up from Toledo for a 5 day visit, helped me decide. She wants to go to the Cheesecake Factory today for lunch, and I KNOW after perusing and drooling over all their different cheesecakes, I will still end up ordering my favorite peanut butter slice of heaven. Therefore, I went with the pumpkin variety. I've made many pumpkin cheesecakes in my life and do have a couple favorites, but decided to go with one I've never made before.
This double layer cheesecake is so easy to make. It's quite pretty once you've sliced it and see the creamy white layer below the pumpkin layer. The original recipe did not call for a crust, which I found odd.. so I just made a simple graham cracker and cinnamon crust that went really well. This cake is not very sweet although it is very creamy and delicious. But that was a good thing because I had decided to pair the cake with a caramel sauce. I've never made caramel before but after watching an episode featuring sugar on Alton Brown's Good Eats the night before, I really wanted to try my hand at it. Where Alton gave me the push I needed to finally try this sauce, I went with a recipe from Gale Gand. Gale is an accomplished pastry chef, who is quite popular in America. She has her own show on the Food TV channel called Sweet Dreams and she's fun to watch.
After finding her recipe for caramel sauce I was a little worried. Her ratio of sugar to water was much different from the other caramel sauce recipes I had looked at. Ultimately though, I believe my first caramel experience was quite hairy because I think I chose too small of a saucepan. Where the cheesecake was a breeze to put together, the caramel was another story all together. Hee!
Alton, if you are reading this.. please avert your eyes.
Right off the bat, I threw out all that I had learned from the guru of science meets food. Gale's recipe called for 2 1/2 cups of sugar and after I piled all of that in my too small of a saucepan there was no way the sugar wasn't going to touch the sides. Did I get out a bigger saucepan and just dump the sugar in like any other sane home cook would do?? Nooo... I just poured the water in around the sides and figured I knew more than Gale and Alton and hoped for the best. Sometimes my stubborness and ignorance amazes me. As soon as the sugar mixture came to a boil a thin layer of crystals formed on top. Well duh. But I just let it go until it turned amber in color. I took it off the heat and added the heavy cream and kept stirring while watching in terror as the bubbles got vicious and threatened to overflow that small saucepan. I stirred faster and then faster and finally it stopped boiling, but there were HUGE lumps of crystalized sugar floating all through the pretty sauce. Before adding the butter and the fleur de sel, I switched my spoon for a whisk and soon most of the lumps dissolved. Most. I ended up just straining the sauce into a glass bowl and discarding the lumpy lumps. Alton would have stroked out had he seen what went on. I don't think Gale would have been too pleased either. hehee
The remaining unlumped sauce did turn out fabulous and although I was embarrassed for being such a nard, I was quite impressed with it. It was of a perfect consistency, not too thin and not too thick. The salt addition produced exactly the taste I was hoping for. It was creamy and 90% perfection. And really.. what's a few lumps between us? For those wondering about the salt. Thanks to Haagen Dazs, I no longer can tolerate your basic sweet caramel sauce. The caramel they use in their ice creams is quite salty and divine. And with my love of all that is salty/sweet and sweet/savory, I can not go back to your plain jane caramel. If the thought of a salty caramel turns you off, simply omit the fleur de sel from this recipe and you will end up with a beautiful caramel sauce (hopefully less lumpier than mine).
For the cheesecake:
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15 oz.) can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated if you can)
1 recipe for graham cracker crust (See below)
For the crust:
1 package of graham crackers (1/3 of a regular sized box of graham crackers)
2 TBS. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 TBS. melted butter
For the salted caramel sauce:
2 1/2 c. white granulated sugar
1/2 c. water
1 c. heavy cream
2 TBS. unsalted butter, room temp
1 1/2 tsp. fleur de sel (or a good quality sea salt)
Preheat oven to 325º F.
For the crust:
Ground the graham crackers in a food processor until all medium to large pieces are gone.
Dump the crumbs into the bottom of a 9" springform pan, add the sugar and cinnamon and mix well with a spoon. Add the melted butter and mix well. Pat the crumbs down so they are even and come up the sides of the pan by one inch. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until starting to brown.
For the cheesecake:
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. (If you are using a stand alone mixer, use the paddle) Blend in eggs one at a time. Remove 1 cup of batter and spread into bottom of crust; set aside.
Add pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg to the remaining batter and stir gently until well blended. Carefully spread over the batter in the crust.
Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until center is almost set. Allow to cool, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
For the salted caramel sauce:
In a LARGE heavy sauce pan over medium heat, pour the sugar into the middle of the pan being VERY CAREFUL not to allow the sugar to touch the sides of the pan. CAREFULLY add the water around the pile of sugar MAKING SURE the sugar does not touch the sides of the pan. Do not stir; gently draw your finger through the center of the sugar to moisten it. Over medium heat, bring to a boil without stirring. Cook until light caramel in color (This took about 15 minutes for me. I do not have a candy thermometer so I went by sight. If you have a candy thermometer you want the mixture to reach 350º F.) and immediately remove from the heat. Carefully (it will bubble up and may splatter) stir in the cream with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the butter and fleur de sel and continue stirring until butter melts and salt dissolves.