Cheesecake does not contain cheese

When my dad was little he repeatedly refused to eat cheesecake because he hated cheese. Now every time I eat or bake a cheesecake, I think of his story of how he finally realized that cheesecake does not contain cheese (at least not the kind of cheese that he hated that is sharp and cheesy…) He was 13 years old and eating dinner with his best friend’s family when his friend’s mom forced him to try a bite, just one little bite, of cheesecake. After that first bite he proceeded to single-handedly consume about half of the whole cheesecake. A few days later he found a full page ad spread in the newspaper for some kind of cheesecake, which he cut out and displayed on the wall of his bedroom for the next couple years.

Cheesecake has always been one of my favorite desserts (but then again I’ve also always loved all kinds of cheese.) These two recipes are my two all time favorite cheesecakes: one is pumpkin, and the other is my version of plain; they are very similar, both with a ginger snap crumb crust and a bourbon-sour cream topping, both adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook. I recently bought a 17 centimeter springform pan which perfectly holds a half recipe for a smaller crowd. I recommend making a half recipe unless you have lots of guests- these cheesecakes are dense and filling! I use Mi-Del brand Gluten Free Gingersnaps for my crust, but any gingersnap or graham cracker will work.

Ginger Snap Crumb Crust
makes enough for one 24 centimeter (9 inch) cheesecake

1 1/2 cups (about 5 ounces) finely ground gingersnaps
5 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt

Invert bottom of springform pan (this makes it easier to slide the cake off), then lock on the side and butter the pan.
Stir together all ingredients in a bowl, or pulse in a food processor.
Press onto bottom of pan and about 1 inch up sides.
Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.


Pumpkin Cheesecake with Bourbon-Sour Cream Topping
serves 12 to 14

1 crumb crust (recipe above) in a 24 centimeter springform pan
for filling:
1½ cups canned pumpkin
3 eggs
½ cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. bourbon
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
for topping:
2 cups (18 ounces) sour cream
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. bourbon

Make crumb crust as directed; preheat oven to 350°F.
Make Filling:
Whisk together pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, and burbon in a bowl until combined.
Stir together granulated sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a large bowl.
Add cream cheese and beat with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes.
Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth.
Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan (to catch drips). Pour filling into crust and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken. Remove from the oven and let stand in baking pan on a rack for about 5 minutes, but leave the oven on.
Make topping:
Whisk together sour cream, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Drop spoonfuls of topping around edge of cake and spread gently over center, smoothing evenly. Return the cake to the oven and bake another 10 minutes.
Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen, and let cake cool completely in springform pan on a rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.)
Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.
Just before serving, remove side from pan and transfer cake to a plate.


Classic Cheesecake with Bourbon-Sour Cream Topping

Serves 10 to 12

1 crumb crust (recipe above) in a 24 centimeter springform pan
for filling
3 (8-oz) packages cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
for topping
2 cups (18 ounces) sour cream
2 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. bourbon

Make crumb crust as directed. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Make filling:
Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy and add eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla and sugar, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated and scraping down bowl between additions.
Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan (to catch drips). Pour filling into crust and bake for 45 minutes, or until cake is set 3 inches from edge but center is still slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken. Let stand in baking pan on a rack 5 minutes. Leave oven on.
Make topping:
Stir together sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Drop spoonfuls of topping around edge of cake and spread gently over center, smoothing evenly. Bake cake with topping 10 minutes.
Run a knife around top edge of cake to loosen and cool completely in springform pan on rack. (Cake will continue to set as it cools.) Chill cake, loosely covered, at least 6 hours. Remove side from pan and transfer cake to a plate. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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