This pumpkin cheesecake that is swirled with our very own Charred Rosemary & Sage Salted Caramel Sauce may just be the most delicate and fluffy cheesecake you ever have.
With flavors of pumpkin pie and a batter that is lightened with whipped cream just before being baked, this dessert will fill your head with nostalgic thoughts of enjoying pumpkin pie growing up with the refinement of being in a Michelin-Starred restaurant. Think that is a bold claim? Give it a shot, I promise this recipe won’t disappoint!
So What Make This Recipe Different from Every Other Cheesecake Recipe Out There?
The reason why this cheesecake is borderline celestial is because of its mousse-like texture. Typical cheesecake can be rich and dense, which can begin to weigh on you as you are eating it. Not with this cheesecake recipe. You will find that the texture is smooth and silky with a light and fluffy texture, similar to that of a mousse.
Achieving the Mousse Like Texture
So how do we achieve this mousse-like texture? The quick answer to this question is by incorporating air and by cooking the cheesecake gently. We incorporate air into the batter in a few ways during its creation:
The first way is by properly creaming the cream cheese and sugar: Starting out, you want to make sure that your cream cheese is softened, or left out at room temperature for about 30 minutes so it can warm slightly and be easier to work with. Once it is softened, you want to use the paddle attachment in your stand mixer to beat the cream cheese for at least 3 minutes or until it is no longer clumpy, but instead a nice smooth and airy spread.
Adding the brown sugar, little-by-little, while mixing on a low speed: You want to do this until all of it is evenly incorporated and you can see no more grains of sugar, but only one nice batch of a light-brown colored cream cheese. Once this is accomplished, continue mixing on a low speed for one more minute just to make sure. This step, which is called the creaming method, is important because it establishes the foundation for your cheesecake and by mixing so thoroughly, you are able to incorporate air into the batter which helps leaven the batter in the oven as all that trapped air begins to rise, pushing your cheesecake upward.
Adding whipped cream: Similar to how we incorporate air into the batter through the creaming method used above, we also lighten the batter and achieve that mousse-like texture through the incorporation of whipped cream, right before we bake. While some recipes use heavy cream to lighten a batter, we take it one step further by first, whipping the cream to soft peaks, and then gently folding it into the batter. The principle behind adding the whipped cream is similar to the one used in the creaming method but this final step helps to round out the light and airy texture of the batter. Just be sure to be gentle with the batter after incorporating the whipped cream so that it does not deflate.
Keeping the air in the batter while cooking: Most cheesecake recipes call for you to bake the cheesecake in the oven directly on the rack or on another pan. While this method works, the direct heat from the oven can be too harsh for the exterior of your cheesecake and can end up cooking the outside too much before the inside is fully cooked and result in a dry and crumbly texture. To prevent this, I like to cook the cheesecake in a water bath, similar to how you would cook a creme brulee or other custard. The water acts as a buffer from the direct heat produced in the oven and helps keep your cake nice and moist. A water bath is made by first wrapping or waterproofing your springform pan with aluminum foil, and then placing it in a large roasting pan to be filled with boiling water. You want to add enough water to at least come halfway up the springform pan. (Tip: try putting the cheesecake in the roasting pan and then into the oven first, before adding the water into the roasting pan to prevent the ominous wobble-walk to the oven with boiling hot water.)
Ingredients for Pumpkin and Salted Caramel Cheesecake
I wholeheartedly believe that this pumpkin and salted caramel cheesecake deserves a special place at your dessert table this holiday season! Here's what you need to make it:
The Crust: While I truly believe that nothing beats a homemade graham cracker, store bought graham crackers work perfectly fine here. Just make sure you grind them fine enough when making the crust.
Cream Cheese: You can use whichever cream cheese you prefer here as long as it is not reduced fat/flavored/whipped. While I imagine it will not destroy the recipe, I have not personally tried it so I don’t want to steer you arry.
Pumpkin Puree: The best pumpkin puree to use for baking is always canned pumpkin puree. The reason being, is that it is always consistent. While I love using fresh and seasonal produce, roasting and pureeing your pumpkin can alter the recipe drastically based on the water content, the sweetness, and the starch content. To avoid all of this, and to keep the recipe as easy to recreate in your home kitchen as possible, I use canned pumpkin.
Spices & Seasonings: Pumpkin spice is always a go to for using pumpkin. At first I was against using it because I suppose I viewed it as too cliche, but I’ve come around and use it quite often, while in moderation, while I’m using pumpkin. I also like to add vanilla and lemon as well.
Heavy Cream: For the heavy cream/whipped cream, you will want to use a standard heavy cream, just make sure it is cold when you whip it. If you don’t feel comfortable whipping your own cream, you can replace it with cool whip or even whipped cream from the canister.
Charred Rosemary & Sage Salted Caramel Sauce: This is a special caramel sauce that add so much depth. If you don’t want to take the time to make it, you can certainly use another caramel sauce or even make the recipe without. I personally love the smokey and herby depth of flavor it brings to the recipe but I assure you that it will be fantastice without.
Tips for the best Pumpkin and Salted Caramel Cheesecake
Whipping Cream + Folding: The key here is to incorporate air and keep the air in the batter so instead of mixing vigorously, try mixing gently with a rubber spatula, or folding.
Water Bath: Using the water bath cooking technique really helps to cook the cake gently and helps retain a lot of the moisture. Boiling your water before putting it into the pan really helps reduce the cooking time.
Creaming the Cream Cheese & Sugar: Creaming the cream cheese and sugar provides the foundation for the cheesecake and ensures that the batter has plenty of air and that it is evenly incorporated without any clumps of raw cream cheese. Make sure you take your time during this process and stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. If you have any doubt if you have done it long enough, just keep it going for another minute or two to play it safe.
I'm not kidding when I say that this dessert is hands down one of our favorites that we've made and one that our friends and family has asked us to make time and time again!
Cheers and eat well!
Pumpkin and Salted Caramel Cheesecake
This pumpkin cheesecake that is swirled with homemade Charred Rosemary & Sage Salted Caramel Sauce may just be the most delicate and fluffy cheesecake you ever have.
Preheat your oven to 325 F and spray your 9-inch springform pan to prepare for baking.
Make the crust by grinding the 9 whole graham crackers, along with the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice, in your food processor until it forms a fine crumb.
Slowly stream in the melted butter and continue to process until evenly distributed.
Pour, then press the crust into the bottom of the springform pan to form a leveled layer.
Bake the crust at 325 F for about 12-15 minutes or until the crust browns slightly and you can smell the spices.
Once the crust has finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes or until it is no longer hot.
Once the crust has cooled, wrap the bottom and sides of the springform pan with aluminum foil and place it inside a roasting pan capable of holding 2-4 inches of water.
Begin boiling about 2 quarts of water (which will be used for baking).
Proceed to make the cheesecake filling.
Using your stand mixer fitted with your paddle attachment, begin to mix the softened/room temperature cream cheese on a medium-low speed for about 3 minutes. Stop about halfway and scrape down the sides of the bowl and paddle.
Add the brown sugar, little by little while mixing, until all the sugar is incorporated and continue to mix for 2 minutes.
Carefully add the pumpkin puree, salt, ground cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and juice and zest of the lemon and mix on low speed until fully incorporated. Make sure to scrape the sides and the paddle once again.
Once everything is fully incorporated, add the eggs, one-by-one, waiting until the first egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all the eggs are incorporated, transfer the batter to a large bowl and clean your mixing bowl.
Once clean, add the heavy cream to the bowl of your mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whip the cream to soft peaks using a medium speed. (about 1-2 minutes)
Once whipped, gently fold the whipped cream into the cheesecake batter using a rubber spatula. Gently mix to fully incorporate.
If you are using the Charred Rosemary & Sage Salted Caramel Sauce (optional), gently swirl in the caramel and gently mix to distribute. Do not fully incorporate because you want the caramel swirl to be visible.
After adding the caramel, gently transfer the batter into the springform pan, tapping it down gently to level it out into the pan.
Once full, transfer the springform pan into the previously discussed roasting pan and place both into the oven. Carefully pour the boiling water from above into the roasting pan so that it surrounds the cheesecake on all sides and goes about 2-3 inches up the side of the pan. Close the oven and bake at 325 F for about 1 ½ to 2 hours or until the center no longer giggles and is cooked to 150 F.
Once cooked, carefully remove both pans from the oven and discard the boiling water. Allow the cheesecake at least 3 hours to cool and set before serving.
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