So we don’t know about you, but this last week has left us feeling… less than festive. Every year when mid-November hits, no one can believe Thanksgiving is coming, but this year: really. We really can’t believe it. Thanksgiving is happening a week from yesterday.
It’s been an exhausting, scary week for this country to put it mildly. And in a lot of ways, writing a post about Thanksgiving right now feels like trying to lighten things that shouldn’t be lightened. But listen. If you’re not feeling like cleaning up your house for guests, cooking a big meal, hosting a crowd, we’d like to argue that now is actually the right time to do exactly that. To straighten up, to gather people together, to throw yourself into making a beautiful meal for each other, to take the time to be good to one another. That does sound like something we should do right now. Especially because taking care of ourselves is really important when we have so much work ahead of us. Even one meaningful moment can go a long way toward helping us stay at the table, stay in the fight. Kate McKinnon’s opening to SNL last weekend sure showed that, in what was maybe the most beautiful, most consequential moment of “entertainment” we’ve ever seen on TV. Watching in real time was so powerful, we couldn’t sit down, couldn’t talk. We just stood in the middle of our living room, holding hands. In a week of hard cries, this was one of the hardest. But it also gave us back some of our hope. Knowing other people were feeling the exact same way and that none of us are going to back down from the work we have to do together, that felt important. So, a whole day of picking each other up and finding our strength… yeah, that’s important, too.
But if the love and the talk and the warmth sound great, but the cooking sounds exhausting—maybe even more so than usual—we’d like to introduce you to something that’s been part of our lives for many, many years. Something that can benefit not only you, but your friends and family, too…
Stress eating is something you’re probably familiar with. It involves whatever foods you love most—or maybe more accurately, whatever foods you can get your hands on the fastest. Of course, neither stress eating nor stress baking is going to actually solve anything —we’re not suggesting that. But when you have 8 relatives and 4 friends with 3 significant others showing up at your house for some great food in, ohhh, less than a week? Cooking and baking are actually more productive than say, eating a pound of cheese.
So, we’d like to further argue that you should take that pound of cheese… and make cake.
Our Ginger Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Crust to be exact.
This version, our Thanksgiving cheesecake, is not too sweet and has all the right warm holiday flavors: ginger, vanilla, maple, pecan, and pumpkin. In order to get the best, most delicious versions of these though, you’re going to need the real deal. That means using fresh ginger and real vanilla and real maple syrup—not the fake stuff.
Beautiful enough to grace any holiday table, this cake is pumpkin-y and spiced, but in a deliciously clean, creamy pumpkin pie sort of way, not a pumpkin spiced latte kind of way. The ginger and sour cream brighten up the richness of the cheesecake, and the pecan crust adds another layer of great flavor rather than just being a whatever-bland wall of crumbs that’s only there to keep the cake from spilling out everywhere.
Bonus: since the crust is just made of nuts, it also happens to be gluten-free, making this an especially crowd-friendly Thanksgiving dessert. 2nd bonus: since the cake needs to set-up for at least 8 hours in the fridge, you really do have to make it ahead of time. That’s one less day-of to-do on your Thanksgiving checklist.
So, we hope you’ll make it and share it. And when you put it out on your table, we hope it brings a smile and some joy to you and those you love.
With warm Thanksgiving wishes,
Lee & Lou
* * * *
Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake with Pecan Crust
Makes one 8-inch cheesecake
Notes: This cheesecake needs to set in the fridge for at least 8 hours before serving. Because of that, we like to make ours the day before we want to eat it and refrigerate overnight.
Toasting the pecans can also be done ahead of time, even several days before you use them. Just pre-heat the oven to 350º F, spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and toast for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure to check them and give them a shake every few minutes until lightly browned or they’ll burn—and quickly, too. If you are using them that day, set aside to cool. Otherwise, let cool and put them in a jar until baking day.
- A food processor
- An 8-inch springform pan
Pecan Crust Ingredients:
- 2 1/2 cup lightly toasted pecan halves
- 2 tbs butter, cut into small pieces and softened to room temperature + more for greasing the pan
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
Cream Cheese Filling Ingredients:
- 2 8-oz packages of cream cheese (full or low fat or Neufchâtel will all work)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup + 3 tbs real maple syrup
- 3/4 cup pumpkin
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbs fresh grated ginger
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract
- 2 cups sour cream (low fat is ok, but let’s be honest—not as good)
- 1 tbs granulated sugar
- 1 tsp real vanilla extract
* Preheat your oven to 375º F and put an oven rack in the middle.
* Make the Pecan Crust:
* Generously grease the springform cake pan. Cut out a circle of parchment and place it on the bottom.
* Add the toasted pecans halves to your food processor and pulse several times until the pieces are uniform in size.
* Add the butter and sugar and process until well combined and nuts are finely chopped.
* Put the nuts into your greased springform pan and carefully, wipe your processor bowl and blade clean with paper towels.
*Press the chopped pecans into the bottom and up the sides of your cake pan, making the layer as even as possible. The nuts shouldn’t go all the way up the sides—stopping roughly an inch from the top is good. Cover the outside bottom of the pan with foil to prevent the melting butter in the crust from dripping into your oven. Set aside.
* Make the filling:
* Add cream cheese to food processor and and run for a few seconds to smooth and add the sugar, process to mix.
* Add the pumpkin, maple syrup, and ginger. Process until well combined.
* Add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.
* Add the vanilla and blend.
* Pour the batter into the crust in your prepared cake pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake is set but still jiggles a little in the center.
* While the cake is baking make the topping:
* In a bowl, mix the sour cream with the sugar and vanilla. Set aside to stay at room temperature until needed.
* When your cake is done, remove from oven and carefully spread the topping evenly on top, smoothing with a spatula.
*Return cake to the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
*Cool the cake to room temperature, then refrigerate at least 8 hours (overnight works perfectly).
* To serve, carefully release the sides of the springform pan, and slip your cake onto your platter or cutting board.
© 2015 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.