It’s been a week of tiny tragedies, here in Seattle. I’ve been sighing a lot. They’re not the contented, self-congratulatory kind of sighs, but the deflating, disappointed sort. The kind you eek out, when there’s nothing left to do.
I’m not sure how it started. Maybe it was last Thursday. Yes, that was it. Curses on you, Thursday.
First I somehow sliced my finger open with my own wedding ring. Then I hit a parked car—a 6,000-year-old Suburban, thank goodness—and busted a headlight. Then a raccoon attacked my normally scrappy cat, and we spent part of a night in the kitty ER. (Jackson came out a little maimed, but alive. He’s mostly just insulted he’s so poorly shaven and trapped indoors.)
Then—then—I made a ricotta cheesecake, a gorgeous, pumpkin-tinged, ginger-crusted gem of a thing, inspired by my borderline-unhealthy obsession with kabocha squash and a bit of leftover cream cheese. But I nearly broke it in half, moving it too fast (and too soon) from pan to platter. (And it had been so beautiful!)
Of course, it still tasted like a perfectly plated pumpkin cheesecake. (Say that ten times fast.) I took one slice out to verify. (Yes: delicious.) Then we took it to a Halloween party, and I never got a second slice.
Now, a couple days later, in the middle of a grey afternoon, I have a finger that won’t type, a completely unnecessary $150 mechanic bill, a cat yowling to be let out, good coffee, and no last slice of pumpkin cheesecake. All I really feel capable of doing is pouting out loud.
I’ll just give you the recipe instead.
By the way, there’s a tiny lie in the recipe title – it’s actually a light, faintly spiced cheesecake made with pureed kabocha squash, but there’s something inherently unsexy about a squash cheesecake. Don’t you agree? Ditto for cream cheese pie, which is what my husband called the cheesecake when he couldn’t think of the correct word. So pumpkin cheesecake it is.
Loosely based on the recipe for Eve’s Lemon Cheesecake, from Kathy Gunst’s Relax, Company’s Coming! (one of my all-time go-to cookbooks), this fallish, ginger-crusted treat satisfies all manners of cheesecake cravings. Thanks to plenty of eggs and ricotta cheese (and a bit less sugar than usual), it’s lighter than your typical doorstop dessert. Use pureed kabocha squash if you have it, or simply substitute canned pumpkin.
TIME: 90 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 12 servings
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing pan
1 (5-ounce) package ginger thins, pulverized in a food processor
1/2 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 pound whole milk ricotta
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups mashed kabocha squash
1/8 teaspoon each ground ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, and allspice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Grease an 8” springform pan generously with butter, wrap the bottom with a piece of foil (to catch any butter that drips out while baking) and set aside.
Stir the melted butter, ginger thin crumbs, and confectioners’ sugar together in a bowl until well blended. Dump the mixture into the bottom of the springform pan, and use your hands to pat it into an even layer on the bottom of the pan and about 1/2” up the sides. Transfer the pan to the freezer to harden while you make the filling.
Next, in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light, about 3 minutes. Add the ricotta, and whip another minute or two. Add the eggs one at a time, whipping on low and scraping the sides of the work bowl between additions. Stir the squash, spices, vanilla, and salt together in a separate bowl, then add the squash mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed until uniform in color, scraping any stray cream cheese off the very bottom of the bowl.
Place the chilled pan on the prepared baking sheet, and transfer the batter to the pan. Bake on the middle rack for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the cake is puffed and just beginning to crack. (It may still jiggle a bit, but the cake will move as one piece, rather than just jiggling in the center.) Let cool to room temperature (or chill overnight), then cut and serve.
Note: If you want a cheesecake with almost no color (besides the obvious pumpkin-orange tinge) on the top, place a baking sheet on the rack directly above it as it bakes.