Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake

On the day after Halloween, Starbucks started using its signature red holiday cups.  It got rid of pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin scones, and introduced peppermint mochas and holiday blend teas.  Did I miss something?  How can they skip fall and Thanksgiving and go right to Christmas?? It's not time for peppermint yet! It's still pumpkin season!  And you should expect several more pumpkin recipes as we approach Thanksgiving :)

This cheesecake was a request from one of my coworkers.  He asked for pumpkin cheesecake, but I decided to keep with a traditional cheesecake base, and swirl pumpkin into it.  It turned out so well! This cheesecake is seriously yummy, and not overly-pumpkiny (can there even be such a thing as too much pumpkin?) so it's a nice compromise for cheesecake lovers and pumpkin lovers and before you know it, the whole pan is gone!

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake
adapted from Elegant Made Easy and Gingerbread Bagels

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker
  • 3 Tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
Pumpkin Swirl
  • 2/3 cup of pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tablespoons of flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Add cookies and sugar in a food processor; pulse until ground. Add in butter and pulse.
  2. Press mixture into a 13×9 buttered or parchment lined pan.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  4. For the cheesecake, cream the sugar, cream cheese, and flour with an electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy.
  5. On medium low, add eggs one at a time, mixing well with each addition.
  6. Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until just combined, then set cheesecake mixture aside.
  7. In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the pumpkin swirl (pumpkin puree, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger).
  8. Add 1 cup of the cheesecake mixture to the pumpkin swirl mixture, and stir until combined and smooth.
  9. Pour the plain cheesecake mixture over crust and evenly smooth out.
  10. Add dollops of approximately 1 teaspoon of pumpkin-cheesecake mixture every few inches. Take a wooden skewer and run it gently through the pumpkin mixture and cheesecake mixture to make swirls.
  11. Bake for approximately 35 – 40 minutes or until set.
  12. Let cool and then chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hrs before slicing.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I first learned about making your own vanilla extract last summer, and ever since then, I've slowly been accumulating empty jars so I can make it!  It is totally easy, and I'm excited about packaging up my homemade vanilla to give at Christmastime.

First: get yourself some cheap liquor.  At least 80 proof, and plastic bottles are preferred :)  (but seriously...don't waste good alcohol on extract. Save it for cocktails!)  I got some "Early Times" bourbon and some "Kavlana" vodka.  Never heard of those?  Good.  You should never actually drink them.  They come in big, plastic bottles, and are cheap cheap cheap.

Next: get yourself some empty jars.  I saved my pasta jars for the past several months.  Anything that seals well will do.

Finally: get yourself some vanilla beans.  I ordered these beans from online. You can order as much or little as you want. In retrospect, I should have ordered 1/4 lb (or even less...) because I have a LOT of beans left over... but that's ok because they keep forever!  More vanilla extract for all!

To assemble: take a sharp paring knife and slit the vanilla beans all the way down, leaving about 1 inch at the top, to hold the bean together.  Then put the split beans into a jar and pour alcohol over them.  The rule is: 3 beans per 1 cup (8 oz.) of alcohol.  I put 2-3 cups in each jar, so 6-9 beans per jar!

Seal the jars, and place in a cool, dark spot for about 2 months.  Shake them periodically to distribute the vanilla, and in 2 months, you will be ready to package up the vanilla to give away, or use in your favorite chocolate chip cookies :)

Recipe Source: Joy the Baker
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