It all transpired several years ago when a dear friend with an awesome dessert blog was approached by the California Onion Board and asked to create a dessert containing onions. "What?", we all scoffed - until we tasted it. Amazing. When my husband got bit by a rattlesnake, she arrived at our door, cheesecake in hand,and he forgot all about the searing pain in his finger. (A crazy story for another time).
My dear friend has since moved away, and it's fallen on me to create my own version of this sweet and slightly savory delight every fall, because everyone who has ever tasted it has become addicted. The moment the air cools, the hints start dropping like leaves.
Just forget about counting calories on the day you make this cake and use the real deal ingredients; full fat cream cheese and sour cream, heavy whipping cream and of course, real maple syrup. I just used the last of mine in this cheesecake and I almost want to cry.
Last summer we did a family trip to Maine (another blog to come) and on the way home, as we passed through New Hampshire, I pretty much cleaned out this little roadside market of all the Grade B maple syrup they had. Why, you ask? Grade B, which is considerably darker, richer and more maple-y, is extremely hard to find in California, and I am a bonafide hoarding hog. If I find something I love, I will buy three of them. Shhhh, that's our secret.
Anyway, as we attempted to board the plane for home, I was stopped in my tracks by a uniformed agent who wanted to inspect my overweight bag. Oh, Holy Hell - the look on my husband's face! Now we are going to miss our flight because I am smuggling gallons of maple syrup out of New England. He was beyond annoyed. Thankfully our agent had a sense of humor, and once she saw what was causing the extra pounds, she actually let us go and didn't charge me the overweight fee.
In any case, always try to find Grade B maple syrup if you can. In this recipe, it makes all the difference.
Pumpkin and maple are a match made in Heaven. The maple, as well as the caramelized shallots, elevate this standard pumpkin cheesecake recipe to a new level.
When I was growing up there were two kinds of food, savory dishes and sweets. The world we live in has changed along with our palettes, and today's generation appreciates the complexity of fusion foods that combine seemingly opposing flavor profiles to create something amazing and utterly memorable.
Baking a cheesecake in a water bath is not for the feint of heart. I definitely enlist the aid of my husband's muscle when it comes to pouring a full pot of boiling water into the roasting pan - without pulling out the rack or disturbing the cake.
I made the mistake of starting this project at 6 pm. Not wise. I was up until 1:30 before I could tuck it into the fridge and call it a night. Definitely give yourself plenty of time to make this baby. Between assembling all the ingredients, baking for almost 2 hours then sitting for 1 and cooling for 1, we are talking about a 5 hour ordeal. Please don't let that discourage you though. The end result is well worth the time and effort.
Allowing the cheesecake to sit in the oven one full hour after you turn off the heat will ensure the cake does not crack. It truly works.
The spiderweb addition is solely because I love Halloween. It is, hands down, my favorite night of the year.
When it comes to making the spiderweb, I'll warn you now that it is extremely difficult to squeeze that tube of black icing gel and make a perfect spiral. Be prepared and don't panic when it inevitably looks a little wobbly.
When you drag your butter knife through the spiral, creating the web effect, it camouflages any imperfections.
I'm serious when I tell you I LOVE Halloween. As a child of 5 or 6 years old, I would don my costume multiple times during the month of October and my Dad would escort me around the neighborhood. All the neighbors knew me well. "Here she comes again.", they would laugh, as I practiced my Trick or Treating technique and collected early spoils.
To this day, by the last week of August, I am digging through my Halloween boxes and setting out pumpkins. The neighbors probably think I'm nuts, but that's fine.
The biggest fan of this particular cheesecake turned 18 last night, so we careully transported it the few blocks to his house and had an early Halloween/Birthday celebration. Like us, his is a family of Halloween fanatics. The house was decorated to the hilt. I was beside myself. What a great way to usher in October!
Pumpkin Shallot Cheesecake12 T butter - melted
2 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
2 3/4 C sugar
2 pounds cream cheese - room temp
1/4 C sour cream
1 15 oz can pumpkin
6 large eggs - room temp - lightly beaten
1 T vanilla
2 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
4 medium shallots chopped
3 T butter
1/4 C maple syrup + 1 T
1 C whipped cream sweetened with 1 T maple syrup and 1 t vanilla
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325.
Brush a 10" springform pan with butter. Reserving 3 T for the shallots, mix the rest of the melted butter with the graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 C sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Press crumb mixture into the bottom and up sides of pan, packing it in tight and even. Bake 15 - 20 minuted until golden brown. Cool on a rack then wrap the the outside of the springform pan with heavy duty foil and place in deep roasting pan. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil
While the crust is cooling, saute shallots in 3 T butter and a pinch of salt over medium heat until opaque. Add 1/4 C maple syrup, lower heat and cook until thick and syrupy. Turn off heat and let cool. Spread caramelized shallots evenly over bottom of crust.
Beat cream cheese in mixer until smooth. Add 2 1/2 C sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in sour cream, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, 1 t salt and the spices. Beat until just combined and pour into crust.
Place the roasting pan in the over (without pulling the rack out) and gently pour boiling water until it comes halfway up the pan. Back 1 hour 45 minutes then turn oven off, open the briefly to let some heat out, then close door and leave in oven 1 more hour. Carefully remove from oven and cool on a rack. Run a butter knife around edges, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
Whip cream with maple syrup and vanilla. Spread on top of cheesecake.
To make spiderweb, draw a spiral from outside in with black cake decorator's writing gel. Don't worry if it's not perfect. When you drag the edge of a butter knife though it from the center out to form the web, it will fix any imperfections. Add a plastic spider and done!