Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake! A vegan pumpkin cheesecake. Kind of. I didn’t have margarine so I just used butter for the pecan/brown sugar topping. Oops.

… It didn’t taste much like cheesecake. So if the name erroneously directed you to expect such a flavor, my bad.

But it did taste good.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Adapted from Vegan Pie in the Sky’s NY Times Article

Crust:
1 recipe Graham Cracker Crust (see Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding pie recipe, below), or use a store-bought 9-inch vegan graham cracker crust.

Filling:
1/2 cup whole unroasted cashews, soaked in water for 2 to 8 hours, or until very soft
1/4 cup mashed banana (about 1 medium banana)
1 (12- to 14-ounce) package silken tofu, drained
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil, room temperature
6 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange extract or 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin purée
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon nonhydrogenated margarine
Pinch of salt
1 cup pecan pieces, roughly chopped

Make the topping first. In a mixing bowl, use a fork to mash together brown sugar, margarine and salt until crumbly, then fold in the chopped nuts and stir to coat with the mixture. Set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare the crust and press it very firmly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes, and move the pan to a cooling rack, leaving the oven on for further baking in a bit.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Drain the cashews and blend with the banana, tofu, sugar, brown sugar, coconut oil, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla and orange extracts, and sea salt. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth and no bits of cashew remain.

Set aside 1/3 cup of batter. To the remaining batter, add the pumpkin purée, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and blend until smooth, then pour it onto the crust. Randomly spoon dollops of the reserved batter onto the cheesecake. Poke the end of a chopstick into a batter blob and gently swirl to create a marble pattern; repeat with the remaining plain dollops.

Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes, removing the cheesecake halfway through the baking period to sprinkle on the topping. Return to oven to continue baking. Cheesecake will be done when the top is lightly puffed and the edges of the cake are golden. Remove it from the oven and let cool on a rack for 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to complete cooling, at least 3 hours or, even better, overnight. To serve, slice the cake using a thin, sharp knife dipped in cold water.

Yield: One 9 1/2-inch cheesecake.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 3/4 cups finely ground graham crackers (crush 10 ounces  of graham crackers and measure from this; use remaining crushed crackers for another crust!)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons melted nonhydrogenated margarine, melted coconut oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon plain soy milk or almond milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 9-inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.

In a mixing bowl, combine the graham crumbs and sugar. Drizzle in the oil or melted margarine. Use a spoon to blend the mixture thoroughly to moisten the crumbs, then drizzle in the soy milk and stir again to form a crumbly dough.

Pour the crumbs into the pie plate. Press crumbs into the sides of the plate first, then work your way down to the bottom. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until firm. Let the crust cool before filling.

Yield: Makes one 9- or 10-inch pie crust.

It was pretty simple, all in all. I forgot to soak the cashews so I just let them sit in warm water for the 10 or so minutes I spent gathering everything together–and it was fine. I’ve never worked with coconut oil before this–it’s pretty and pearlescent at room temperature but melts easily, with a subtle coconut flavor that isn’t noticeable in the finished product (if you don’t like coconut).

At least for me, this came out delicious. However, it tasted nothing like cheesecake. The texture was smooth and creamy, but you could really taste the citrus notes in the flavor–they somewhat predominated. I could taste the pumpkin, and oddly, the tofu. Perhaps this is because I did not exactly measure the juice or the zest (oh the lazy cook I am). The pecan topping added a nice texture contrast though. It was fun to swirl the non-pumpkin-ed filling into the top of the rest of the cheesecake–even though the pecans kind of covered up the swirlage, which i thought was kinda dumb. (That’s why there’s whiter/oranger areas of the cheesecake top.)

The crust was super yum and pretty easy to put together. Make sure to bake it until it is fully browned/toasty–the bottom did get a bit soft rather than firm.

This “cheesecake” does taste decadent… after all, it is a creamy dessert in a graham cracker crust with sugar/pecan crumbly topping. But you’re eating tofu, banana, and pumpkin–3 power foods (protein, potassium/fiber, beta-carotene–>vitamin A/fiber, respectfully) plus healthy fats and protein in the nuts. And, it’s super filling!

I’d like to find a way to make this taste more cheesecakey. But it’s definitely not a dessert I regret making.

Pear Crisp with Crystallized Ginger

Fruit crumbles/crisps always remind me of cool fall days, even in this mildest of Novembers. Usually we make a Cranberry Apple Crisp for Thanksgiving, but this year we decided to try a different recipe: perfectly ripe pears with a glaze of maple syrup and an oatmeal/brown sugar crumbly topping.

Crystallized ginger complements the pears nicely and adds an extra zing of flavor. And it’s so easy–peel pears, slice, mix with filling ingredients, pour into pan. Mix up the topping, sprinkle on top. Then, bake and enjoy. I think I recommend ice cream as an accompaniment to many desserts on here but it is especially good with this… the whole hot/cold thing.

Pear Crisp with Crystallized Ginger

Adapted from Eating Well

Topping:

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup whole-wheat or all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 tablespoons canola oil

Filling: 

3 1/2 pounds ripe but firm Anjou pears, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup raisins

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons minced crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350°F.

To prepare topping: Combine oats, walnuts, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Drizzle with oil and stir until evenly moist.

To prepare filling: Combine pears, maple syrup, raisins, flour, lemon juice and ginger in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the pears.

Bake the crumble until the pears are tender and the topping is golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

This was so good, about 4/5 of it was eaten within the first night. Think I’m lying? This picture was snapped before the second helpings were taken…

Just imagine this: Cooked, tender pears… bursts of sweetness from the raisins… a thick maple glaze/sauce… kicks of ginger flavor… all enveloped within toasted oats plus brown sugar, walnuts and spices. I’m off to go grab my 3rd helping… if there’s any left.

Pecan Pie Bars

Welcome… to the most decadent dessert I have ever made.

Buttah. Lotsa buttah.

Sugar. Four different kinds.

And refined white flour. Shortbread crust.

The result?

A deliciously sweet, goopy yet crunchy must-try for anyone with an intense sweet tooth.

Pecan Pie Bars

Adapted from Cookie Madness

Filling:

2 1/2 cups whole pecans
4 large eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Tiny pinch of salt
Chocoholics Only: Handful of chocolate chips

Crust:

3 cups all-purpose flour (13.5 oz)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt (use ½ if using salted butter)
1 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut up

Preheat oven to 350° F. Lay the pecans on a baking sheet and cook for 8 minutes or until aromatic… don’t let them burn! Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, chop and set aside.

Line a 15×10 inch jelly-roll type pan with foil and spray the foil with flour-added cooking spray. (I had to use a 9×13 inch glass pan with sides for this… I would recommend finding the properly-sized pan because it took a much longer time to cook.)

In a mixing bowl or bowl of food processor, combine flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1 cup of unsalted butter or add butter to processor and pulse until mixture is coarse. Pour into pan and press firmly. Bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl or bowl of food processor mix the eggs, corn syrups, white and brown sugars, melted butter, and vanilla until smooth. Sprinkle the chopped, toasted pecans over the baked crust, then pour the filling over the pecans. Return to oven and bake for 23-25 minutes or until set. (Chocoholics’ Step — Sprinkle chocolate chips across hot bars so they melt just enough to adhere). Cool completely on a wire rack then score into bars. For slightly less messy bars, chill them before cutting or before separating (as the original recipe suggested, I cut them after cooling, chilled them, and then pulled them apart).

Since I used a 9×13 pan, I left some of the crust out (about 1/4 of it) and it was still a very thick (delicious) crust. I used the entire filling though, which made it take longer to cook. Like, 10 or 15 or even 20 minutes longer… I lost track. The edges cooked nicely but some parts of the middle were bit goopy… But they were still quite delicious and would be perfect under some vanilla ice cream.

Brought them to a lovely Thanksgiving dinner to which my family and I were invited. The ladies immediately tried them and loved them; the males, after learning they were actually homemade, took some just before we left and enjoyed them too! These bars are good for gatherings… or as pre-Black-Friday breakfasts.

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Cranberry Drop Scones

Finally!  It’s been far too long.

While procrastinating on inorganic chemistry studying and microbiology assignment # 5 perusing recipes that had one of the key ingredients of pumpkin, cranberries, chocolate, pears, pecans, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes (you’ll see)… I came across these scones.

Scones, I’ve done. But with cornmeal? Not ’til today.

Flaky, crumbly-yet-holds-together, tart and sweet, with a zing of lemon zest, crunchy outside with a tender center. Glad I tried them.

Whole Wheat Cornmeal Cranberry Drop Scones

Adapted from Martha Rose Schulman of the New York Times

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup fine stone-ground cornmeal

1/4 cup unrefined sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest

7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 egg

2/3 cup plain nonfat Greek Yogurt

3/4 cup dried cranberries, soaked for 10 minutes in warm water and drained

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Sift together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Dump any bran remaining in the strainer into the bowl. Using two knives, slice the knives together through the butter until you have coarse chunks of butter throughout the mixture–it doesn’t have to be completely homogenized (like that vocab word? oh yeah). Mix in the lemon zest.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and the yogurt. Fold in the yogurt/egg mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Add the cranberries and fold in until mixed in evenly throughout, but no more.

Drop the batter by heaped tablespoons onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving an inch or more of space between each one (they do spread). Bake one baking sheet at a time in the middle of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, reversing the baking sheet front to back halfway through, until lightly browned. Let cool a few minutes on a baking rack.

Yield: 20 3-inch scones.

They came out SO good. I like cornbread and cornmeal things in general. Maybe because I actually weighed out the flour and cornmeal? You can find the weight conversions on the original recipe. Scones are so fun to make!

And don’t listen to the plate. These can be eaten ANYTIME… I would say breakfast… a snack… 3 or 4 would make a good dinner. I mean, pizza’s a vegetable; these have corn(meal) and cranberries, so these could be a vegetable and a fruit. Got some whole grains in there… what a well-rounded meal!