10 October 2011

Home Is Where You Make It

Happy Thanksgiving to all of those celebrating this weekend and what a beautiful weekend it was! The sun was shining and the crisp fall breeze blew the fallen leaves around. It made for a perfect setting to our Thanksgiving meal this year.

There are many things I am thankful for, but most important is the love of my family and friends. My life has been a journey across the globe and through that I have met so many amazing, inspiring and truly beautiful people who have become my family away from home. To you, my friends turned family, I am grateful and thankful!

Our Thanksgiving gathering this year truly put it all into focus : Home Is Where You Make It. I have lived by this saying and have so many incredible experiences because of it. I can't wait for my next journey and new family members that I will meet.

Thanksgiving dinner this year was hosted by us, which meant I had to put my actual cooking skills to work. I'm sure no one would have minded if it was a dinner full of desserts only, but I thought it might be best to go that traditional route. Once the turkey, salads, stuffing, green beans, corn, candied yams ( these could have qualified as dessert actually), mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce were served and eaten... it was time for the good stuff... dessert!

I found so many varying versions of this recipe yet none that quite fit what I was looking for, so I adapted a few, re-worked some of the ingredients and created my own version.

Caramel Biscoff Pumpkin Cheesecake
The Crust:
64 Biscoff Cookies
1 cup of melted Butter
4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
The Filling:
4 packages Cream Cheese
1-1/2 cup Sugar
1-1/2 cup pure Pumpkin Puree 
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Allspice
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Ginger
4 large Eggs
2 tablespoons Heavy Cream

I absolutely love the caramel Biscoff cookies. There is just something about them that invokes in me a feeling of home. It just could very well be that they were and still are served on most European international flights and that happens to be where I spent many a summer growing up. These cookies also make a fantastic cheesecake crust!
Crushing the cookie crumbs!
If you have a food processor, combine and crush the cookies to form even crumbs. I don't have one, so I did things a little old school. I like the rustic crust look.

Melt the butter and combine along with the cookie crumbs and brown sugar until just blended. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10 inch spring-form pan and place cookie crumb mixture in. Form the crust of the cheesecake by pressing gently allowing the crust to be uniform throughout and make sure to build your crust all the way up the sides of the pan. Once complete, place in fridge for 30 mins or freezer for 15 mins to set.
Not quite finished...work the crust to the top of pan.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and you can now get started on the super easy filling. Place 4 packages of room temperature cream cheese in   mixer on medium low until fluffy. Blend in the sugar until the mixture is well-combined. Then add the pumkin puree, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger. Blend until combined and then add one egg at a time. Once all ingredients are mixed well, add 2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream and mix one final time.

Grab your crust from the fridge or freezer and slowly pour the mixture until it reaches the top of your crust. Its very important to make sure that your crust was formed high enough to hold your filling, otherwise your filling will be higher when baked. 

Baking a cheesecake can be a difficult process as you don't want to ove-rbake it - hello dryness and cracks and you don't want to under-bake it and have it become a mushy mess. 
Cheesecake water bath
I always use a water bath for my cheesecakes to help it bake more evenly and I let it rest after its done so to avoid the centre from collapsing. You can tell when its done when the sides are firm, but the centre is still jiggly.

All done and no cracks!
Bake in the oven for approximately an hour and 20 mins. Once its done, let it cool for about 30 mins and then take a warmed knife and slowly run it along the outer edges of the crust to help separate from the pan. Then allow it to cool completely and then place in fridge overnight. The longer it is in the fridge, the better it will be. Serve with caramel sauce and whipped cream if so desired! 
Just needs some whipped cream!
I hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year surrounded by the love of family and friends... and lots and lots of cheesecake!

02 October 2011

Cinnamon & Nutmeg Pumpkin Pull-Apart

PUMPKIN! PUMPKIN! PUMPKIN! I love saying that word and I love everything that its associated with. Fall has officially arrived and with that comes wonderful spiced goodies.

This morning practically begged for a warm fresh-baked loaf of bread. The wind outside was battering the windows and the sun was nowhere in sight. The neighbouring farmer's fields have almost all been tilled and harvested for the season and our home needed some warming up.

I had made my weekly grocery rounds yesterday and grabbed some pureed pumpkin, not knowing where I would use it but that using it was a must. With that in mind, I stumbled across a Pumpkin ( yay... there it is again!) Cinnamon Loaf that I needed to have, yes it was an absolute need!

Cinnamon & Nutmeg Spiced Pumpkin Bread
adapted from WillowBirdBaking

2 Tbs unsalted Butter
1/2 cup Milk - warm or room temp
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry Yeast
3/4 cup Pure Pumpkin Puree
1/4 cup White Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2 1/2 cups ap Flour
1 cup Brown Sugar
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh Nutmeg
3-4 Tbsp unsalted Butter

In a small saucepan brown 2 tablespoons of butter, letting it bubble up and turn a dark golden brown... Oh how I love browned butter!

Once browned, remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the milk (there will be a little bit of sizzle so be sure you are away from heat)  return to stove and mix until thoroughly combined.

Pour the milk and butter mixture into your stand mixer fitted with dough hook and allow to cool until warm.  Once it has reached a warm temp add the yeast and 1/4 cup of sugar and allow to proof.

Then add the the pumpkin, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Knead until combined then add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time and knead for 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy.

Right before it was covered
Move dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for 60-90 minutes or until it doubles in size.

While waiting for the dough, grease a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside. You can also mix the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and set aside.

When the dough is ready, place it on a clean and floured surface. Roll dough into a 20x12 inch rectangle. Let the dough rest.

While its resting, melt 3-4 tbs of butter in your small saucepan and set aside.

Head back to your resting rectangular piece of dough and cut it into 6 long strips. Grab the melted butter and bowl of sugar and spices, brush each strip with the melted butter and then heavily sprinkle with sugar spice combination. Flip each strip over and repeat with melted butter and sugar spice combination. It seems like a lot of sugar and butter, but who's complaining really? 

Smothered in butter, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg
Once coated, cut each strip into 6 even squares and stack them strips horizontally into the loaf pan. **oops...I tend to not read recipes correctly sometimes and apparently I was supposed to cover the pan with a clean towel and let rise again for 30-45 minutes... but I didn't and they still turned out beautifully. I also didn't want any of the sugar spice combination to go to waste and I still had some extra melted butter left over, so I combined them and re-brushed the loaf while in the pan.

Layered and ready to go
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30-35 mins or until top is a very deep golden brown.

I can't even begin to describe how wonderfully warm our kitchen was with the cinnamon-nutmeg combination wafting through the air from the oven. 

The loaf is now almost gone between hubby and I. The pull-apart pieces are just too easy and good to resist. 

Next week is Canadian Thanksgiving and I definitely foresee more pumpkin goodies to come.
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