Here I go again with the fattening desserts. I love dessert. And I think the richer you make a dessert, the more likely it is that you’ll be satisfied with a reasonable-sized portion. If you’ve tried my recipe for Lemon Cheesecake, this recipe will look very familiar, as the method is similar. I find regular pumpkin pie a little cloyingly dense and sweet; this cheesecake variation is much nicer in both departments. As with any high-fat dessert, make this when you’ll be hosting family or friends so you don’t eat the whole thing by yourself.
Crust: Blend 1 3/4 c. gingersnap crumbs with 1/2 c. ground pecans in your food processor. (The nuts add some protein and some heart-healthy fat, as well as a wonderful crunch.) I like Anna’s Ginger Thins or Mother’s Iced Oatmeal Cookies for the crumbs. Pour into a 9″ pie plate or springform pan. Add 3-6 T melted butter and mix well. (A raised cookie like the Iced Oatmeal will absorb a lot more fat than a pogen-style cookie like Anna’s, so correct your butter accordingly. You want the result moist enough to hang together, but not oily-looking. It’s easier to add more melted butter than more cookie crumbs, so start at the low end of the butter measure and work up as needed.) Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the springform or the bottom and sides of the pie pan.
Fillling: Cream 4 oz regular cream cheese, 8 oz mascarpone cheese and 3/4 c. sugar together. Beat in 2 eggs and one 16-oz can of solid pack pumpkin until creamy. Fold in the spices: 1 1/4 t. ground cinnamon, 1/2 t. ground ginger, 1/4 t. ground nutmeg, 1/4 t. ground cloves, and 1/2 t. salt. If you want some extra zing, you can add 1T fresh lemon zest. Pour over crust and bake at 325° for 45 minutes.
At this point, the surface is somewhat set, and you can garnish with pecan halves without fear that they will sink into the filling. I like to put pecans on top in case one of my guests has a tree-nut allergy I don’t know about. Since most people don’t expect nuts in their pumpkin pie, it’s nice to alert them that there is a hidden ingredient in the crust. Plus, it’s pretty. Bake an additional 20 minutes at 325° or until the filling looks completely set. If you jiggle the pan a little, the whole pie should jiggle as a unit. If there seems to be a much softer puddle in the center of the pie, leave it in the oven for another 5-10 minutes, but be sure to set a timer, because it will go from done to overdone in nothing flat. The firmer you bake the pie, the more likely it is to crack during the cooling process, so err on the side of underdone.
Remove from oven, cool, and chill. Don’t try to cool it too quickly, or it will fracture on you like the San Andreas fault, and you won’t have a pretty pie (if this happens, just slice it in the kitchen and bring out individual slices– your guests will never know). This is best if it has 4-5 hours to chill, so make it in the morning to serve as an after-dinner dessert, or make it the day before. Of course, there should be whipped cream (what’s pumpkin pie without whipped cream?), but I like to serve it on the side of the pie slice rather than on top so my guests can choose to indulge or not. Enjoy!