Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Squares

With Thanksgiving right around the corner (next week! ack!), we thought it was only fitting to try and work another pumpkin treat into the Weekly Wednesday Treat Day schedule. Cookies actually jumped into my mind first, but after looking in the fridge and finding the mess of cream cheese we scored the other week during a sale, my plans had to change. I'm sure you can guess what I went looking for, right? Cheesecake, of course!

We settled on these Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Squares not only because they sounded good, but we wanted a recipe that was rich enough to cut into smallish servings to have enough to go around.

Up first was the crust, made from crushed vanilla wafers that we lifted up with brown sugar, ginger, strong Vietnamese cinnamon, cloves and a pinch of salt. Graham crackers may work well here, as well as animal crackers, if you don't want to go the vanilla wafer route. Bound together with melted butter, the moistened crumbs are packed into an eight inch pan - be sure to press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides. If you find this difficult to do with your fingers, the flat bottom of a small measuring cup works wonders to speed this along.

Baked just to set the crumbs, the crust is removed to cool while the cheesecake batter comes together. The recipe calls for heating the pumpkin with sugar and spices (echoing the same in the crust, minus the clove and replacing it with fresh grated nutmeg), which thickens the mixture slightly and perks up the spices. I'd do this even if you were simply using canned pumpkin - it is an extra step, but it seemed to work well! Once heated, the pumpkin turns decadent with a heavy splash of cream and is set aside to cool off.

The rest of the filling is cream cheese, beaten until velvety smooth, then mixed with eggs and a few potent drops of vanilla. When adding the eggs, try not to dump them in all at once - beat them in one at a time, only mixing until just blended, before adding the next. With a portion of the cream cheese mixed into the cooled cream-laced spiced pumpkin concoction, the two are finally combined to form the pale orange filling that will be poured into the toasted crust. For doneness of this almost-filled-to-the-rim treat, you want the outer ring of the cheesecake to be slightly puffed, a little golden and firm to the touch, but if you were to give the pan a gentle shake, the center should still have a good wobble to it.

Sadly, you can't rush in to slice out a piece- the cheesecake needs to cool, then chill to allow the filling completely set. Don't rush the cooling process and don't cover the cheesecake until it is at least room temperature. If you cover it and place the pan into the refrigerator while warm, the top may end up riddled with water droplets - you can quell this by securing a paper towel over the top of the pan (not touching the cheesecake) if you absolutely can't wait, but it is best to just let the cheesecake take its time.

You can divvy this out as you see fit, but as mentioned, we went on the smaller, bite-sized side by slicing it into twenty five squares (5 x 5 cuts). The filling is luscious and pleasantly spicy, with an upfront pumpkin essence that is tempered by the mellow cream cheese. We quite enjoyed how the crust was seasoned to play off the comparable flavor in the cheesecake, yet had its own unique presence from using the vanilla wafers and indulgent scoop of brown sugar. We felt the need to gussy them up, just because, which was easily done by whipping fresh cream with a scoop of confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Plunged into a pastry bag, fitted with a star tip, we pipped a sweet kiss on top of each square, with a tight sprinkling of cinnamon to finish them off.


  1. Mary from Madison11/16/2010 10:45:00 PM

    Ever thought about gingersnaps for the crust?

  2. oh. my. gosh.

    those look... phenomenal. wow. WOW! and so simple! i want to make these ASAP- what a great thanksgiving day treat!!! thanks for blogging, love your site!!

    love, meg @ http://clutzycooking.blogspot.com/

  3. I am always impressed with how clean you are able to cut your treats Joe! Those squares look so perfect, and delicious too, impeccable!

  4. I love your attention to details when you bake Joe. I wish Thanksgiving was not over, here, in Canada.

  5. Mary - We have for other pumpkin desserts, but you could try it here - you may have to play with the sugar in the crust though.

    Meaghan - Thanks!

    Ana - We try to make them look good!

    Helene - Thank you!

  6. Holy yum-ness Batman! I'm going to do this with a gingersnap crust.

    I'm now drooling. Gee, thanks. LOL

  7. Joe,

    Isn't it time for you to open your own restaurant/cafe/bakery? You could even have a little dessert truck. Other people besides the co-workers need to have a chance to taste your delicious creations. I'd definitely make the trip from Chapel Hill.

  8. Wow!! Those are stunning. I can almost smell them, the photos are so real.

  9. I wasn't planning on a cheesecake for Turkey Day, but this sounds so good. The squares would be perfect -- a rich one or two bites. have used Ginger snaps and Grahams for the crust , but not vanilla wafers.

  10. I have a can of pumpkin that was just waiting for me to come across a recipe like this. I'll be trying them tomorrow. GORGEOUS photos.

  11. MaryBeth - Let us know!

    Jackie - It certainly has crossed my mind!

    Kim - Thank you!

    Kelly - We thought the same thing about the size. Pretty satisfying for a small treat.

    Shana - Enjoy!

  12. These were SO good. I even had them for breakfast with coffee. Yum.

  13. SGS - Fantastic! Thank you for trying them.