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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake Pie


I. Love. Pumpkin. Pie. In fact, let’s be honest: I love pumpkin anything. But pumpkin pie is the very pinnacle of all pumpkin desserts as far as I’m concerned. I used to make a traditional pumpkin pie every year, but last year I went in a different direction, rolling out a brand-new type of pie, and haven’t looked back since. This new pie, the Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake Pie, is my definitive holiday pie. It is like three desserts wrapped into one, and although it might sound busy, this pie has the most wonderful blending of flavors that results in my favorite Thanksgiving dessert.


I had always been intrigued with pumpkin cheesecakes, but I had never tried to make one before. The pie I am going to describe is a little different from a regular pumpkin cheesecake in that the cheesecake layer and the pumpkin pie layer are kept separate, with a pecan layer on top. This concept was originally inspired by Bakerella, who made a similar pie on her blog. But after reading the comments posted about that recipe, a lot of people complained that the recipe failed to give a filling that solidified properly. So I decided to try my hand at making this pie, keeping the distinct pumpkin, pecan and cheesecake layers, but completely revamping the recipe itself, starting from the ground up. The results I got were just wonderful, and that’s what I’ll be sharing in this post.

First, you need a pie crust. Deep dish if you can, there will be a lot of filling. I used the Sarah Lee 9” deep dish frozen pie crust, and it was still frozen when I filled it (although it sat on the counter after I had filled it with the cheesecake layer, and while I was assembling the pumpkin layer – maybe 10 minutes. Feel free to use your own recipe if you want, just keep a closer eye on how the crust browns, because my directions are for a crust that is partially frozen.

The first layer that goes down is the cream cheese. Start with your cheese softened, maybe sitting out at room temp for 30-45 minutes or so, cut up into cubes in your mixing bowl. Once the cheese is a little softer, you beat it with the sugar until it is well combined and not lumpy. 


Add the vanilla and a dollop of sour cream (a slightly rounded tablespoon), and beat until incorporated. Add the egg, and beat until combined and the lumps are pretty much gone. Try not to overbeat. Then, pour the cheesecake layer into the bottom of the crust.


Now for the pumpkin layer. I personally like adding each spice individually, as opposed to the pumpkin pie mix. I also freshly grate the nutmeg before I use it, and although that isn’t strictly necessary, it smells and tastes wonderful.  Combine the pumpkin, sugar, spices, salt, egg and whites in a bowl, and whisk until thoroughly combined. 

You can do that by hand, it is easy enough to combine. Then, layer the pumpkin mixture on top of the cheesecake mixture carefully. I would spoon it on gently, and then spread it out. Gently.


At this point, you put some aluminum on the crust to protect it from over-browning, and pop it into a 400F oven. After 5 minutes, and without opening the door, turn the oven down to 375F and keep baking for 25 minutes.

While it is baking, assemble the pecan topping. Combine the pecans, brown sugar and maple syrup in a bowl.


 Be sure to use real Grade A maple syrup, not the stuff you typically buy for pancakes. No Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima!

After the 25 minute bake time is up, take the pie out of the oven. You are going to be putting the pecan topping on quickly, you don’t want the pie to cool down too much. Remove the shield so that you can sprinkle pecans right to the edge of the crust, and start sprinkling the topping evenly all over the pie. I typically use all or almost all of the topping. Taking the shield off will also give you an idea of how much the crust still needs to brown. I leave those judgments up to you, because each crust and oven might be slightly different.


Put the shield back on if you think it is necessary, and pop the pie back in the over for another 20 minutes. After that time is up, try to take a peak (without opening the door if you can manage it) and see how the crust is doing. If you took the shield off, is it browning nicely or getting overdone. If it is getting overdone, put the shield back on. If you left the shield on, is it not browning enough? If not, take the shield off. This will really depend on your oven. Using the same exact crust, at my parents’ house, I had to leave the shield on the entire time to prevent excess browning, but in my apartment I took the shield off after the topping went on, and they both turned out great. The best advice I can give is just pay attention to the crust.

Let the pie bake for a further 10 minutes (so, 1 hr total bake time), then remove it from the oven and place it on a wire rack for cooling. 

Let the pie cool down at room temperature for at least an hour, if not more. If you cover it to put it in the fridge while it is too warm, you will end up with condensation building up on the inside of the cover, making the crust and pie top soggy. It doesn’t have to be completely 100% room temp before you put it in the fridge, but make sure the bottom is no more than slightly warm. If you are worried, you can do what I do and check the cover about an hour after I put it into the fridge. If there is condensation building, wipe it off with a paper towel.

This pie needs to chill for maybe 5 hours minimum, but I highly recommend overnight. It’ll make slicing and serving so much easier, plus, it just tastes better when it is thoroughly cold.


Again, this pie: my favorite rendition of pumpkin pie. The flavors are complex, and so are the textures, but you have the strong pumpkin coming through, complemented by everything else. If you are a pumpkin pie fan, consider adding this to your holiday baking list this year!


Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake Pie

Ingredients
  •  1-9” deep dish pie crust, frozen or fresh (see notes in above text)

 Cheesecake Layer
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 slightly rounded tbls sour cream
  • 1 egg

 Pumpkin Layer
  • 15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • ¾ C sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice or cloves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/3 C evaporated milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites

 Pecan Layer
  • 1 ½ C pecans, chopped
  • ½ C brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbls pure maple syrup


Directions 
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Beat cream cheese with the sugar until it is well combined and not lumpy.
  3. Add the vanilla and a dollop of sour cream (a slightly rounded tablespoon), and beat until incorporated.
  4. Add the egg and whites, and beat until combined and the lumps are pretty much gone. Try not to overbeat.
  5. Pour the cheesecake layer into the bottom of the crust.
  6. Combine the pumpkin, sugar, spices, salt, egg and whites in a bowl, and whisk until thoroughly combined (can do by hand).
  7. Layer the pumpkin mixture on top of the cheesecake mixture carefully. Spoon it on gently, and then spread it out.
  8. Put some aluminum on the crust to protect it from over-browning.
  9. Bake it into a 400F oven for 5 minutes then, without opening the door, turn the oven down to 375F and keep baking for an additional 25 minutes.
  10. While it is baking, assemble the pecan topping. Combine the pecans, brown sugar and maple syrup in a bowl and stir to combine well.
  11. After the 25 minute bake time is up, take the pie out of the oven.
  12. Working quickly, remove the shield and start sprinkling the topping evenly all over the pie.
  13. Put the shield back on if you think it is necessary
  14. Put the pie back in the over to bake for another 20 minutes.
  15. After the time is up, try to take a peak (without opening the door if you can) and see how the crust is doing. Decide whether to use the shield or not based on the level of browning
  16. Let the pie bake for a further 10 minutes
  17. Remove it from the oven and place it on a wire rack for cooling.
  18. Let the pie cool down at room temperature for at least an hour before covering and storing in the fridge
  19. Overnight chilling yields the best results

3 comments:

Rebecca said...

Sweet! Can't wait to try tomorrow! Thank you for your thorough directions and words of advice, as this will be my first pie attempt EVER....apart from the frozen ones I take out of a box-lol! If you hadn't have given all the thoughts on the pie crust browning, etc., I think I'd be stumbling along tomorrow-also, great pictures, very enticing! I'll let you know how it goes if I catch a chance-Happy Thanksgiving and God Bless! :D

Amber Omer said...

Hey there! I'm new to your site, and so far, LOVE it! I have a question for you.. I'm making this awesome pie creation of yours right now! I'm so very excited!! I wanted to use a graham cracker like crust instead of a normal crust though. I'm new at this pie thing and just wondered if you think that would work out ok? Should I still cover it when I bake the pie? I'm sorry to bother you. Thanks!

Meredith said...

Rebecca, thanks for the kind words!! Let me know how it goes, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Amber, hhhmmm...it will taste great with Graham crackers, but I've never baked a Graham cracker crust for so long. My advice is this: if the filling is pretty flush with the crust, which it should be, don't bother with a shield. Let me know how it turns out!