Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kabocha Squash Cheesecake

This is a cheesecake I've made a few times now that is always good but, man, it's rich, so beware. I found it in the SF Chronicle a few years ago and it was attributed to a pastry chef, Cydne Kane, at the Rivoli restaurant in Berkeley. The keys to this, IMO, is to use a natural cream cheese if you can find it (I avoid those with gum, like Kraft Philadelphia), and to use a fresh winter squash like kabocha, not canned pumpkin.

Note that it is best made a day ahead so that the cooked cake can set in the refrigerator overnight, but I've had success making it in the morning and allowing it a few hours in the frig as well.

Smashed ginger snaps and toasted pecans

Crust after baking

Beating the cream cheese

Pureed squash

Batter after adding the sour cream

Cake just prior to baking

Ingredients:
Crust:
1½ cups finely ground gingersnap cookies
½ cup toasted and finely ground pecans
⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted

Filling:
1½ pounds natural cream cheese
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons corn starch
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
¾ cup sour cream
1½ cups kabocha squash puree from about 2 pounds squash *
⅓ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Topping:
1½ cups sour cream
6 tablespoons granulated sugar

* Although pumpkin comes in a can I highly recommend getting a real kabocha squash and following the directions below to prepare it

Directions:

Squash:
Prepare the squash by halving it, scooping out the seeds, placing cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil and baking at 400° until soft, about 30-45 minutes. Scoop out the flesh and puree in a blender.

Crust
Preheat oven to 350°.
I prepare the crust by putting the gingersnaps in a large ziplock plastic bag and lightly smashing them with a mallet, then doing the same separately with the toasted pecans. I then measure each again as the ingredients call for the measurements after each has been ground. I finish by processing them together in a food processor.
In a bowl, stir together the ground gingersnaps and pecans. Add the butter and stir to blend. Press evenly onto the bottom and about ½ inch up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake 15 minutes. Remove and reduce oven temperature to 325°. 

Filling:
In an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth.
This took longer than I expected when I first did this. the key is to be patient and keep the speed low - it should take about 10 minutes before it gets smooth.
In a bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt until well-blended. Add to cream cheese and mix on low to medium speed until blended. Add the sour cream and mix until blended. Add the squash puree, brown sugar, molasses, and vanilla and mix until blended, scraping the bowl once or twice. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Pour the batter into the prepared crust, spreading it evenly.
Bake until it is mostly set but still a little jiggly in the center, 50-60 minutes. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes before applying the topping.

Topping:
Whisk the ingredients together and spread evenly over the cheesecake. Return to the oven for 5 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack, then refrigerate overnight.

Serve:
Remove the outer cake pan ring. Cut thin slices with a hot knife.