Pumpkin Tiramisu

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all that we have in our lives. It’s a time of family. A time of reflection. A time of giving. And a time of stuffing!

This year Matt and I spent our first Thanksgiving together in Ann Arbor. Although we attempted to scale our meal back to a portion suitable for two, our refrigerator is stuffed with leftovers suitable for an entire weeks’ worth of Thanksgiving dinners. Our meal included some inspiration from New Orleans (where Matt’s alma mater is located), with BBQ shrimp. It even included a macaroni and cheese bake-off—although the winner is still in dispute. Overall, it was a lovely day filled with many first times and memories in the making.

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Last year, I shared with you my list of things I was most thankful for in 2012. In keeping with tradition, I have decided to do the same this year. In no particular order, here are five things I am thankful for in the past year.

1. Love—for letting me feel what it means to be truly alive.
2. Good health—for enabling me to live each day to the fullest.
3. Tears—for helping me express my deepest emotions.
4. Friends and family—for being my closest companions in life.
5. My mind—for the ability to think, store memories, and create new solutions.

No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without dessert. This year I tried a new recipe from one of my coworkers for pumpkin tiramisu. This recipe won the fall baking competition at work, and after your first bite you will immediately know why. With layers of pumpkin-mascarpone, custard, and gingersnaps brushed with Calvados syrup, the flavors and textures form a deliciously creamy dessert.

Pumpkin Tiramisu Recipe

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Ingredients
3 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from 1 1/2 envelopes)
2 tablespoons water
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 quart whole milk
one 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pound mascarpone (2 cups)
3 tablespoons Calvados or other apple brandy
1 1/4 pounds gingersnaps, 1/4 pound finely crushed

Directions
In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the yolks, cornstarch, salt and 1 1/2 cups of the sugar until the sugar is moistened. In a large saucepan, heat the milk just until steaming. Whisk 1 cup of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Pour the mixture into the milk in the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until boiling and thick, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. Off the heat, whisk in the gelatin, vanilla and cinnamon. Whisk in the mascarpone.

In a small microwave-safe bowl, microwave the Calvados with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar at high power for 10 seconds, just until the sugar is dissolved.

Arrange one-third of the whole gingersnaps in a 9-by-13-by-2 1/2-inch baking dish. Lightly brush the gingersnaps with some of the Calvados and top with one-third of the pumpkin custard. Repeat the layering twice more with the remaining whole gingersnaps, Calvados and custard. Sprinkle half of the crushed gingersnaps on top and press a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the tiramisù. Freeze overnight.

Let the tiramisù stand at room temperature for 6 hours, until thawed. Sprinkle with the remaining gingersnaps. Serve.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
Thanksgiving is a busy time and this dessert can be made in advance to save you some time in the kitchen on the big day. The pumpkin tiramisù can be frozen for up to 1 week. Thaw at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

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“I want cheesecake for my birthday! Can you make some…PLEEEEASE?”

This was the request that Matt made for his birthday last week. It was a request that I was happy to oblige considering that cheesecake is his favorite dessert and I’ve made one every year for his birthday. Now make no mistake, if Matt had his way, every post I made would be about cheesecake. Somehow I’ve managed to convince him that you as readers desire a little bit more variety.

Have you heard of a sweet potato cheesecake? I certainly hadn’t before I began searching for a recipe on the web. That being the case, you’re probably wondering how I ended up with the vision for this dessert. Well, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned since Matt and I moved in together, it’s that relationships are all about compromise. For Thanksgiving, he wanted me to make a sweet potato pie, but I had my sights set on pumpkin tiramisu. For his birthday, he wanted cheesecake and I had no problem with that. So how did we reach a compromise? Easy! Sweet potato cheesecake for his birthday and pumpkin tiramisu for Thanksgiving… it’s a win-win situation. And who can really argue with any combination of cheesecake and tiramisu?

This sweet potato cheesecake truly is a decadent treat. The silky texture melts in your mouth and you are left with hints of sweet potato, cinnamon, and nutmeg afterwards. I can imagine this being the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving dessert menu. It’s been tested and approved by the birthday boy himself!

Sweet Potato Cheesecake Recipe
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

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Crust Ingredients
5 ounces graham crackers
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling Ingredients
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon table salt
15 ounces cooked and pureed sweet potato
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, cut into 1-inch chunks and left to soften at room temperature
1 tablespoon lemon juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
5 large eggs, left at room temperature, about 30 minutes
1 cup heavy cream

Directions
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan evenly with nonstick cooking spray. Pulse crackers, sugar, and spices in food processor until evenly and finely ground, about fifteen 2-second pulses. Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle melted butter over, and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened. Turn crumbs into prepared springform pan and, using hand, spread crumbs into even layer. Using flat-bottomed ramekin or drinking glass, press crumbs evenly into pan bottom, then use a soup spoon to press and smooth crumbs into edges of pan. Bake until fragrant and browned about the edges, about 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling.

Bring about 4 quarts water to simmer in stockpot. Whisk sugar, spices, and salt in small bowl; set aside. To dry sweet potato, line baking sheet with triple layer of paper towels. Spread sweet potato on paper towels in roughly even layer. Cover sweet potato with second triple layer of paper towels and press firmly until paper towels are saturated. Peel back top layer of towels and discard. Grasp bottom towels and fold sweet potato in half; peel back towels. Repeat and flip sweet potato onto baking sheet; discard towel.

In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat cream cheese at medium speed to break up and soften slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape beater and bottom and sides of bowl well with rubber spatula. Add about one third of sugar mixture and beat at medium-low speed until combined, about 1 minute; scrape bowl and add remaining sugar in two additions, scraping bowl after each addition. Add sweet potato, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat at medium speed until combined, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add 3 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 1 minute; scrape bowl. Add remaining 2 eggs and beat at medium-low until incorporated, about 45 seconds; scrape bowl. Add heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds. Using rubber spatula, scrape bottom and sides of bowl and give final stir by hand.

Set springform pan with cooled crust on 18-inch-square doubled layer heavy-duty foil and wrap bottom and sides with foil; set wrapped springform pan in roasting pan. Pour filling into springform pan and smooth surface; set roasting pan in oven and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until center of cake is slightly wobbly when pan is shaken, and center of cake registers 145 to 150 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1 1/2 hours. Set roasting pan on wire rack and use paring knife to loosen cake from sides of pan. Cool until water is just warm, about 45 minutes. Remove springform pan from water bath, discard foil, and set on wire rack; continue to cool until barely warm, about 3 hours. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

Heather’s Helpful Hints
The most common complaint when baking a cheesecake is cracking that develops through the middle of the cheesecake during or after baking. To prevent surface cracking make sure you don’t over bake your cheesecake. When perfectly done, there will still be a two to three-inch wobbly spot in the middle of the cheesecake; the texture will smooth out as it cools. Also make sure you generously grease the sides of the baking pan before pouring in batter to allow the cake to pull away from the pan as it cools.

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