Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake with Sugared Pumpkin Seeds

Adapted from Tish Boyle's recipe in Food and Wine's Best of the Best Volume 10
Makes one 9-inch cake; serves 12-16

Ginger-Pecan Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup pecans (1.2 oz.)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup cold butter
1 tablespoon cold water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9-inch springform pan.  Wrap the outside of the pan in an 18 inch square of heavy duty aluminum.  

2. Place flour, sugar, salt, pecans and ginger in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the pecans are finely ground.  Add cold butter and process until crumbs form.  Add water and process in bursts until the dough starts to come together in clumps.  Press dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely.  Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling:
1 cup pumpkin puree (canned is fine)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 lbs (20 oz, or 2 1/2 eight oz. bricks) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 large eggs

1. In a medium bowl whisk together pumpkin puree, heavy cream, vanilla extract, cinnamon , ginger and salt. Set aside.

2. In a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium-low until creamy (approx. 2 mins).  Gradually add sugars and beat until blended.  Add pumpkin mixture and beat until blended. Add cornstarch and beat until just combined.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Scrape down bowl as necessary.

3. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter onto the cooled crust.  Place the aluminum-wrapped pan in a roasting pan or large baking pan.  Pour enough hot water into the pan to come up 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan.  Bake 70-80 minutes, or until set and slightly wobbly.  The cake will completely set as it cools.

Whipped Cream Topping
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1. In a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, beat heavy cream until it begins to thicken slightly.  Add in granulated sugar a little at a time.

2. Beat until stiff peaks form.  Use to top cheesecake, or pipe in decorative swirls.  You may also serve this on the side.

Sugared Pumpkin Seeds:
1/2 cup hulled raw pumpkin seeds
1 egg white
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment, or grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2.  Whisk egg white until frothy.  Place pumpkin seeds in another bowl, and pour in just enough egg white to coat the seeds.  You will most likely not use the entire egg white.  Add salt, sugar and cinnamon.  Toss well to coat.

3. Spread seeds on baking pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until they begin to dry and color.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  

Note:  I broke the sugared seeds into large pieces and used them as a sculptural garnish for the cheesecake.  If you do this, be sure to top the cheesecake just before serving so the seeds stay crispy.  These can also be served alongside the cheesecake in a pretty dish.
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