Jeremy Silansky borrowed this recipe from American Flatbread pastry chef Hannah Yerks, who developed this fluffy cheesecake using sugar pumpkins grown in the restaurant's garden and stored in a root cellar (buttercup and kabocha squash work just as well). Fresh cream cheese, which has a light, creamy texture, gives this cheesecake its airy, mousselike texture.
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6 ounces broken gingersnaps
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for oiling
One 2-pound sugar pumpkin or buttercup or kabocha squash, halved and seeded
1 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups granulated maple sugar (see Note)
1 cup heavy cream
5 large eggs
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a food processor, pulse the broken gingersnaps until they're finely ground. Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl and stir in the melted butter. Pat the crumbs evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Cover the bottom and side of the pan with a single large sheet of foil. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the crust is firm. Let the crust cool to room temperature.
Lightly oil the cut sides of the pumpkin. Place the pumpkin, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 1 hour. Scoop out the flesh and measure out 2 cups. Transfer to a food processor and puree. Let cool.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325°. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth. Add the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, salt and half of the maple sugar and beat until combined. Add the remaining maple sugar and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the side of the bowl and beat in the pumpkin puree, followed by the heavy cream. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended. Scrape down the side of the bowl again and beat until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Pour the pumpkin cheesecake batter into the springform pan.
Set the pan in a baking dish or small roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the dish to reach halfway up the side of the springform pan. Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour, or until it is set around the edges and slightly jiggly in the center. Turn off the oven, close the oven door and leave in the cheesecake for about 1 hour. Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the foil and the springform pan ring. Using a hot knife, cut the cheesecake into wedges, rinsing the blade with hot water between each slice. Transfer to plates and serve.
Maple sugar is made by boiling down maple sap until it crystallizes. It is available from many maple syrup producers such as vermontmapleoutlet.com.
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