My nieces can’t wait to “carve” these pumpkins and start asking about them the minute the Cider Mills open every September. The secret ingredient in these Baby Pumpkin Cheesecakes isn’t the pumpkin. Most people never figure it out until I tell them, and even then, they don’t believe me because it’s an ingredient most people don’t associate with cheesecakes.
Canadian maple syrup is the magic behind this mini pumpkin patch and one of the many reasons we look forward to fall every year. From a culinary standpoint, maple syrup has the unique ability to heighten and enhance individual ingredients, and thus quite favorably, impact the overall taste and textural outcome of recipes without overpowering the final result. 100% pure Canadian maple syrup yields a deliciously moist, dense and perfectly creamy cheesecake.
And for a year-round treat, simply garnish the top of the cheesecakes with some maple sugar!
Note: You can find mini cheesecake pans just about anywhere including Target, Sur La Table, Williams Sonoma and at many online sites such as Amazon.com.
BABY PUMPKIN CHEESECAKES
Yield: 24 – 30 mini cheesecakes, depending on pan
- 1/2 cup graham cracker or chocolate cookie crumbs
- 2 tablespoons pure Canadian maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted – lessen as needed
- 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup pure Canadian maple syrup
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate, melted
- 1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin puree
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice
Garnish (optional): 1/2 teaspoon of maple sugar (to taste)
Preheat the oven to 325º F. Spray each cup of mini cheesecake pan with cooking spray or lightly grease with butter. Set aside.
To prepare the crust: In a small bowl, mix together crumbs, pure Canadian maple syrup and butter. Spoon a think layer of crust filling into each cup. Using the handle of a whisk or spatula, pat crumbs down flat.
Bake the crusts until set, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 300º F.
To prepare the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the cream cheese and pure Canadian maple syrup. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth.
If piping pumpkin faces out of filling: Remove 1/4 cup of batter and mix with the melted chocolate. Set aside. If not, skip to next step.
Add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), salt and allspice and mix until smooth. Pour the batter into a large measuring cup or container with a pour spout and divide among the cups to 3/4 full. Use pastry bag to pipe faces onto the cakes by placing the tip just below the surface of the filling.
Bake the cakes for 16 to 20 minutes or until set around the edges with a dime-sized middle that still looks soft. Remove from the oven, and cool for 30 minutes or so before refrigerating. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Unmold cheesecakes.
Note: You may have leftover crust filling. Store in freezer. Keeps well.
Difficulty: Medium easy
Prep time: 1 casual hour
Cook time: 20 minutes to cook, 30 minutes to cool
Pumpkin faces: To create the pumpkin faces on the baby cheesecakes, the recipe calls for you to melt 3/4 ounces of semisweet chocolate and add it to 1/4 cup of the cheesecake batter and then pour it into a pastry bag. Once the cheesecake batter is divided among the cups in the cheesecake pan and before baking, the recipe calls for you to pipe the chocolate batter onto pumpkin faces. I found this to be time-consuming and awkward. Admittedly, I’m not a pastry chef and I have little patience for these Martha Stewart kinds of projects. That said, the cheesecakes in their catalogs are lovely. And the technique is very doable.
Pumpkin faces for dummies: I tested the recipe a second time and decorated the pumpkin cheesecakes after they came out of the oven using store-bought decorating frostings in the tube. It was a whole lot easier and is something you can do with your kids.
For a year-round version, leave off the pumpkin faces and top the cheesecakes with some maple sugar.