As cheesecakes go, this is surprisingly light. For one thing, I make it with reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel) and there’s a lot of pumpkin in the filling. It makes a luscious alternative to the usual pumpkin pie and the polenta crust sets it apart.
The cranberry caramel syrup takes a bit of time but it’s worthwhile as it will keep in the fridge for months in a screw top jar (lovely over ice cream as well). It is rather intense so you’ll only need a small amount per serving (about 1 tablespoon) and the pretty jewel-red color makes a lovely contrast to the cheesecake. Alternatively, you could decorate it with glazed cranberries – a versatile recipe that’s takes less time to prepare and is as equally spectacular.
If you can’t be bothered with the syrup, just whip up some cream with a little powdered/icing sugar, orange liqueur and zest, to serve on the side.
It freezes well and if you make it for Thanksgiving, make it at least 24 hours ahead and serve it chilled, straight from the fridge.
The syrup is better served at room temp as it tends to thicken when chilled.
PUMPKIN & GRAND MARNIER CHEESECAKE with a CRANBERRY CARAMEL SYRUP
(Serves eight to 10)
Ingredients for the polenta crust:
3 oz / 85g of all purpose/plain flour
1 ½ oz / 43g of polenta
2 oz / 57g of granulated sugar
3 oz / 85g of butter, melted
Pre-heat the oven to 350F / 177C. Combine everything together and press into the base of a 9 in / 23cm loose based/spring-form pan. Use a fork to press it evenly and to give it some texture (see pic).
Bake until golden; 25-30 minutes. Cool (can be made ahead)
Ingredients for the filling:
18 oz / 510g of 30% reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), at room temp
1 cup of packed soft brown sugar (237ml in a measuring jug)
2 ½ cups of mashed canned pumpkin (355ml in a measuring jug)
1/3 cup / 80ml of Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur such as Cointreau or triple sec
1/3 cup / 80ml of fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ cup / 60ml of finely grated orange zest
Heat the oven to 325F / 163C.
Beat together the cream cheese and sugar until completely smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly to blend.
Beat in the pumpkin – then the juice, zest and liqueur. Pour into the pan and bake for approx 60 minutes or until the center still wobbles slightly (it may take less or more time as ovens and altitudes vary – just go by the wobble in the center).
Meanwhile, prepare the topping:
10 oz / 300ml of sour cream (or creme fraiche), mixed with 1/3 cup / 80ml of orange liqueur and 1/3 cup / 80ml of powdered/icing sugar.
Once the cheesecake has reached the ‘slight wobble in the middle’ stage, remove from the oven and quickly spread the topping over. Put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Turn off the oven.
It’s less likely to crack if you leave it to cool in the oven, rather than removing it to cool on a rack.
Once cool, cover and chill overnight – up to 3 days, or freeze.
For the Cranberry Caramel Syrup:
1 cup / 237ml (in a measuring jug) of fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
½ cup / 118ml of water
1 ½ cups / 355ml (in a measuring jug) of fine white sugar
In a heavy pan, heat the sugar over a moderate heat until it becomes a liquid golden caramel. Once it starts to liquefy, use a fork to stir it about; it should become very runny. This can take 30 mins or more, so be patient.
Meanwhile, process the cranberries and water together until finely minced – set aside.
Once the sugar has reached the runny golden stage with no granules remaining, remove it from the heat and quickly add the chopped cranberries and water. It will hiss, steam and solidify.
Return it to the heat and allow it to simmer, stirring until everything has dissolved once more – about 10 mins.
Pour through a fine mesh sieve/strainer into a bowl, pressing down on the solids until you’ve extracted all the juices. Discard the solids and when it’s cooled a bit, pour into a clean glass screw-top jar and refrigerate – it keeps for months.
As a final note, I thought it interesting that the spelling auto-correct wanted to change the word ‘polenta’ to ‘tadpole’. Heaven forbid you have the same issue and decide to adjust the recipe accordingly!