Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Three bourbon pumpkin cheesecakes wrapped in crispy, phyllo dough purses, drizzled with bourbon salted caramel and topped with pumpkin seeds. It’s not quite what you imagine when you order “pumpkin cheesecake” off of a menu, but it’s similar to what Blue Duck Tavern brought to my table several years ago when I did just that. I was astounded. It was the best cheesecake dessert I had ever eaten, and despite being absolutely stuffed from my meal and intending to share with David, I ate the whole thing myself. I told the waiter it was the best thing I had ever eaten, and I meant it. Despite my high praise, Blue Duck Tavern has changed pastry chefs since then, and I never saw pumpkin cheesecake on their menu again. I knew I’d eventually have to recreate it, but I had trouble wrapping my mind around the task. Now this cheesecake masterpiece is back and it’s perfect. Impressive and delicious. Glory in every bite is surely worth the effort (but some shortcut options are included too)!

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Shortcut #1: buy a cheesecake. Aside from the required chilling time for homemade cheesecake, the recipe that follows is very simple. To make it, bring 3 bricks of cream cheese (8 ounces each) to room temperature. Then, get a medium-sized bowl and whisk together 1.5 cups of pumpkin purée, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, 1 tablespoon of bourbon, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Preheat your oven to 350º F. To a large bowl (use the bowl of a stand mixer if you have one), stir together 1/2 cup of white sugar, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Then, add in the 3 bricks of room-temperature cream cheese. Beat the cream cheese on high until it is very smooth and well-combined with the other ingredients (about 2 minutes).

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Add the pumpkin mixture to the cream cheese mixture, and beat them together until they are fully combined. Pour the cheesecake batter into a springform pan, and give it a jiggle to even out the batter.

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Put the springform pan on a cookie sheet to catch any leakage, and bake the cheesecake for 50 minutes. Once the 50 minutes are up, stick a toothpick into the very center of the cheesecake to see if it is set. It will look jiggly but should feel dry to the touch. If it is still wet, let it cook for a few more minutes, and then check again. Leave the cheesecake in the spring-form pan, and set it to cool on a rack for about 3 hours. Then, cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap, and chill the cheesecake in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Once the cheesecake has chilled, remove it from the springform pan, and cut the cheesecake into squares anywhere from 1-2 inches in size. Assuming that you baked the cheesecake in a round pan, you can slice and assemble the round edges of the cheesecake into “square-like” shapes. Cover the cheesecake servings loosely with plastic wrap, and put them in the freezer to firm up even more. Freezing the cheesecakes makes them easier to wrap in the phyllo dough, and it also prevents them from overcooking when you bake the phyllo purses.

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Defrost your phyllo dough according to its package’s instructions, and melt 1/2 stick of butter in a pan. Place the phyllo between sheets of wax paper, covered with a damp towel to prevent it from drying out. Preheat your oven to 350° F. Then, take one sheet of phyllo and brush half of it lightly with the melted butter. Fold the phyllo in half. Then repeat: brush half of it with more butter and fold it in half again. Place one of the frozen cheesecake squares in the center of the phyllo, and spread the top of the cheesecake with sour cream.

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Pull up the sides of the phyllo dough to form a satchel around the cheesecake, and loosely tie it together with a piece of kitchen twine. You could also pinch the phyllo together with clothes-pins if you have them on hand. Transfer the phyllo purse to a baking sheet, and repeat the process with the rest of the cheesecake squares.

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Bake the phyllo-wrapped cheesecakes for 12-13 minutes until they are crisp and lightly golden. Transfer the satchels to a rack to cool. Once they come to room temperature, untie the twine, and transfer the cheesecakes to the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them. You could serve the cheesecakes straight from the oven, but they have a much better, more solid texture after they have cooled down again. Really. I ate about 4 cheesecakes searching for the perfect serving temperature. Sacrifices…

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

While the cheesecakes chill, toast some pumpkin seeds in the oven until you hear them begin to pop.

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

Shortcut #2: buy a caramel sauce. Better yet, prepare a bourbon caramel sauce to drizzle over the top of the cheesecakes. To a pan or small pot, add 1 cup of sugar and just enough water to moisten the sugar. Heat the sugar without stirring it, just swirl the pan occasionally, to avoid causing it to crystallize. The sugar will bubble up and eventually turn golden brown. The amount of time the process takes depends on how much water you add, so watch the pot carefully. Once the sugar is golden, remove it from the heat and stir in enough cream (about 1/2 cup or more) to get a lighter brown, caramel color. The cream will boil up quickly when you pour it in, so step back! Once the cream is stirred in, incorporate 1 tablespoon of bourbon and a pinch of salt. Set the caramel aside to cool in a jar- you can store it in the refrigerator and reheat it (in the microwave or in a water bath) as needed.

Pumpkin Cheesecake in Phyllo

When it’s close to dessert time, remove the cheesecakes from the refrigerator, and put them back into a 350º F oven for about 2 minutes to rewarm the phyllo. Place a cheesecake satchel on a serving plate, drizzle over the warm caramel sauce, and then sprinkle on the pumpkin seeds. The pumpkin seeds stick to the caramel and look so pretty. As you can tell, this dessert requires a bit of effort, so it’s best to make these cheesecakes for someone else’s party…like my Global Supper Club: American Thanksgiving Edition! But, this cheesecake is a memorable way to end a meal and is SO delicious. Maybe you’ll even get lucky and have leftovers to store in the freezer for whenever a craving strikes!

Shopping list:

  • Eggs- 3
  • Pumpkin purée- 1.5 cups
  • Cream cheese- 3 bricks (8 ounces each)
  • Bourbon
  • Vanilla extract- 1 teaspoon
  • Heavy cream- 2 tablespoons for the cheesecake, about 1/2 cup for the caramel sauce
  • Brown sugar- 1/2 cup
  • White sugar- 1/2 cup for the cheesecake, 1 cup for the caramel sauce
  • Cornstarch- 1 tablespoon
  • Cinnamon- 1.5 teaspoons
  • Nutmeg- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Ground ginger- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt
  • Sour cream
  • Butter- 1/2 stick
  • Phyllo dough
  • Pumpkin seeds
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Popover Perfection

Popover Perfection

These billowing, golden beauties are as delicious as they are photogenic. They remind me of a hybrid between a sugar doughnut and a cream puff: crisp on the outside, airy on the inside. What’s even more amazing is that these popovers are incredibly easy to make. The batter whizzes together in a blender, just like when making crêpes. Even better, this dessert comes with a show! Turn the light on in your oven, and watch these babies rise, rise, rise. Now that I finally have a fool-proof popover recipe (my last one was far too dense and is begging to be reworked), expect many more variations to come. But let’s ease in with the good stuff- vanilla bean, cinnamon, and sugar. Guaranteed to cause finger licking.

Popover Perfection

To make them, pre-heat your oven to 400° F. To a blender, add 3 large eggs, 1 cup of whole milk, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 pinch of salt, 1.5 teaspoons of sugar, and the beans from one vanilla pod. Blend them together.

Popover Perfection

With the blender running, add in 140 grams (1 cup) of flour. Continue blending until the batter is well-combined.

Popover Perfection

Grease a popover pan, and fill each cup 2/3 of the way full. You should have exactly enough batter to fill all 6 cups. If you don’t have a popover pan, you could use a muffin tin, but your popovers will be smaller, and you’ll have more of them.

Popover Perfection

Bake the popovers for approximately 30 minutes (less if you’re using a muffin tin). Don’t open the oven door while the popovers rise, much like when making a soufflé. It’s really fun to watch them grow and brown.

Popover Perfection

While the popovers bake, melt 1/4 cup of butter (4 tablespoons) in a pan. In a side bowl, stir or shake together 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Popover Perfection

Once the popovers are golden brown, remove them from the oven, and set them aside to cool. It was so difficult choosing which pictures to include with this post because there were so many delicious looking ones. I love how the popovers seem like they’re ready to burst open.

Popover Perfection

Once the popovers are cool enough to handle, remove one from the pan. Lightly brush the whole thing with the melted butter, and then turn it in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat it well. Transfer the popover to a cooling rack, and repeat the sugaring process with the other ones. If you thought the popovers looked incredible right out of the oven, look at them now! Diamond encrusted…but edible!

Popover Perfection

The popovers are best served warm, but they’re not bad eaten the next day either. The outsides are perfectly crisp. Tear into them, and you’ll find airy, vanilla bean-flecked insides. These popovers BEG to be ripped open and gobbled up. Have at ‘em! Now, I’m off to buy more eggs!

This recipe is adapted from David Lebovitz.

Shopping list:

  • Eggs- 3
  • Whole milk- 1 cup
  • Butter- 6 tablespoons
  • Sugar- 1/3 cup + 1.5 teaspoons
  • Vanilla pod- 1 (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
  • Salt- pinch
  • Flour- 1 cup
  • Cinnamon- 1/2 teaspoon
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I Bet-zle You’ll Like My Spaetzle

I Bet-zle You'll Like My Spaetzle

I have wanted to make spaetzle for quite some time, and I am glad that I finally did. It was fun! Spaetzle is a German/Austrian egg noodle/dumpling that is twisty and rustic. Once made, there are a lot of ways to eat spaetzle. My favorite is crisped up in a pan, but you can also toss it with butter or oil, or bake it into a cheesy, macaroni-like tangle. It took some experimenting in the kitchen to figure out the best way to form the spaetzle before dropping them into boiling water to cook. Although dedicated spaetzle makers are available, I had fantastic luck re-purposing a kitchen accessory that I already owned. I’m sure you can find something that will work for you too!

I Bet-zle You'll Like My Spaetzle

To make the spaetzle batter, whisk together 7 large eggs with 1/4 cup of milk and 1.25 teaspoons of fine sea salt. Then, stir in 2 cups of flour until most of the lumps are eliminated. The quantities specified in this recipe make a lot of spaetzle. I’d estimate around 12 side servings or 6 main course servings, maybe even more. You could halve the recipe and make less or freeze any extra for a later use. How do you halve a recipe that calls for 7 eggs, you ask? I would whisk the odd egg on its own very well and then pour half of it off.

I Bet-zle You'll Like My Spaetzle

Once the batter is combined, cover it with plastic wrap, and transfer it to the refrigerator to rest for 1 hour. The resting time allows the batter to develop gluten, which contributes to the batter’s smooth, stretchy consistency. While the batter chills, bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer. Also, fill a large bowl with ice water.

To form the spaetzle, you’ll need to use a silicone spatula to press the batter through an item with holes and allow the batter to drop into the pot of simmering water. I first tried using a metal steamer/straining basket, which I set on top of the pot. It didn’t work because the strainer prevented the hot steam from leaving the pot, and the built-up heat cooked the batter before I could press it through the holes. My next attempt was much more successful- I used the plastic strainer top that came with my fat separator. It’s nice because it has a tongue-type handle that allowed me to hold it over the pot easily.

I Bet-zle You'll Like My Spaetzle

Once you find something that works for you, dollop some of the batter onto it, and use a spatula to press the batter through the holes. The batter will form raindrops that land in the water, sink, and then float to the top. The spaetzle expand and turn opaque as they cook, which takes about 1 minute. When the batch is done, use a skimmer to remove it from the pot, and transfer the spaetzle into the bowl of ice water. Repeat until you’ve cooked all of the batter.

I Bet-zle You'll Like My Spaetzle

Drain the cooked spaetzle from the ice water. You can store it in containers in the refrigerator for up to a week. 12 servings of spaetzle is a whole lot, so I came up with several different ways to serve it.

I Bet-zle You'll Like My Spaetzle

  1. Pan fried: Add 1 sliced shallot and some swiss chard leaves to a large, lightly oiled pan. Pour in about 1/4 cup of white wine, and let it cook off. Season the veggies with salt and pepper, melt in 2 tablespoons of butter, and add in 1-2 cups of the spaetzle. Fry it until it browns and turns crisp. The spaetzle picks up the best color and flavor in a stainless skillet, but it tends to stick. A fish spatula is really helpful to scrape and turn it. Alternatively, the spaetzle glides easily in a non-stick skillet, but the flavor isn’t as deep. Zest 1/2 lemon over the spaetzle. Grated gruyere cheese is also nice. To make it more of a meal, you can also add some diced, pre-cooked chicken when you add the spaetzle.
  2. Baked with cheese: You can make mac and cheese with spaetzle instead of pasta. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in pot, stir in 3 tablespoons of flour, and then pour in 1 cup of milk. Season the milk with salt and cayenne pepper. Stir the milk until it thickens, remove the pot from heat, and melt in 1 cup of grated cheese (gruyere and cheddar are nice). Stir in about 2 cups of spaetzle and optional meal-enhancers: chicken, bacon, swiss chard, mushrooms, parmesan cheese, etc. Transfer the spaetzle and cheese to a greased baking dish, top it with more grated cheese, and bake it at 400º F until the top is golden brown.

How do you like to serve spaetzle? I need more techniques so I can finish eating my way through this big batch!

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

Shopping list:

  • Eggs- 7
  • Milk- 1/4 cup
  • Sea salt, fine- 1.25 teaspoons
  • Flour- 2 cups
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