A mouthful of Thanksgiving

It’s hard not to love Thanksgiving. This time-honored American tradition is, at the heart, still actually about gathering with family and being thankful. Though there’s no shortage of cartoony turkeys or plastic-leaf garlands on the market, it’s difficult to sully this day with cutesy characters and commercialization. Yes, there are probably special ingredients to buy, and in larger quantities than usual, but that’s all just leading up to the opportunity to relax, enjoy each other and partake of a butt-kicking feast.

So how about an ultimate dessert to contribute to this feast? Well, since the beginning, or almost the beginning, of the Thanksgiving tradition, pumpkins have been part of the celebration. We’ll start with that. My rule for desserts is usually chocolate, but since chocolate and pumpkin may not be the ultimate pairing, make it cream cheese. Hmmm, sounds good, but we could probably tip the scales of decadence with nuts and caramel. Might as well. And just a regular crust won’t do, it needs to stand up to the filling and accentuate those pumpkin-pie spices. Gingersnaps, of course! OK, sounds like we’ve got a winner.

Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake with Pecans, Caramel and a Gingersnap Crust

Crust and Caramel

  • 25 gingersnaps, crushed (about 1 1/2 C)
  • 1/2 C finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 C butter, melted
    1. Mix above ingredients and press firmly onto bottom and 1″ up sides of a greased 9″ springform pan.
    2. Bake 10 minutes in preheated oven (350 for silver pan, 325 for dark nonstick). Remove and let cool.
      • 14 oz. caramels, unwrapped
      • 5 oz. evaporated milk
      • 1/2 C chopped pecans
        1. Microwave caramels and milk until combined, stirring often.
        2. Pour mixture over crust and sprinkle with pecans.

          Cheesecake

          • 4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
          • 1 C sugar, divided
          • 1 t vanilla
          • 4 eggs
          • 1 t cinnamon
          • 1 t nutmeg
          • dash ground cloves
          • 1 C canned pumpkin
            1. Beat cream cheese, 3/4 C sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add in eggs one at a time while blending
            2. Remove 1 1/2 C batter and combine with remaining 1/4 C sugar, spices and pumpkin
            3. Spoon 1/2 of pumpkin batter onto caramel, top with plain batter, and repeat. Gently swirl with a butter knife for a marbled effect
            4. Bake 45-55 minutes in preheated oven (see above for temperatures). Cool completely, then refrigerate before serving.
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