Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars with Gingersnap Crust, Salted Caramel Drizzle

For the Gingersnap Crust

1 C ground gingersnaps (about 2 C whole cookies)

1/3 C flour

¼ C unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

12oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

½ C light brown sugar

2 eggs

8oz. pumpkin purée

¼ C sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)

1 t ground ginger

1 t pumpkin pie spice (or substitute ¼ t EACH nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cinnamon)

1 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 8×8” baking pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, pulse the gingersnaps until finely crushed. Add the flour, pulse again and then add the melted butter. Process until mixture resembles wet sand. Press gingersnap mixture evenly into the baking pan and set aside.

With a hand-held beater or with a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, beat the softened cream cheese with the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Add the pumpkin puree, sour cream, spices and vanilla. Beat again until everything is combined and smooth. Pour the mixture into prepared pan. Bake until set and golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Leave the cheesecake to begin to cool in the oven another 20 minutes with the door ajar, then remove and cool completely. Once cheesecake is at room temperature place in the fridge to set, several hours or overnight. (You can also freeze the cheesecake for up to one month.) Before serving, cut into squares and drizzle with Salted Caramel. Makes 16 squares.

Homemade Salted Caramel

Double the recipe so you’ll have extra on hand for ice cream! Caramel is made from so few ingredients that using high quality butter and cream will shine through.

½ C granulated sugar

3 T high quality unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ C heavy cream, room temperature

½ t sea salt

In a very clean heavy bottom saucepan, heat the sugar on medium low heat until completely melted, swirling the pan gently every 20 seconds or so. Watch the sugar carefully, as it will turn dark and caramelize quickly, but you don’t want it to burn. Once melted and nicely dark, remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the butter. The mixture will violently bubble – don’t worry, you’re doing it right. Continue whisking quickly until all the butter is absorbed. Next, pour in the heavy cream and whisk until combined, then add the salt. Allow the caramel to cool completely before using. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for one or two days, or in the refrigerator for up to one month. Microwave if necessary to make it pourable. Yield ¾ cup.


Oranges with Caramel, Ginger and Mint

 

plum

 

 

Growing up in Europe, the Cook Sisters have childhood memories of Christmas dinner ending with a fiery plum pudding. It was made a year ahead of time, then steamed for a couple of hours before arriving at the table doused with flaming rum and served up warm with rum butter and Christmas crackers. The fact that we never actually liked the pudding itself never stopped this Old World tradition from being our favorite part of the meal. Scroll forward a few decades, and today we have our own traditions. We offer up this dessert for consideration. It makes a great dinner-party dessert because it’s not heavy, and it’s healthy, which leaves diners feeling virtuous. What could be better to end a Christmas dinner? Don’t answer that. Just enjoy this. We demoed this for Brookside back in 2011. 

oranges5 seedless oranges, such as navel
2 T crystalized ginger
1/3 C sugar
8-10 mint leaves (optional)

Zest one orange and reserve. Trim oranges of their skin and white pith; reserve top and bottom for juice. Cut trimmed orange in half lengthwise and remove core. Lay the halves flat and cut into half-moons. Arrange orange slices on a platter. Using a small paring knife, dice crystalized ginger; mix with orange zest and scatter over orange slices. In a small, heavy saucepan, heat 2 T water and the sugar until they begin to boil. Turn the heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes until sugar turns to medium brown; remove from heat. Carefully drizzle caramelized sugar over prepared orange slices; the sugar will bubble and sizzle and harden in place. Squeeze juice from reserved orange ends over the caramel. Scatter mint over all and serve within an hour for maximum crunchiness.