With less than a week to go, it was time to carve our pumpkins. Every year we carve out(har, har) the time to decorate our pumpkins while watching Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Charlie Brown is saved for another night, pumpkin carving means Jack Skellington at our house.
Plastic is laid out and the shirts come off because it's mess making time. Snuggle Bunny is a planner and likes to draw his design on paper first, then transfer that to the pumpkin before carving.
Whirling Dervish likes to cut without a plan.
The boys always finish ages before I do. I tend to go in with grandiose plans for my pumpkin, picking the super, duper, difficult, expert level picture out of the carving book or drawing ridiculous freeform stuff. This year's design involved about 50,000 holes in various widths. Thank goodness for the quick change head on the drill. I was still working on mine when the boys had headed off to bed. Here they are lit up in the basement. I was too tired to bring them out to the stoop.
And here they are in the light of day.
The poor scarecrow is looking a bit bedraggled, because it rained overnight.
After dragging the pumpkins out to the stoop, I fired up the oven for another baking session. My cheesecakes are famous inside of my family and circle of friends. My father claims that he can no longer eat store bought cheesecake, because mine is so good. I realize he's supposed to say nice things having helped create me, but trust me, that's high praise. I have numerous variations of the basic cheesecake, but during autumn there's only one I make: the Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake.
My cheesecake recipe is really easy for the non-baker to make. It doesn't use a bain marie(water bath) or any other tricky techniques. First things first. Put all your ingredients on the counter and leave them there. Go take a shower, have some coffee, get your kids ready for school, drive to school to drop off the lunch your child forgot, catch up with your favorite blogs(like this one, hint, hint,) etc. The batter won't mix up right if your cream cheese and eggs aren't at room temperature.
Preheat your oven to 425. I know that's high. Trust me.
Let's start with the crust. I like to use ginger snaps for the crust on my Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake because they taste like holidays to me. Feel free to use graham crackers. I use a whole package of these ginger snaps by Mi-Del.
You can crumble them in a food processor, or if you don't want to dirty another hard to wash machine, do what I do. I pop my cookies into a ziplock baggie and crush them with my rolling pin.
Melt 6 tbsps of butter and pour the butter into the baggie. Smush the butter and crumbs together until every crumb has been moistened with the butter. Dump the crumbs into a 9" springform pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper. Press into the bottom of the pan with the back of a spoon.
Beat 3 - 8oz blocks of cream cheese in your stand mixer for 4 minutes until nice and creamy, scraping down the sides every now and again. Beat in 1 - 14oz can sweetened condensed milk. Add in 3 eggs one at a time. Add 1 tbsp vanilla extract.
Pour 3 cups batter in large measuring cup. Add 1/2 cup pumpkin puree and 1/8 tsp allspice to remaining batter. Alternate dropping globs of plain batter and pumpkin batter into the prepared pan. Run a knife through the pan to swirl the batter.
Place in the preheated oven. Set your timer for 12minutes. When the timer goes off, reduce the oven temperature to 225. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. Let it bake at 225 for 1 hour. Turn off the oven. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR. Leave the cheesecake in there for another hour. You may now open the oven door and pull out a perfect, creamy, uncracked cheesecake.
Let the cheesecake cool completely before placing in the frig. Refrigerate for 6 hours before eating. I'm freezing this one for Saturday.
So just in case you missed it above, under no circumstances should you open the oven door when baking a cheesecake without a water bath, not even for a peek. The temperature fluctuations will cause cracking, which won't affect the taste, but will make it not so pretty.
Thanks for popping in and would love for you to try this at home. Cheesecake never fails to impress, put your own flavor spin on it. I'm linking up this recipe to The White Blue Sky's Culinary Evolution, Gluten Free Homemaker's Gluten Free Wednesdays, Fireflies and Jellybeans's Show of Your Stuff party, and Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.