Last year I put out a call for pie alternatives to be served during the pumpkin season that stretches through October and November, and I got a winner of a recipe. More on that in a minute.
It's true that many people love pumpkin pie and can't wait for autumn to roll around each year. Sadly, I can think of no other fruit or vegetable that has been more narrowly type-cast than the poor pumpkin. We acknowledge its existence for a limited time in the fall and then forget about it until next year. Eating pumpkin out of season is simply taboo.
Yet at the same time that pumpkin pie fans eat their fill during October and November, I'm guessing that just as many people merely tolerate pumpkin pie and eat it only because it is put in front of them at a holiday meal.
I haven't gone house to house on Thanksgiving with a clipboard and survey questions, but based on my observation as an occasional pie donor at Thanksgiving feasts, it appears that some people are less enamored of pumpkin pie than, say, apple, cherry or pecan pie. When Thanksgiving diners are given a choice of several pies, a good portion of the pumpkin pie is likely to go uneaten.
In past years I've been a cheerleader for sweet potato pie, which rivals pecan as my personal fave for the holiday season. This hasn't sat well with the anti-sweet potato crowd, so in the interest of greater inclusiveness, I have been looking for ways to give disaffected pie eaters a stake in Thanksgiving dessert.
In response to my cry for help last year, reader Deborah Burns sent me the following recipe, which she attributed to a 1991 installment in the Pillsbury Classic Cookbook Collection. She has made it every Thanksgiving for more 15 years.
She recommends using Philadelphia brand cream cheese, and I will second that. I have had poor luck with store brand cream cheeses in baking. In addition, the cheese and eggs always should be at room temperature when you assemble a cheesecake.
Chocolate & Pumpkin Cheesecake
1 1â2 cups crushed Oreo cookies (about 20 cookies)
2 tablespoons softened butter
3 (8-ounce) packages Philadelphia cream cheese,
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1â2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1 1â2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In food processor, combine crust ingredients; pulse until mixture is crumbly. Press into bottom and up sides of ungreased 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate.
In large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves until smooth. Add pumpkin and eggs; beat until well-blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into crust-lined pan.
Bake for 60 minutes or until edges are set. Center of cheesecake will be soft. (To minimize cracking, place shallow pan half full of hot water on lower oven rack during baking). Turn oven off; let cheesecake stand in oven with door open at least 3 inches for 30 minutes or until center is set. Remove from oven; cool to room temperature on wire rack. Carefully remove sides of pan; refrigerate overnight. Store in refrigerator.
Makes 16 to 20 servings.