I’ve never been much for a fan of pumpkin pie. Stodgy anemic pastry, thick, rubbery custardy fillings – it just doesn’t do it for me. But I’ve had a sugar pumpkin sitting on my counter for ages and it was begging to be cooked, so I decided to play around with a gluten-free pumpkin cheesecake. I wanted something that wasn’t too sweet and could use fresh natural ingredients. I got there by mashing-up a few different recipes, and frankly winging it. I made most of the cheesecake in our holiday vacation rental which had the most basic equipment, including some electrical appliances from the 60s.
Step one – cooking the pumpkin. You need 3/4 of a cup of pureed pumpkin for the final recipe, so one is enough. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds (and roast them to eat later). Next place the pieces, cut-side down in a roasting pan, with about an inch of water in the bottom. Cook at around 370 degrees Farenheit, for about 25-30 minutes. You can tell when it’s cooked because a knife easily goes through the flesh.
Once it’s cooled, scoop out the flesh and place in a strainer. You’ll be amazed at how much liquid these squashes hold. You don’t want to get rid of it all, but you do need to remove most of it. Just use the back of a spoon to press the flesh against the strainer and the water will come pouring out. (You’re not trying to push the flesh through the strainer).
Next, pop the flesh into a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside. You can do this step the day before, if you like.
Step two, was finding a recipe for gluten-free graham crackers. There are thousands on the interwebs, and most are some variation of the one below. I used less sugar and honey than recommended, because I really don’t have a sweet tooth these days, but you can go for the full amount if you like.
- 2 cups gluten-free flour mix (I used gluten-free girl’s flour)
- 1/4 cup, almond flour
- ½ cup packed brown sugar (I used about 1/3 of a cup)
- 1¾ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 7 tablespoons cold butter (pref. organic), cut into pieces
- 3 tablespoons ice-cold water
- 3 tablespoons honey or agave (I used 1 tablespoon and a dash of water)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
– Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.
– Put all the dry ingredients into a food processor. Cut the butter up into small cubes, add to the dry ingredients and process until the mixture resembles pea-size pebbles.
– Combine the wet ingredients, including the honey, and slowly add to the dry ingredients, pulsing until the mixture is just combined.
– Bind together with your hands, separate into two equal parts and then shape each into a square. Cover in cling-wrap and refrigerate for at least 20-30 mins.
– Next, tear off a piece of parchment paper, the same size as your baking tray. Place one piece of the dough on the parchment; cover with cling-wrap and then roll out to 1/4 inch thickness – maintaining the square edges if possible.
– Pick up the parchment, complete with dough, (discard the cling-wrap) and then take pizza wheel to mark out squares. No need to separate – just leave as is. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. (Repeat with the second piece of dough.)
– Bake for 12-18 minutes – you don’t want them to get too dark, but the exact timing will depend on your oven. Once removed from the oven, re-run your pizza wheel through the grooves to ensure easy separation once cooled. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes before separating and removing from the baking tray.
Making the Cheesecake
- 7 oz gluten-free graham crackers
- 2-3 tbsps of organic butter (melted)
- 1 cup plain Greek yoghurt
- 1x 8oz package of organic cream cheese
- 3/4 cup of roasted, pureed pumpkin
- 1 egg white (organic)
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp of ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp of freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-3 tbsps of sugar (depending on taste) – or you can use 3/4 tsp of organic vanilla creme stevia
– Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.
– Line the base of an 8″ cake pan with a removable bottom with aluminum foil.
– Use a blender or food processor to turn your beautiful crackers into fine breadcrumbs.
– Stir the melted butter into the cookie crumbs until blended and moistened. If you want extra crunch and a touch of sweetness, stir in a tablespoon of raw or demerara sugar. Then firmly press the crumbs into the cake pan using the back of a metal spoon.
– Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Once ready, remove and allow to cool.
– Meanwhile, use a food processor to combine the Greek yoghurt and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar or stevia to taste. Fold in the pureed pumpkin.
– Whisk the egg white until fluffy. Fold into the pumpkin mixture until just blended.
– Finally, fold in all the dry ingredients and vanilla extract until just incorporated.
– Use a spatula to spread the filling over the cooled crumb base. Place in the oven for 20-25 mins – until the center has the barest of jiggles to the touch – you don’t want it too firm or the filling will be too dry.
– Once you remove from the oven, allow to cool before laying cling-wrap directly onto the top of the cheesecake (this will prevent a skin from forming). Place in the fridge for at least 3 hours before serving.
Enjoy! The yoghurt gives the cheesecake a really clean, sharp taste – not too cloying and sweet like so many other cheesecakes, while the pumpkin and spices are just the right flavors for the season. I promise this won’t last long!
Note: Of course, you can use store-bought cookies, non-gluten-free, add sugar, use canned pumpkin and non-organic ingredients! This recipe is pretty forgiving for whatever substitutions you fancy.