No Thanksgiving feast is complete without at least one dessert, so I made individual Butternut Squash Cheesecakes. I used my mother recipes for the crust and filling.
Crust Mother Recipe
2 cups fine crumbs
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Mix the crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Using a prepared pan, pat the mixture into place. Chill until ready for filling. This recipe will produce a bottom crust for a 9" pie pan, a 9" springform pan, or four 4½" springform pans. Multiply or divide as appropriate for your needs.
Okay, now the details. The crumbs can be cookies or you could use ground candied or roasted nuts. You should use one cup of cookie crumbs to help the nuts hold together. Prepared pan? Chill it. If the pan isn't nonstick, butter it.
For the cheesecake in the picture, I used gingersnaps. I would have used some candied pecans as well, but they got eaten as a snack.
Cheesecake Filling Mother Recipe
1 pound cream cheese
flavoring(s) to taste
Using the flat beater, beat the cream cheese until fluffy, stopping at least once to scrape the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Add your chosen flavoring(s) and adjust to taste. This will make enough filling for one 9" cheesecake or four 4½" cheesecakes. For a denser cheesecake use 2 eggs. For a larger cheesecake, or a much thicker 9" cake, use 1½ pounds of cream cheese and 4 eggs.
When I say flavoring(s) to taste, I mean it. Add small amounts if you aren't certain what you're doing, taste, and adjust. For the cheesecake in the picture, I added 1 cup of butternut squash purée, 1 tablespoon of bourbon, and 3/4 cup of mulled simple syrup. I added the purée and bourbon, then added ¼ cup of simple syrup, tasted, added another, tasted, added a third, tasted, and was satisfied. Using this method you can make ANY flavor cheesecake filling and have it come out perfectly. Be sure to take notes in case you want to repeat it.
Now, the baking part is a bit tricky, because whatever you've done will involve different amounts of liquid, so I can't give you a precise time. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put your cheesecake on a baking sheet to avoid spilling into the oven. Baking time will be approximately 50 minutes, but start checking at about 30 minutes. Gently shake the rack and watch the top of the cheesecake. If you see waves, it isn't ready. If it moves like soft jello it's just right. If it's cracked, it's overdone but still delicious! You can test with a paring knife blade into the center, but of course you'll leave a hole in the cake and start a crack.
When it looks done, turn the oven off and open the oven door but do NOT remove the cheesecake for at least an hour. After an hour, or longer if the pan is too hot to handle, run a wet palette knife around the pan between the cake and pan to free the cake--be sure to press outward so you don't slice the cake! When you remove the pan from the oven to a cooling rack, loosen but do not remove the rim, then retighten it to keep the cake under control.
If you plan to remove the cheesecake from the springform bottom for service, chill the cake for an hour or so after it reaches room temperature. That way it won't be so fragile when you use a palette knife to release the bottom.
Oh yes, the topping. I used some Cranberry-Apple Chutney and a dollop of Bourbon Chantilly on top of each cheesecake. Each of us had our own cheesecake to eat or take home as we pleased.