For those of us who love to do our creating in the kitchen, there comes a time once in a great while when one of those creations stands out as a testament of your love for the culinary arts, not by self proclamation, but by those who you love to share that art with. One might call it a "signature dish", a recipe that is frequently requested by your friends and family during special occasions, in my case, Paella and Boeuf Bourguignon. You never tire of of making them because you know how much it pleases those you invite to your dinner table. You always strive to make it perfect for them.
I have no idea whether this double layer pumpkin cheesecake will end up being remembered as a "signature dish", it's not for me to say. One thing I will say however, from the reaction that it received on Thanksgiving Day by my dinner guests and the raves it got at the office on Friday, I may be making it again and again. There is already a request for Christmas Eve. As time consuming as it was however, I would not hesitate to do it all over again. The only thing I love more than cooking is pleasing my guests and this dessert certainly did that. That makes it all worth it and makes me happy.
The night before, take the pumpkin puree and wrap it in cheese cloth and set in a strainer with a bowl underneath to capture the liquid. The day of preparation, squeeze out any excess moisture.
THE CRUST...... "Oh that crust!"
The first thing to do on preparation day is to make the bottom crust. Begin by preheating your oven to 400. In a medium wide mixing bowl, add the flour, then the butter. With your fingers, begin to gently mix the two ingredients together, breaking apart the butter. Do this until you notice the flour beginning to crumble. Now add the remaining ingredients and continue to mix with your fingers. Once you have a nice crumble, your crust is ready. Do not over mix or you will get a thicker, harder crust as opposed to more of a shortbread, crumbly crust.
Using an 8 or 9 inch spring form cake pan, spray the bottom with cooking spray, then place a sheet of parchment paper over it. While the paper is covering the bottom, attach it to the ring so that the parchment paper will be secured to the bottom. Once spring form is securely attached, cut out any excess paper from the sides. I have found that doing it this way works best and ensures easy paper removal in the end. Finally spray the surface of the paper lightly with cooking spray (or baking spray).
Sprinkle the dough in the bottom of the pan until all of it is added. Now, with your fingers, lightly press down so that the crust has evenly covered the entire bottom of your pan. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature. As it cools, the crust will become more solid. Set aside and do not detach the ring.
Since this cheesecake is two layers, you may want to use 2 spring form pans. Prepare the second pan the same as the first with the exception that the second pan or layer will not have the crust. If not, you'll have to wait until you bake the first layer and it has cooled in the fridge for several hours before baking your second layer (as I had to do). Anyway, we're getting ahead of ourselves. One step at a time.
Once you have baked the crust and set it aside, it's time to prepare the ingredients for the cheesecake. Place all the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl, making sure the cream cheese has allowed to warm to room temperature. With a hand held mixer, slowly beat the cheese so that it becomes creamy and well broken down.
Next, add all the liquid ingredients and continue to mix until well incorporated. Begin to add the eggs one at a time and blend until you have a nice creamy consistency. Next, add the pumpkin puree and thoroughly blend well. Now you can sprinkle your spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. Continue to mix and add the sifted flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
Finally, add the sugar and chocolate chips and mix the ingredients well for about a minute. Your oven should now be preheated to 325. At this time, heat 3 cups of water to boiling and have an oven safe pan large enough to fit the spring form pan into. The pan you will fit the spring form pan into should be a good 2 inches deep. Take and cover the outside of your spring form pan with foil including the bottom and sides.
Take half of the cheese cake mixture and pour it into the first pan (the one with the crust) and cover the remaining mixture with plastic wrap. If you have two pans, you will want to boil 6 cups of water and have a second pan for the spring form pan to fit into. I know this goes without saying but better to give precise directions. Place the spring form pan with the cheese cake into the two inch deep pan and set it on the top rack of your oven. Carefully pour out the water so that the spring form pan is surrounded up to 1 inch depth.
Bake your cheesecake at 325 for 2 hours and only check it at 20 minutes before it is finished baking. Opening and closing the oven door will only create uneven cooking, so try hard not to do that. When done, shut oven off and crack the oven door open to slowly allow the heat to subside. This will avoid the top of the cheesecake from cracking. Allow this for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cheesecake to sit at room temperature for another 30 minutes before you transfer it into the fridge. You should allow 4 hours in the fridge for complete cooling.
THE BUTTER CREAM FILLING
During the time cheesecake is cooling you can begin to prepare your filling (which will also be used for the sides). It is very important the butter be soft but not melted. You might want to take it out of the fridge the night before. Begin by slowly beating the butter with mixer on low until you get a nice creamy texture.
Continue to blend and add the vanilla and Bourbon. Slowly add half the cream and mix well. Now add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix well. Once half the sugar has been added, add the remaining cream and continue to mix. Finish mixing the rest of the sugar, continuing to mix until you have incorporated all the ingredients well. You may think the filling is too thick but don't worry, that's the way you want it. Taste for proper consistency and flavor.... but don't eat it all!
Cover the filling with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for about 30 minutes. This will give you the time to prepare for the assembly of your cheesecake.
What you should now have at your disposal and ready are 2 layers of cheesecake, refrigerator cooled, your butter cream filling, and a large round presentation plate. Begin with the bottom cheesecake layer that has the crust. Remove the spring form ring carefully. Place a piece of parchment paper over the top and flip the cheesecake over so that it rests on the palm of one hand (or on a cutting board). Carefully remove the bottom of the spring form pan and very carefully peel off the parchment paper that was on the bottom of your cake layer.
Now flip your presentation dish upside down and place it over the cheesecake layer. Carefully flip the cheesecake and dish over so that everything is right side up. Very carefully remove the parchment paper you had placed on the top of the cake. Remove the butter cream filling from the fridge and with a rubber spatula, stir it a few times. Using about half of the filling, cover the top surface of the layer to about 1/2 inch, making sure it's evenly spread right to the edge.
Take your second layer of your cheesecake and carefully remove the spring form ring. This top layer will be laid upside down on top of the bottom layer so that the top of the cake will be smooth and flat. Lightly grease the palm of one hand with a small amount of butter and place that palm over the top of the cake. Now flip the layer over so that it rests on your palm. With your other hand, carefully remove the spring form bottom and the parchment paper. Now place the layer over the bottom layer carefully. Make minor adjustments so that top layer matches the edges of the bottom layer.
Set aside some of the remaining filling for a presentation edge around the top of the cake where you'll be using a pastry bag to swirl a design (easy). With the rest of the filling, cover the sides of the cake thoroughly. Finally, using a pastry bag (or a plastic baggy with a small hole cut out of one corner, you will make the presentation edge around the edge of the top. Fill your pastry bag with the remaining butter cream and begin squeezing the cream around the edge of the top layer, using a swirling motion as you go along.
Once completed, set the cake in the fridge until you get the topping ready
THE FINAL STEP.... WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
Yes, we're almost done! Now we're going to get the ganache ready for the final step. This really isn't a TRUE ganache, but we'll deal with technicalities later. Bring a pot with 1 inch depth of water to a boil and set a metal mixing bowl on top. Turn heat to low and add the white chocolate chips to the mixing bowl and begin to stir with a wooden spoon. As the chocolate melts, slowly add the cream and constantly stir. You want to a achieve a smooth and thick syrup, so if you need to add more cream, do so very sparingly; you don't want this to be a liquid. When done, it should have a consistency of caramel. Remove from the heat and stir so that it cools a bit.
Take your cake out of the fridge and carefully pour the cooled chocolate over the center of the top of your cake. Swirl the cake at an angle so that the chocolate completely covers the top surface right to the edge of your cream swirl border that you made. Finally, yes FINALLY, sprinkle the Macadamia nuts so they cover the top surface. Return to the fridge and allow chocolate to set nicely.
I know this sounds so painstaking and time consuming; however, this is probably the most incredible cheesecake you will probably ever taste. This is something you will want to make only once or twice a year for very special occasions. This cake was made for Thanksgiving and a little less than half of it served 7 guests comfortably. The rest of it was taken to the office the next day and both places was extremely well received. A fellow employee was hesitant because he doesn't care for cheesecake took a small bite and decided he wanted a whole slice. Another employee (who is gluten intolerant) also took a small bite couldn't resist and had a thin slice. Still another employee who loves cheesecake said this was the best he ever had. The process may be long and drawn out, but your guests will still be raving about it a year later. It is well worth the effort, guaranteed! I will be making this again for Christmas or New Year's Eve.