Karin Calloway

Food columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.

A taste of the season

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It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is almost here. In preparation for the national holiday, I'm giving an easy recipe for pumpkin cheesecake that you can add to your holiday desserts. One of the good things about cheesecake is that you can bake, cool and freeze one this week and then defrost and serve it on Thanksgiving Day.

Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake  Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake

Instead of the usual graham cracker crust, this cheesecake's crust is a combination of crushed gingersnap cookies and pecans. I pulse gingersnaps in the food processor first, add the pecans, sugar and melted butter, and pulse a few times to combine. Use the bottom of a measuring cup or other flat-bottom kitchen cup to press the crust down into a uniform thickness.

This cheesecake is not overly sweet, and it gets its sweetness from a can of sweetened condensed milk instead of sugar.

The cheesecake needs to cool for an hour before removing the sides of the springform pan. If you want to freeze the cake, cool it completely and wrap it in plastic wrap and then in heavy-duty foil before freezing. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

I like to garnish the cheesecake with pecan halves so that any guests with nut allergies will know that the cheesecake has nuts in it.

EASY PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

For the crust:

2 cups gingersnaps, crushed

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup butter, melted

Place the gingersnaps into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until you have fine crumbs. Add the pecans and melted butter and pulse until combined.

Press into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan and set aside.

For the filling:

3 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, softened at room temperature for 1 hour 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 1 15-ounce can solid packed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

4 large eggs 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

12-16 toasted pecan halves, optional, for garnish

Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat the combine cream cheese and condensed milk together with an electric mixer in a large bowl until completely smooth. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth.

Add the eggs, one at a time and then beat in the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract. Spread over the prepared crust and bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour and then refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, run a thin paring knife around the outer edge of the pan and unmold the cake. Garnish with the toasted pecan halves, if desired.

Makes 8-12 servings.

Cook-off

Do you think you're a better cook than our food writer, Karin Calloway? Prove it. We're holding a bake-off that will pit your holiday cookies against holiday cookies from Karin. We'll need your recipe, and we'll need you to make the cookies, which will be judged at The Chronicle building on Dec. 14. The first step to enter is to submit a recipe. Send it to tim.rausch@augustachronicle.com by 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3. One recipe per cook, please. Include a contact name and telephone number with your entry. If your recipe is selected for the competition, we'll need you to bake the cookies and bring them to The Augusta Chronicle's office at 725 Broad St. by 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13. The winner of the bake-off will receive an assortment of cookbooks and other goodies.

WHAT'S COOKING?

We're looking for your best kitchen creation, whether it's a simple chili or an elaborate continental concoction. Our food writer, Karin Calloway, will re-create your dish, and we'll feature it on the Wednesday food page of The Chronicle. Send your recipe and contact information to karin.calloway@comcast.net, or write to Recipe Favorites, Newsroom, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30903-1928.

Groceries

1 box gingersnap cookies

Chopped pecans

Butter

3 8-ounce blocks cream cheese

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 15-ounce can solid packed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

Pumpkin pie spice

Toasted pecan halves for use as garnish (optional)

Pantry: Large eggs, vanilla extract


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