Every summer at the restaurant, we bring on a lot of new cooks. One year a cook named Mike, from Colorado, showed up looking for a job, and we hired him. After working with us for a few months, he asked if I had ever had smoked pumpkin cheesecake, and our favorite fall dessert was born. As a chef, it’s important to never stop learning—my cooks teach me as much as I teach them. At the restaurant, we make a smoker with a deep pan and a perforated pan over the top, and then use another pan for a lid. I suggest doing the same at home. You can re-up the chips (I prefer apple wood) in a separate pan and just transfer to the smoker setup. Very little smoke is needed, so just a smoldering is good. —Chef Tommy Kaszubowski
Get more gourmet Thanksgiving recipes by Tommy here.
Makes 12 servings
For the cheesecake:
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1⁄4 cup butter, melted
- 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened, divided
- 1 cup roasted pumpkin puree (see main text) or canned pumpkin
- 11⁄2 cups sugar, divided
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 11⁄2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 1 apple, julienned
- Freshly grated nutmeg for serving
For the cider honey:
- 1 quart apple cider
*Place apple cider in a sauce pot and reduce gently until thick and syrupy—slow and low is best. Keep warm if using immediately, or refrigerate for later use.
For the nutmeg crema:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
*In a well-chilled bowl, whip cream with a fine whisk until soft peaks form. Add honey and nutmeg, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until needed. Cream will hold for about 8 hours; just rewhip if needed.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and press onto the bottom of a springform pan (if some crumbs are left over, reserve for another use). Bake for about 10 minutes until set; cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
For the filling, put the cream cheese and pumpkin puree into separate open foil packets (like little pans); transfer to the smoker setup and smoke briefly. Cool to room temperature before using. In a large bowl, beat one-fourth of the cream cheese, 1⁄2 cup sugar and the cornstarch until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in remaining cream cheese, one package at a time, until smooth. Add remaining sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and beat on low speed just until combined. Stir pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg into the cream cheese mixture and pour over crust.
Wrap springform pan in aluminum foil (to prevent from water seeping in) and place in a large baking pan; add 1 inch of hot water to larger pan. Bake 55 to 65 minutes, or until center is just set and top appears dull. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool one hour longer. Refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, cut cheese cake into 12 portions, using a warm, wet knife, wiping between each cut. Transfer each piece to a plate and garnish with the crema, julienned apples, a drizzle of cider honey, and freshly grated nutmeg.