Sydney likes breathing! My surgery has come and gone, and I’m definitely on the path to recovering well. I had the last of the things intruding into my face removed on Monday, and now I just have to let it do what it’s meant to do. In the meantime, I’m learning about breathing through my nose — which should be a reflex but isn’t anymore after years of disuse.
One of the great things about the surgery was that my mother was able to come and look after me. I didn’t know in what way she would be helpful, but she definitely was. She did the majority of the cooking and cleaning, allowing CB to go to work without guilt. I used what energy I had to pursue what I felt like was a a very noble goal:
Make Mum feel less crap about living gluten-free
I wanted to show her that, while not always easy — especially not in places like Belfast or rural Georgia — a gluten-free life doesn’t have to be completely depressing. A couple of months ago, Mum had to undergo a battery of allergy tests, completely changing the way she lives her life. Unfortunately, but, I’m sure, not coincidentally, many of the things she’s been told to remove from her diet are the very things I’ve removed after years of trial and error. The biggies: gluten and beef.
Since I wasn’t quite up to my standard, I instructed her on making those pumpkin cupcakes I do so adore. Before she arrived, I also whipped up a favourite I perfected last year: pumpkin cheesecake. (Can you tell it’s autumn, and I’ve gotten a pumpkin from the market?)
My mother was quite like me about pumpkin before I’d tried it. I remember thinking I hated pumpkin because I didn’t care for a lot of other squashes. I’d never even carved a pumpkin until I was 16. I got the flu when I was in college, and a friend sent over muffins to cheer me up. I had no idea what they were. From a box, she said, and frosting from a can. Yeah, but what flavour? It absolutely blew my mind to discover they were pumpkin.
It wasn’t until I moved to Northern Ireland that I started craving pumpkin. I think it was a response to knowing I wasn’t in America but REALLY starting to feel it. Unfortunately, pumpkins are only available in the month of October here, so I missed out the first time around for not recognizing my craving soon enough. Last year, after having lost another piece of my Americanness by marrying a Northern Irish man, I grabbed hold to as many pumpkins as I could, and the pumpkin cheesecake is one of the results.
I didn’t get any beautiful pictures because it was gone that fast.
24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups pureed pumpkin
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
1/4 cups sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (separated into 2 halves)
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups gluten-free graham cracker or digestive biscuit crumbs
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 stick salted butter, melted
Ruby (or mixer, or strong arms)
mixing bowl (2 if you don’t use a mixer)
measuring cups and spoons
egg separator (not necessary, but I just got a new one that I adore)
Pre-heat oven to 350°F/175°C.
In a bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Press the mixture into the bottom of your springform pan.
Using a mixer or your wooden spoon, whip the cream cheese by itself until it gets shinier. There’s not really a perfect thing to say to look for. You want it smooth. Add the pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar, remaining cinnamon, and nutmeg. Mix together until combined. Add in the flour and vanilla extract. Make sure everything looks uniform.
Lumps aren’t a good idea. I made one where I found there was a bit of unmixed cream cheese at the bottom of the bowl; I threw it on the top of the cheesecake, thinking it would all melt in together. WRONG. I had white lumps of no flavour in the finished product. Though, I will admit that I like to leave some of the pumpkin a little chunky, sometimes. This gives you a cheese with a little extra texture and bit of a fruity bite. If you don’t like that, don’t do that. If you’re using canned pumpkin, you don’t have much choice there.
Pour the mixture over the crumb base. Gently tap it on the countertop to remove any big air bubbles. If you don’t, they will find their ways to the top and create big, burnt, air-filled lumps on the surface. Bake for 55-60 minutes. When it is completed, leave it to cool at room temperature for 20 minutes before covering with cling film (or a large plate if it’s more handy) and moving it to the refrigerator for 4 hours. At this point, remove the sides of the springform and either leave it on the base or put it on a cake stand or plate or whatever you have around. I don’t like to leave it on the base because, when I slice through the cheesecake, I don’t want to knick the coating of the pan.
When serving, I like to make it look fancy with a light dusting of icing sugar (powdered sugar) or cinnamon . . . or an icing sugar/cinnamon mix! . . . and a dollop of whipped cream on the top.
Give it to someone who doesn’t like pumpkin.