After creating a gluten free pie crust last month, I was excited to make Pumpkin Pie this year for Thanksgiving. After not having any pie last year, I was quite excited to be able to eat pie again this holiday. And that was still the plan until about 5 days ago. But then I thought about how delicious a Pumpkin Cheesecake would be! And once I thought of cheesecake, I wasn't as excited about pie anymore. But now I had to quickly create a new gluten free dessert recipe. I decided to go for it and hope that it would turn out as well in reality as I imagined. So yesterday morning I jumped on creating and baking this dessert in time for an extended family Thanksgiving dinner yesterday at noon. I'll admit that I was taking a risk and cutting it close on time. But I figured that if it was a total disaster then I would just scrape the whole thing and no one would be the wiser since I hadn't told anyone that I was bringing dessert. And let me just say that I am so happy that I went for it. These little cheesecakes are tasty!
I used gluten free graham crackers for the crust. To sweeten the crust, I used a little brown sugar instead of the traditional granulated sugar. Then for the filling, I used organic Neuchâtel cheese, organic canned pumpkin (from a can that is BPA free), maple syrup to sweeten it and pumpkin pie spice. You could use individual spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, ect. But I had a container of pumpkin pie spice so I used that. I chose pure maple syrup to sweet the dessert because maple is a delicious, slightly healthier sugar option than granulated or brown sugar. Pure maple syrup has additional nutrients that sugar doesn't have. I like to use Neuchâtel cheese because it is 1/3 less fat than regular cream cheese and an easy substitution in baking. I used a 15 oz. can of pumpkin and only 16 oz. of cream cheese. Most recipes that use that much pumpkin also use more cream cheese. I really wanted to see if I could make the cheesecake with only 2 containers of cream cheese for two reasons. First, it is less cost and less cheese. And second, it's has more pumpkin in each serving. Pumpkins are a wonderful healthy addition to one's diet in the fall and winter months. So I really wanted more pumpkin in the dessert. The result is a cream pumpkin flavor, not as distinct of a cream cheese flavor and not as strong as a pumpkin pie flavor. I am really happy with the results.
The only thing that I will do different when I make them next time is to gently mix in the eggs properly at the end. As I said, I was in a hurry and I dumped in the whole eggs at the end of mixing all the other ingredients together and quickly blended it together on a medium speed with my mixer. Which is why when they were baking, they puffed up like little cupcakes and then promptly deflated while they cooled. That'll happen when you beat air into your cheesecake batter. ;) So make sure when you are making yours that you blend the cream cheese until smooth (that will be the longest step). Then add the remaining ingredients, except the eggs, and blend until completely combined. Take the time to scrap down the sides of the bowl so that you can blend it all together without blending longer than necessary. Then beat the eggs slightly in a small bowl, add to the batter and blend on a low speed just until the eggs are incorporated. Do it this way and you should have nice even and level topped cheesecakes.
As for my deflated cheesecakes, those little deflated centers were a perfect place to place a dollop of whipped cream, which I then sprinkled with a little more spice. When life gives you deflated cheesecakes, fill it with whipped cream! :D
Gluten Free Mini Maple Pumpkin Cheesecakes
1 1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
4 tbsp organic unsalted butter, melted
2 8 oz.containers of organic Neuchâtel cheese
15 oz. can organic pumpkin
3/4 c. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
To make the crust:
In a small bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, salt and butter until all the crumbs are moistened. Line muffin tins with muffin paper and spray them with cooking spray. Then scoop the crumbs into the liners, 1 tbsp. into each muffin liner. Then with the back of the tablespoon, press the crumbs firmly into the bottom of the liners. Bake the crusts at 325ºF for 8 minutes.
To make the filling:
Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing. Then add the pumpkin, maple syrup, vanilla and spice. Blend all together until the ingredients are completely combined. Add the slightly beaten eggs and mix in just until they are incorporated. Do not overmix!
Pour the batter into a liquid measuring cup to make the pouring easier. Then pour the batter into the prepared crust in the muffin tins. Pour the batter up to almost the very top of the muffin liners. Then place in a preheated 325°F oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the center of the cheesecakes are set and jiggle slightly when the pan is gently shaken.
Cool completely before serving.
Makes 22 mini cheesecakes.