I can’t actually believe it, but it’s true.
It’s been a whirlwind, no doubt. Arriving there last Tuesday, heading into the kitchen, and beginning the task of making dinner for 50 people in one of the best restaurants in Seattle (with a camera crew following your every move no less) felt like such an honor, and such an adventure.
In many ways, I was incredibly naive. Things that I thought would take an hour, took double. Different equipment and unexpected ingredients caused a few hiccups (including turning an entire batch of whipped cream into gross chunky butter), but I also surprised myself in my ability to keep calm, do what I love to do, and put out two courses that the diners and the judges deemed the best. None of it could have been done without the incredible team at Rover’s, who simply by proxy taught me valuable kitchen tricks and how to do things faster, smarter, and more elegantly. They were gracious and generous with a bunch of civilians bumbling around in their kitchen, but most of all they were kind. They made an undeniably stressful day, fun as well, which is really what food should be all about.
I’m now prepping for the Finale, and thinking about what my next round of recipes should look like, but I’m also trying my hardest to just enjoy the moment and the magic, because it lights me up inside. And it gives me the spark to keep going and keep doing what I enjoy the most.
And so, with no further adieu, I am so excited to share the winning dessert recipe. Thanksgiving might be over, but this one will make a perfect end to just about any Fall or Winter dinner.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Gingersnap Crust, Finished with Curry Whipped Cream
Adapted from Desserts in Jars by Shaina Olmanson. Makes 24, 4-ounce cheesecakes.
Don’t let the curry scare you. It is the secret ingredient that takes this dessert to a whole new level. You just want a hint of it, but you’ll be amazed with how it changes the whole dish. For the competition I made these in individual silicone molds. While these make for a more formal presentation, 4 oz glass jars are also lovely and more portable. If making and serving in the jars, grease well, and then put the crust in first.
For the Crust:
- 3 cups gingersnaps, ground into crumbs
- 6 TB (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the Cheesecake:
- 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- Pinch of cardamom
- 3 Large Eggs
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Curry Whipped Cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 TB confectioner’s sugar
- 1 TB curry, or to taste
- Preheat oven to 325.
- Make the crust: In a medium bowl combine the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter until all of the crumbs are coated. Set aside.
- Make the cheesecake: In a large stand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. It is easy to get impatient with this step, but you want it to be incredibly soft and airy, beating easily for 3-5 minutes over medium-high, scraping the bowl and the beater entirely every 1-2 minutes.
- Beat in the pumpkin puree, and beat another 1-2 minutes.
- Add in the sugar and spices, and beat for 1-2 minutes until totally incorporated, scraping as necessary.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla and beat until well combined.
- Spoon into 4 ounce silicone molds (half-sphere or pyramids), leaving 1/2 inch from the top.
- Pat the crust onto the tops, smooshing slightly with your hand to form a crust.
- Add a clean dish towel to a pan with high sides, and gently transfer the molds to that pan. Place the pans with the molds in the oven and carefully add hot water to the pans to come halfway up the sides of the molds.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or just until their centers are almost set. Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecakes and water to cool slowly for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Once totally cool carefully remove from molds, and invert, saving ginger snap crumbs that fall off.
- Right before serving, whip together the cream, confectioners’ sugar and curry in a bowl until stiff peaks form. Pipe over the top of the spheres, sprinkle with saved ginger snap crumbs, and finish with sprinkling of powdered sugar.