by Jo Marie Scaglia
Spending time with my 3-year-old daughter Star is by far my favorite thing to do on any given day, but like most, this thing called “work” takes me away for many hours. When I can combine my work, spending time with Star, and a little learning moment for her and some lucky kids in her preschool class, it’s a win-win. That’s exactly what happened recently when we ran across Margaret McNamara’s fun book, “How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin,” at Barnes & Noble.
There’s lots to learn about pumpkins and math in this informative book, and tons of really cute pictures. I let Star take it to school and her classmates were intrigued! How many seeds were actually in the pumpkin? I let Star’s teachers know that I could bring a couple of pie pumpkins into the classroom and we could do a little experiment. What better way to find out how many seeds were in each pumpkin than to split them, harvest the seeds and then make something fun with the pumpkin meat?
And what’s more fun than Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes?
Before I started the cheesecake, I roasted the pumpkins with honey, melted butter, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. They looked so beautiful roasted that I hated to mash them up for a pumpkin puree but I had to stick to my word and show up with hand made roasted pumpkin for the class.
The next day, I packed up my homemade pumpkin puree, a few kitchen tools, some baking supplies and I was off to bake some mini cheesecakes with Star, her classmates and the fantastic teachers. We put together the crust, cheesecake filling and fresh whipped cream for the cheesecakes and then got to sample them.
They were wonderful.
I was able to write a new recipe. The kids found out just how many seeds were in a pumpkin, how to take a fruit and turn it into something really yummy and we ALL got to enjoy a delicious snack on what would have been just a regular school day.
For this recipe, you are, of course, welcome to use canned pumpkin puree. The enjoyment comes from roasting the pumpkin yourself. These mini cheesecakes are great alternatives to the classic pumpkin pie in many ways and I really like that they are individual servings which makes it harder to over indulge.
Star’s Pumpkin Patch Cheesecakes
Yields 36 individual standard size cheesecakes
ROASTED PUMPKIN PUREE (optional but delicious & EASY):
- 1 pie pumpkin
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST:
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (You can substitute up to 1 cup finely chopped pecans for the graham cracker crumbs if desired.)
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1½ cups (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
- ¾ cup sour cream, room temperature
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¾ cup cane sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
- 1 small roasted pie pumpkin (see ROASTED PUMPKIN PUREE) or 15 ounce can pumpkin puree, room temperature
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 3 tablespoons flour
STEP 1: ROASTED PUMPKIN PUREE
Preheat the oven to 375. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Cut stem off pie pumpkin. Quarter pumpkin and remove seeds with spoon. Place pumpkin wedges on baking sheet and drizzle with honey, melted butter, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Place in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until pumpkin is soft and slightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool. Spoon out flesh from skin and set aside.
STEP 2: GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST:
Mix the graham-cracker crumbs (pecans if using), brown sugar, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla in a small bowl. Stir in the melted butter until all the ingredients are well mixed. Line standard size cupcake tins with liners. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of crust mixture in each liner. Press down with fingertips and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla and spices until smooth. Add brown sugar and cane sugar. Add the pumpkin puree, eggs and flour and mix until combined.
STEP 4. ASSEMBLE THE CHEESECAKES:
Pour the batter over the crust. Bake for 15 minutes or until domed and firm to the touch. Allow cakes to cool for 10 minutes then refrigerate overnight. Top with whipped cream before serving.
Click HERE for a printable recipe and grocery list to make Star’s Pumpkin Patch Cheesecakes!