An Italian inspired cheesecake, light, airy, and full of the season’s best pumpkin flavor. This Gluten Free Pumpkin Cheesecake is a taste of fall in every bite.
**DON’T MISS THE GIVEAWAY AT THE END OF THIS POST**
I hail from an Italian family, a family whose patriarchs and matriarchs immigrated from Italy to America. Growing up, I remember many a family gathering. Generations of all ages together laughing, speaking very loudly, and enjoying some of the best food in the world. Good memories!
You better believe that there was no shortage of dessert at any family gathering. Amazing treats (with amazing names) such as cannoli, biscotti, tiramisu, panettone, struffoli, and sfogliatelle filled the table. I remember the white bakery boxes, each securely fastened by red & white baker’s twine. If you could break through that twine, open the box, and move away the waxed paper, beneath waited such fine-crafted goodness.
Ricotta Based Cheesecake
Another dessert staple was cheesecake. But not cheesecake in the way we typically think of it. The cheesecake I remember did not have the density that the majority of today’s cheesecakes have. Instead, there was an unexpected lightness to each slice. It really was such a pleasant texture and free of the heaviness that weighs most cheesecake down.
The secret to lightening up cheesecake is found in ricotta cheese. Many traditional Italian dessert recipes start with a base of ricotta. In fact, a true Italian cheesecake will be made exclusively with ricotta and no cream cheese. My cheesecake is a mix of both American and Italian traditions featuring both ricotta and cream cheese in the recipe.
Preparing the Ricotta
Great desserts begin with great ingredients. Friends, this is not the time to cheap out. Opt for a good quality, WHOLE MILK ricotta. In all honesty, I have found that generic, cheap ricotta is often quite watery. Watery ricotta will ruin your cheesecake. Also, do NOT use skim milk/part skim milk/fat free ricotta.
Cheesecake is simply not meant to be a low-fat food. If you plan on eating cheesecake everyday, then, yes, we should talk. But as an occasional treat, enjoy a great piece of cheesecake without the guilt. The same advice pertains to cream cheese as well: don’t cheap out and don’t go fat free or light.
All ricotta has some water content, and you would be best served by taking the extra step of draining some of that water out. Begin by emptying the ricotta into a bowl. Break the ricotta apart with a fork. Line a fine mesh strainer with two layers of paper towel or cheesecloth. Suspend the strainer over a bowl or pot. Be sure that the bottom of the strainer does not come into contact with the bottom of the bowl or pot. A 2-inch clearing is best.
Place the ricotta into the lined strainer. Allow the ricotta to drain, at room temperature, for 30-60 minutes. The longer, the better. You will have less water drainage when using full fat ricotta. Skim milk ricotta will contain far more water. Taking the time to drain the ricotta will be well worth it!
Some traditional cheesecake recipes do not have a crust. But, a delicious flavorful cookie based crust really adds something great to cheesecake. Making your own crust is super simple. I typically use one of the following gluten free cookies:
I have tested this recipe with both products. I simply place the contents of one box/bag into a food processor and pulse until fine cookie crumbs form. I then add 4 tablespoons of softened, salted butter to the processor and pulse until incorporated.
Next, press the cookie crumbs into the bottom of a 9″ spring form pan, going 1″ up the sides as well. Be sure to press the crumbs very firmly into the pan. Set aside (there is no need to prebake this crust).
There is something so wonderful about a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. Pumpkin puree simply belongs in cheesecake. Be sure to opt for pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie mix. If you find that there is some water on the top of the puree once the can is opened, carefully tip the can a bit to allow the water to drain away.
This cheesecake is one of those recipes that will become a tradition at your fall dessert table and is sure to be a huge hit at Thanksgiving.
Separating the Eggs
My recipe calls for separating eggs. While the egg yolks will be placed into the food processor to be blended with the cream mixture, the egg whites will be whipped until stiff peaks form. I always love watching simple egg whites being transformed into light, airy clouds! It’s very easy.
Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Gradually increase the mixer speed to high and whisk until stiff peak form. This should only take 1 – 1 & 1/2 minutes.
At this point in the recipe, the eggs whites will be added to cheese/pumpkin mixture and folded in. You do not want to use a mixer or food processor for this step. Simply use a silicone spatula to fold the whites into the mixture until they are completely incorporated. Resist the urge to stir vigorously. Time and gentleness will add lightness and air into your mixture. This step plays an important role in creating an airy and light cheesecake.
Is this recipe really worth the time and effort?
Friends, I would not be sharing this recipe with you if it was not worth your time and effort. While I typically do not create and share recipes that have many steps and require several appliances, I believe that this cheesecake will truly be the star of your dessert table at your upcoming gatherings.
Cheesecake is one of those recipes that require time; time to make, time to bake, time chill. I have found that slow food that takes time is often some of the best food around.
Gluten Free Pumpkin Cheesecake
An Italian inspired cheesecake, light, airy, and full of the season’s best pumpkin flavor.
- 32 ounces Whole Milk Ricotta
- 16 ounces Block Cream Cheese (2 packages) – at room temperature
- 3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated – at room temperature
- 15 ounce can pumpkin puree (100% pumpkin)
- 2 tablespoons gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum (I used Bob's 1 to 1)
- 1.5 – 2 cups sifted powdered sugar (for a lightly sweet cheesecake, use 1.5 cups; for more sweetness add 2 cups)
- 1.5 tablespoons cinnamon
- 1.5 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I used Rodelle)
- 6-8 ounce box gluten free gingersnap or vanilla wafer cookies, crushed
- 4 tablespoons salted butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Place the ricotta into a bowl. Break apart with a fork. Place 2 layers of paper towel or cheesecloth into a fine mesh strainer. Place the ricotta into the strainer. Place the strainer over a bowl or pot allowing 2" clearance between both. Allow the ricotta bundle to drain for 30-60 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Create the pie crust by placing the gluten free gingersnaps into a food processor. Pulse several times until uniform crumbs are left.
Add in the softened butter and pulse until incorporated
Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9" spring form pan. Come 1" up the sides of the pan as well
Set aside. No need to prebake the crust.
Separate 3 eggs, reserving the whites in a separate bowl for later use.
Add the egg yolks, cream cheese, and vanilla into a food processor. Pulse until smooth.
Remove the drained ricotta from the cheesecloth (discard). Add the ricotta and pumpkin
into the food processor. Pulse until smooth
Add the remaining dry ingredients (powdered sugar, gluten free flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves) into the food processor. Run the processor on high for 15 seconds. Stop. Scrap down the sides with a silicone spatula. Process on high again for 15 more seconds until the mixture is completely smooth
Empty the contents into a large bowl.
Place the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the egg whites on high until still peaks form and hold their shape firmly.
Empty the whipped egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Fold the egg whites into the
pumpkin until completely incorporated
Spoon the cheesecake mixture into the prepared spring form pan
Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes
Turn the oven off. Allow the cheesecake to sit in the oven for an additional 15 minutes (with the heat off).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for 2 hours
Place the cheesecake (still in the spring form pan) in the refrigerator, UNCOVERED, overnight.
Once completely chilled and just before serving, make the homemade whipped cream by
whipping together the whipping cream and powdered sugar until thickened
Place the whipped cream in a piping bag with your favorite tip. You may also place the cream into a resealable bag with the corner snipped off.
Pipe the cream along the perimeter of the cheesecake. Place a few dark chocolate
chips along the edge
To celebrate the beginning of fall, I have a wonderful giveaway for my followers. I have partnered with Jackie, a friend of mine from The Darling Home Co. The Darling Home Co. features handcrafted coconut wax based candles. Free from phthalates, paraffin, and toxins, each candle from The Darling Home Co. burns cleaner and longer and with less soot than other candles.
So much attention to detail goes into each candle, and everything with your family’s well being in mind. I also love that with each purchase a donation will be made to RestStop ministries, a place providing safe refuge and rehabilitation to survivors of human trafficking.
Today is an exciting day for you because you will have a chance to win their newest candle: PUMPKIN GINGERBREAD.
Want a chance to win? It’s easy. Be sure to do BOTH:
- Head over to the Facebook page for The Gluten Free Gathering. Like the page.
- Head over to the Facebook page for The Darling Home Co. Like the page.
Technical Rules: Contest begins Monday, September 30, 2019 at 12:01am EST and ends on Sunday, October 6, 2019 at 11:59pm EST. Facebook time stamp will serve as the official time for this contest. No purchase necessary to enter. Open to US residents only. To enter, like the Facebook pages for both The Gluten Free Gathering and The Darling Home Co.. Only those who have liked both pages will be entered into the random draw. One winner will be randomly selected on Monday, October 7, 2019. The potential winner will be contacted via direct message on Facebook Messenger from The Gluten Free Gathering. The winner will need to provide a valid mailing address and full name within 2 business days from the initial contact. If the necessary information is not received within 2 business days, the potential winner will forfeit their prize, and an alternative winner will be selected. By providing a name and address, the winner agrees to have this information shared with The Darling Home Co. for the purpose of mailing your prize. Winner will receive (1) Pumpkin Gingerbread Candle. No substitutions available. No cash value. The Gluten Free Gathering and The Darling Home Co. shall not be responsible for goods damaged during shipping or for packages lost in transit.
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