Sunday, November 19, 2006

Low Carb Pumpkin Cheesecake

I love cheesecake but don't make it very often. You know, the fat, the sugar... arrrg! For a while, if I wanted a dessert like this, I would adapt it using low-fat dairy products, Splenda and even an egg substitute*. While I still use Splenda, on doing further research, I found out that low-fat items have more carbs in them. Yuk! I count carbs because it works for me. But I also have to watch the amount of fats I ingest bringing us back around to the ol' "I don't make it very often" saw.

'Tis the Season however, so this cheesecake graced my table last night to the delight of our guests. Using full fat ingredients, Splenda, and nuts as a crust instead of cookie crumbs or graham crackers, makes this dessert very low in carbs. Each serving (if you cut the cake into 12 equal pieces) has 6 grams of usable carbs and 6 grams of protein. See how I sneakily left out the fat grams? You don't want to know.

People, just because I use Splenda in place of sugar doesn't mean that I think everyone should. If you like to use sugar, eschewing other types of sweeteners in your cooking and baking, far be it from me to criticize. Therefore in this recipe, which is adapted from Dana Carpender's 500 Low Carb Recipes, I'll give you both Splenda and sugar measurements which you can use however you please. Either way, this cheesecake is a winner.

Low Carb Pumpkin Cheesecake
Adapted from 500 Low Carb Recipes

Ingredients:
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
2 - 8 ounce packages cream cheese brought to almost room temperature
3/4 cup Splenda Granular OR 3/4 cup regular sugar OR 1/2 cup Splenda-Sugar Blend
2 teaspoons good vanilla (check bottle for no added sugar or corn syrup)
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin (not the pie mix stuff), preferrably organic
1/2 cup sour cream
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation:
Set your oven to 300 degrees with the oven rack set in the middle.
Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.
Beat the cream cheese, Splenda or sugar and vanilla in the large bowl of an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the pumpkin and sour cream and mix thoroughly.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition.
Add the spices and salt and mix to blend. Set cheesecake mixture aside.
Sprinkle the toasted pecans over the bottom of the springform pan, spreading them out to completely cover the bottom**. (See my notes at the bottom of this post).
Immediately pour the batter over the nuts then tap the pan gently on your kitchen counter to settle the batter.
Bake for 1 hour plus 10 minutes, or more, until a knife placed in the center of the cheesecake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and place on a cake rack. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing the ring from the pan.
This cake must chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.

To serve, cut into 12 equal wedges and top with a dollop of Splenda-sweetened whipped cream or a dollop of creme fraiche***. Pour a small glass of port, such as Taylor Fladgate 20 yr. old tawny port. Enjoy!

Cook's Notes:
* I have made this cheesecake using egg substitute and it worked pretty well. But whole eggs add a richness that simply can't be beat. If you excercise portion control you'll be just fine.

** I have found, at least with my springform pan, that the combination of the butter on the bottom of the pan and the chopped pecans, toasted or not, sprinkled over to make the base for the cheesecake batter, causes the pecans to turn black. I have a suspicion that this is because of the nuts and butter being in direct contact with the metal pan. So, next time I make this recipe, I will butter the pan then put down a piece of parchment paper that's been cut to fit in the bottom of the pan, butter the parchment THEN sprinkle in the nuts. I didn't put these instructions in the recipe above because I forgot to do it this time:(

*** If you really want to doll up this cheesecake, I recommend spreading a layer of creme fraiche over the top of the entire cake before cutting it. Waaaaay decadent, but low carb. And we like that.

PS: Check out Kalyn's Sugar Free Pumpkin Cheesecake for a wonderful and different version of this seasonal treat. Kalyn is also making an on-going post of recipes that are lower in sugar and fat for the holidays. Check her list out here.