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Kabocha Squash Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

In November 2004, just a week before Thanksgiving, Melissa Clark featured this recipe in the New York Times. Shortly thereafter, a flood of orders for the cheesecake came in to Spice Market, but it wasn’t even on the menu. I had no intention of making whole cheesecakes for sale, but customers persisted. I gladly changed my mind when I saw how happy it made people to take home a tasty and exotic variation on an old favorite.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Chantilly

Makes 2 cups

1 cup (8 ounces/227 grams) heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1/8 teaspoon salt

Whisk the cream until soft peaks form.

Add the sweetened condensed milk and salt and whisk until medium-soft peaks form. (When you lift the whisk from the cream, a peak should form and the very tip should fall back down.)

Cooking Methodbaking, steaming

CostInexpensive

Moderate

Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Equipmentfood processor, steamer

Mealdinner, tea

Moodfestive

Taste and Texturecheesy, nutty, spiced, sweet

Type of Dishcheesecake

Ingredients

  • One 3-pound (1,361 grams) kabocha squash
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (7 ounces/200 grams) sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/3 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons brandy
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (2 1/8 ounces/60 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • ½ cup (2 ounces/60 grams) walnuts
  • ½ cup (2½ ounces/72 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 11 (6 1/8 ounces/174 grams) graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs, about ½ cups
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk Chantilly , optional (see Notes)

Instructions

To make the filling: Prepare a steamer by filling a large round casserole with water to a depth of 3 inches; the casserole should be able to hold the squash comfortably and have a tightly fitting lid. Put a steamer rack or enough crumpled heavy-duty aluminum foil to support the squash on the bottom; the rack or foil should be just above the waterline. Set over medium heat and bring to a steady simmer. Put the whole squash on the rack, cover the pot, and steam until a knife pierces the flesh easily, about 1 hour.

Remove from the heat, uncover the pot, and cool the squash in the steamer until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, make the crust: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch spring form pan, line with parchment paper, and butter the paper. Set aside.

Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant, about 15 minutes. Cool completely. Turn the oven down to 300°F.

Put the walnuts and ¼ cup of the brown sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the walnuts are coarsely ground. (You can also crush the walnuts by putting them in a heavy-duty plastic bag and gently pounding with a heavy skillet.) Transfer the walnuts to a mixing bowl and add the graham cracker crumbs, lime zest, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar. Mix well, then add the melted butter and mix with your hands until everything is evenly moistened. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and press into an even layer on the bottom.

Bake the crust until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool completely. Leave the oven on.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, remove it from the steamer, cut it in half, and scoop out and discard the seeds and strings. Scoop out 2½ cups of the squash flesh into a small bowl. Reserve any remaining squash for another use.

Put the cream cheese, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and process, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally, until the mixture is light and smooth. Add the squash and process again, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally, until smooth. Add the brandy and eggs and process just until they are incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and finish mixing with a rubber spatula.

Transfer the filling to the cooled crust. Bake until the center is set but still slightly jiggly, about 1 hour. Cool completely and unrnold.

. Serve the cheesecake with the condensed milk chantilly, if desired.

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