Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanksgiving: Two Layer Pumpkin Cheese Pie

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual... O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it for my wealth is not possession, but enjoyment. – Henry David Thoreau

It's a pie, it a cheescake. No it's a cheese pie! (Bicolour, too!)

Thanksgiving. In Canada it’s here again – already. The seasons fly by, as do the years. It seems like only yesterday we started fixing our house to be put on market. That was June. Now it’s October.

The leaves haven't really fully turned colour in the village
where I grew up. Must have made decorating the church
harder than usual.
I can’t believe how fast time seems to be going. Before we know it Halloween and Remembrance Day will be past and Christmas will be upon us. And then there will be a new year where it starts all over again.

But today is the day for giving thanks. What am I thankful for? I have a wonderful family, great true friends and a spouse I can’t imagine living without. Sure I’ve had my fair share of “duds” in my life, but all in all I’ve been very lucky.

I am thankful for my life so far. I count the people and experiences that didn’t work out as life lessons. If you don’t learn from your past you are doomed to repeat it. I would not be who I am without what has happened to me.

I am thankful for my upbringing. My parents were wonderful examples of how to live. My dad genuinely loved life and people. Everyone who met him liked him. My mother was the “strict” one. It was probably because she was a teacher.

She taught me among the most important lessons in my life, not only a love of learning and inquisitiveness, but also—and probably most importantly—the true meaning of love.

I am also thankful for my dog Henry. He is a light of my life.
He loves me too. Just don't get in his way...
My father began exhibiting symptoms of depression shortly after retiring. Or so we thought. He was treated for about a decade. It was only later that we discovered it wasn’t depression but Pick’s Disease – an uncommon degenerative condition related to Alzheimer's.

My dad died at home five years ago. My mother took care of him instead of packaging him off to a nursing home, and made the quality of his last years far better because of her. Her marriage vows, including “in sickness and in health,” were more than mere words, as the vows I took are to me.

I am thankful for my friends, both old and newer. I grew up in a small village and all of us were completely accepting of each other. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that rural Nova Scotia is closed minded. If anything it is the opposite. Friends from my youth are still among the best we have.

I am thankful for what little I have. Don’t worry if you don’t have scads of money. The best things in life are not those we can store in a bank, but those we store in the vault of our heart. Yes, we all need enough to live, but pursuit of monetary gain at the expense of all else is not the way to live. Those who think otherwise are deluded.

Happiness is a fresh breeze on your face, sunshine on your back, a crackling fire, the smell of good food bubbling on the stove and the warmth of love from those you care about.

This crust always turns out well.
What has all of this to do with pumpkin pie? Nothing. But it has everything to do with thankfulness. And this day we are also thankful for the harvest – pumpkins included.

But I suppose I had better get to the topic of this post.

This is a bi-colour cheesecake in a flaky pie crust – one layer white, the other orange. It’s a bit different from the usual pumpkin cheesecake. Until I made this pie I didn’t really realize how little flavour the actual pumpkin adds to a pumpkin cheesecake. 

It’s actually more the pumpkin pie spices that carry the flavour. Both the white and pumpkin layers contain them. I would imagine you could make a acceptable “pumpkin” cheesecake without any pumpkin at all!

This crust is now by far my favourite. I don’t know what the vinegar and egg actually do but it’s something. This crust always turns out very flaky.

I know this post may be a day late for my Canadian readers, but not my American ones. Keep this recipe in mind for any holiday. It would be a hit.

One last point. I am thankful for one more thing: you. All of you – near and far – who come back to my blog day after day. You have given me an outlet and voice, and a feeling that I am not as alone as I would otherwise feel. You have expanded my world. 

Thank you.

This is the assembled pie. I boiled my own pumpkin (top
left). Drain it and use the beaters to purée it. Simplicity.
Two Layer Pumpkin Cheese Pie
Prep: 30 min  |  Cook 40-45 min  |  Yield: 9” pie
1 cup unbleached flour (plus more for rolling)
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening, chilled
1 lg egg
1 tsp vinegar
1 tbsp cold water

Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the shortening and cut in until the mixture resembles small peas. 

Mix together the egg, vinegar and water in a small bowl. Pour over the flour and mix just until blended. Do not over mix.

Place a little four on a rolling board. Roll the dough out to fit a 9” pie plate. Fit the rolled dough into the pan, leaving about 1” overhang. Fold the overhand down under the plate and flute the edge as you wish. Prick the bottom with a fork.

Chill the pastry while the filling is being mixed.

Out of the oven in 45 minutes. Look – no crack!
2 pkg Cream Cheese (225g each or 8 oz), softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon, grated
1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
1/2 tsp cloves, ground
2 eggs
2/3 cup cooked sugar pumpkin (or canned)

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Beat together the cream cheese, white sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Then add the salt and spices and beat again.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to ensure all is incorporated smoothly.

Pour half of the cream cheese into the pastry-lined pie plate. Beat the pumpkin into the remaining batter and carefully pour it over the top of the white filling.

Bake in the preheated oven for between 40-45 minutes. The middle will look set.

Let cool completely for at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve with whipped cream.


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