I did it. After 2 long months, I have once again returned to baking.
Okay, so not “baking” exactly, but making dessert.
If you haven’t been following my posts lately, I have been in Japan studying abroad since the beginning of September. I have been living with a host family whose kitchen is incredibly small and doesn’t have an oven. I had decided to just hold in my urges to bake until I returned home, but then one of my Japanese friends offered me his kitchen!
Needless to say I was thrilled, especially when he told me he had a small oven like thing. I decided to stick to something easy anyhow, and just inspect his kitchen before trying anything. Also being a young, male college student who lives by himself, I knew he didn’t have any cake pans or other such tools, which would make actually baking something quite difficult.
The day I was going to bake, I went to something I call the “gaijin store” or “foreigner store” in the train station. If you live in or have been to Japan I am sure you know the kind of store I am talking about. They carry a number of foreign–mostly American and British–products, which are fairly expensive but are worth it for that once-in-awhile taste of home. I got some cream cheese, cookies, caramel, and canned pumpkin there.
Later when I met my friend, I went to a “hyaku-en” or dollar store to get a whisk, a large bowl, and plastic serving cups. And let me tell you: it is a good thing I did.
I entered my friend’s apartment…and while I was expecting it, I was still surprised. His kitchen/hallway with a sink in it was smaller than my host mom’s and his cupboards literally had nothing in them–everything he owned was in a small shelving unit next to the sink.
So after a bit I set off cooking. And let me tell you, if I can cook using one bowl, one spatula, one whisk, plastic cups and one square foot of space, I can cook anything anywhere in the world. It was so amusing though and I was surrounded by my friends, so it was an amazing experience all in all. Not to mention this dessert is fabulous and everyone should make it whether they are abroad in an unusual kitchen or not!
I was inspired by a great recipe from Cooking Classy, though I have to say I made many changes due to the ingredients I was able to get my hands on.
The first thing that needs to be done is crush up about 16 Biscoff-type cookies into a fine powder and mix that with about 3 tablespoons of butter. I couldn’t find Biscoff and ended up using Lotus brand cookies. To make things easier, I roped my friends into helping me crush the cookies while they were still in the individual packages. It worked in my favor, because they decided to have a contest of who could do it the best, so everyones cookies were very thoroughly crumbled!
After mixing the cookie crumbs and the butter, I divided them into several plastic cups. As soon as I did this, I realized the crumbs were very loose and after thinking for a bit I ended up using another cup to press the crumbs down to form more of a crust.
After washing my one and only bowl, I whipped up some heavy cream. By hand. Using a small whisk. Yes, I am that powerful and determined. In all seriousness, it is hard to whip cream by hand and definitely dont do it if you are going to need more than a cup or two, so if you can use an electric mixer.
After putting the cream into the refrigerator and yet again cleaning my bowl, I started in on the main part of the cheesecake. For this you need to mix the cream cheese and the caramel. I ended up adding more caramel than was called for because I 1) didn’t have a mixer and my cream cheese was hard and 2) my brown sugar was funky so I used the caramel as my main sweetener.
The rest of the spices and such get added into the cream cheese mixture, and then the pumpkin gets added in. Finally the whipped cream from earlier is folded in.
Using a spoon–though preferably a piping bag–scoop the filling into the cups over the crust and stick into the refrigerator until you want them.
The recipe recommends serving them within one hour, and I think I would recommend serving them within a few hours. I think we probably waited 2 hours to eat them and they were perfect.
When you do serve them, take them out of the refrigerator and top them off with some whipped cream and caramel. I used a can of whipped cream, though if I were back in my regular kitchen I would have used hand made whipped cream and piped it on using a piping bag with a star tip.
The end result was fabulous! I loved all the flavors and it was actually really easy to make. Here in Japan we have gone completely from Halloween to Christmas, and all of us have been really wanting some fall/Thanksgiving flavors since November started, and this was the perfect way to do so! Whether you are looking for a simple fall recipe or are wanting the flavors of pumpkin pie but don’t have a real kitchen, this is the perfect recipe! It is also great for college students who live in dorms.
Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Recipe
Inspired by Cooking Classy
12-16 Biscoff Cookies or other Shortbread cookie substitute
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz cream cheese
4-6 Tablespoons caramel sauce, plus more for topping
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 can of spray whipped cream
6-8 serving cups, plus 2 extra for pressing the crust and storing whipped cream
1) Mash the cookies into a fine, sand-like consistency then mix them in the bowl with the melted butter. Divide the crumb mixture between the serving cups and press down to form a crust.
2) Whisk the cold whipping cream until it forms medium to stiff peaks, transfer it to a cup and place it in the refrigerator until it is needed.
3) Mix the cream cheese and caramel sauce until it is smooth, then add in the sugar, vanilla and spices. Once everything is combined, mix in the pumpkin and then fold in the whipped cream.
4) Spoon the mixture evenly between the serving cups and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve–preferably for at least 30 minutes to give everything a chance to chill and firm up, and not longer than a few hours.
5) When ready to serve, use the whipped cream and caramel to finish them off and decorate them. Enjoy!