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Gingersnap Cheesecake

Mariel here. The women in my family are queens of the cheesecake. If you haven’t already given my grandmother’s versions a spin – both the chocolate and the regular – you better hop to. My mom has become a cheesecake pro in her own right and regularly dishes up these treats for her nearest and dearest, which isn’t always such a good thing since no dessert is more decadent or more deadly for your waistline.

Because my mom is so adept at cheesecake-making, I’ve been more than happy to let her do all the work in that department for the past 30+ years. But I recently started mass-producing gingersnap cookies in my kitchen – thanks to an out-of-the-blue yearning for these childhood treats – so I was left with more dough than I knew what to do with. I know the graham cracker is typically the crust of choice for a cheesecake, but let me just tell you, a gingersnap crust is where it’s at. It’s slightly pillowy in the center but crunchier on the edges and it adds a festive little kick to the creaminess of the cake. In fact, I’d imagine this is how Santa would make a holiday cheesecake, only after cranking out my wishlist, natch.

You heard it here first, I’m never going graham again.

Gingersnap Cheesecake
Serves 12

Note: The gingersnap dough can also be made into about 30 tablespoon-size cookies without any modifications, just bake at 350 for 10-11 minutes, until they turn a shade darker. Err on the side of slightly under-cooking since the bottoms of these cookies tend to burn easily.

Second note: The gingersnap recipe was adapted from a 1998 Gourmet recipe

Ingredients for the Gingersnap Crust:
2¼ cups of all-purpose flour – stock
1 teaspoon baking soda – stock
2 teaspoons ground ginger – stock
1 heaping tablespoon of finely grated fresh ginger (peel it before grating it) – $0.89
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon – stock
½-teaspoon ground cloves – stock
1 cup packed light brown sugar – stock
1½ sticks of unsalted butter – stock
¼-cup unsulfured molasses – stock
1 egg

Ingredients for the Cheesecake:
3 packages of light cream cheese, *important: bring it to room temperature – $6.00
4 large eggs – stock
6-oz heavy cream – $1.99
¼-cup plain yogurt (low-fat is fine) – $0.89
¾-teaspoon vanilla – stock
1¼ cup sugar – stock
1½ Tablespoons all-purpose flour – stock
1½ Tablespoons lemon juice – $0.50
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $10.27
Cost per serving: $0.85

Directions for Gingersnap Crust:
1. In a large bowl, sift together 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour, baking soda, spices and then whisk in the brown sugar.

2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and then whisk it into the flour mixture. Whisk in the molasses and egg until combined but don’t overwork.

3. Sift in the remaining 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons of flour and stir with a wooden spoon.

4. Wrap the dough in saran and chill for at least 1 hour.

5. After the dough has chilled, take 3/4 of it and press it into the bottom and about an inch-and-a-half up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Set aside. Take the remaining quarter of the gingersnap dough, cover in saran and re-refrigerate. Prepare the cheesecake filling immediately.

Directions for the Cheesecake:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Make sure the cream cheese is about room temperature, this will create a smoother filling.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend the cream cheese with the eggs, beating in one egg at a time until just combined.

3. Add the remaining filling ingredients, beating well. Dredge the bottom of the mixing bowl since cream cheese is likely to stick there.

4. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes. Do not open oven door! The cake is not done. Turn off the oven and allow the cake to remain inside as it settles and finishes “baking” for another hour.

5. After an hour, remove the cake from the oven and finish cooling cake on a wire rack. Transfer to the refrigerator, cover with saran wrap and chill at least 4 hours before serving, preferably overnight.

6. To garnish the top with mini gingersnap cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with Pam.

7. Take the remaining quarter of chilled dough and parcel out into heaping measuring teaspoon-size balls and roll between the palms of your hands. You should be able to make about 20.

8. Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes until they start to darken. They’re easy to overbake so err on the side of taking them out early. Cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then finish cooling on a wire rack. Decorate the top of the cheesecake with the cookies once they’re totally cool.