Some find cheeseballs too kitsch, like beehive hairdos or cone shaped bras. Others, picturing the tinted bright orange and preservative-packed cheeseball their aunt served during the holidays, think of a cheeseball as a unsavory concoction best only served next to smoke-flavored salami from Cracker Barrel.
As for me, I think kitsch has a holy place in heaven’s decor, sixties relics are pretty awesome, and preservatives, well… they’re only there if you let them be.
Let the cheeseball in. This pumpkin cheeseball is the only dessert you’ll need for Thanksgiving.
I created this cheeseball in honor of my friend Stephanie, who when I was telling her I was striving to create the perfect ball for Thanksgiving, said “pumpkin.” I said “cheesecake” and the rest was history.
Introducing the pumpkin cheesecake cheeseball.
I’m not sure if you know, but one really has to test a cheeseball recipe. Tasting, tasting, mixing, tasting, adjusting the pumpkin ratio so the ball is perfectly soft yet doesn’t fall apart, going back and forth from white to brown sugar to form the perfect texture, slicing off pieces of cultured butter to make sure it tastes fresh enough, and sampling the pecans after roasting. Then you have to test it again while serving and photographing.
Things I discovered during crafting this recipe is that too much pumpkin makes an unappetizing cheesecake blob, that ground pecans make a fabulous cheeseball thickener and also act as an impromptu cheesecake base, and that gingersnaps love pumpkin cheesecake balls. Note that you will need to grind pecans and chill the ball overnight.
Serve this cheeseball for dessert, with gingersnaps or almond crisps, and a strong old fashioned in an etched high ball glass.
makes 2 cheeseballs.
4 ounces cultured butter, room temperature
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 2/3 cup toasted pecans
In a large mixing bowl or in a mixer with a paddle, cream the butter. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add half the cream cheese, mix until blended, and scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Then add the remaining cream cheese and sugar and blend again. Add the pumpkin and spices to the bowl, mix for five seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then continue mixing until smooth.
Grind one cup of pecans in a food processor until they become the consistency of polenta. If you don’t have a food processor, divide the pecans into batches and finely chop. Don’t use a blender or over-process them, or you’ll create pecan butter.
Add the ground pecans to the pumpkin cream cheese mixture and mix with a wooden spoon. Divide into two roughly spherical shapes, wrap in parchment, and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning the balls will be firm enough so that you can shape them into spheres. Create balls, and before serving, press the outside with the remaining pecans.
Note: If you wait to roll the ball in toasted nuts, this ball also freezes well. If you leave the pumpkin out, and add a splash of run or brandy, kabam!, you’ve got yourself an eggnog cheeseball for December!
This was first posted in 2015 but stands as one of my favorite holiday recipes, ever.