An inspiration for this recipe came from two unexpected directions. My friend, pastry chef Diana, mentioned her based on sweet Spanish coca seasonal hit with candied pumpkin and pine nuts. The day I processed half of my Cinderella pumpkin for this dessert, we were invited for dinner — our neighbors threw a party for their visiting Puerto-Rican relatives. To my surprise, among other delicacies, I found chunks of candied pumpkin served as an appetizer to pair with queso fresco. My neighbor explained it was seasonal and traditional calabaza en tacha. I ran home to bring my version to share, and we were enjoying them side by side. While Latin American candied pumpkin is darker, sweeter, spicier, and made of whole or big chanks, Diana’s is grated, doesn’t use any spices, elegantly citrusy, and light. If you stop on earlier stages, pumpkin flavor will be recognizable. If you continue until most of the moisture is evaporated, your guests won’t be able to say what this treat is made of. I’ve heard people comparing it to other fruit from apricot to quince.
This recipe is based on me Japanese soufflé cheesecake, which is also known as “cotton” cheesecake. Very popular in Asian countries for its texture — fluffy and velvety creamy at the same time — it is getting more and more known in the U.S. Just like regular cheesecakes, this souffle cheesecake can be flavored with vegetable and fruit purees. This pumpkin cheesecake is as soft and creamy as a mousse, with delicate flavors of honey and pumpkin.
For years, every season I’ve been looking for a pumpkin which taste would come close to those my parents were growing in Ukraine in nineties. There were so many varieties of pumpkins and winter squashes to try, yet I couldn’t find a single one exciting — too bland, colorless, and fibrous for my taste, especially after cooking. I was ready to give up after my latest disappointment with Sugar Pie pumpkin, when decided to give a try to a larger Cinderella pumpkin I avoided earlier because of the size. Well, so far this variety is the closest to Ukrainian pumpkins I remember. The taste is still not as bright and fruity-sweet as I’d like it to be, but the color and texture are exceptional! Sunny orange and silky juicy, it’s a pleasure to eat it just roasted or cook with its puree. To really enjoy this soup recipe, use your favorite, the best tasting pumpkins and always start from scratch.