Cheesecake is usually served cold. So brace yourself for something a little different.
The first time I made this recipe, I pulled it out of the oven and set it on the counter to cool. The plan was to chill it overnight in the refrigerator. But my dear daughter — also known as The Girl with the Sweet Tooth — just couldn't wait to dig in. So I handed her a spoon. And when she started babbling with delight, I tried it, too.
Boing! It was ridiculously good. So good that I now recommend that you serve this cheesecake hot, right out of the oven, topped with a little vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.
That said, getting there requires some care. Be sure to buy plain pumpkin puree, which is sometimes labeled solid pack pumpkin. Avoid anything labeled "pumpkin pie filling" or "pumpkin pie mix," both of which contain unwanted sugar and spices. You're much better off adding those ingredients yourself.
Also, don't forget to drain the pumpkin puree. Losing the excess liquid from the puree improves the final texture and flavor of the cake.
The cooking also requires some care. You're going to cook the cake in a water bath, which helps to equalize the temperature in the oven and prevents overcooking. But first the springform pan must be tightly wrapped with foil to prevent any water from leaking into the batter while the cake is baking.
Finally, do your best to not overbake the cake, which will make it dry and crumbly. After the allotted cooking time, it should still be a little jiggly. Worried that the cake might be undercooked at that point? Don't be. The residual heat will continue to cook it even after you pull it out of the oven.
By the way, this cheesecake also is a knockout when it's served the usual way — cold. If you decide to go this route, run a knife around the outside edge of the cake to separate it from the pan as soon as you remove the cake from the oven. This will allow the cake to remain intact as it shrinks in on itself, rather than cracking down the middle as it vainly attempts to unglue itself from the sides of the pan.
If you do indeed decide to serve this cold, let it cool completely on a rack on the counter — it'll take three to four hours — before wrapping it tightly and popping it in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
When it's time, run a knife around the edge of the pan again, carefully remove the side of the pan, then slice the cheesecake with a knife dipped in hot water (or use unflavored dental floss). And don't forget the crowning glory. As noted, whipped cream or ice cream are the accessories of choice.
Sara Moulton is host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "Home Cooking 101."