Kinako-Pumpkin Ripple Cheesecake

This recipe kind of morphed from the original concept, which was going to be my take on Milkbar’s Cinnaswirl Milkbar(Crack) Pie. Back when I worked in Milkbar Lab, Milkbar had just launched a partnership with Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal. Meaning that we got to play around with different recipes using it. While I did not directly have any say in the conceptualization of it(this all happened during my days off), I got to see firsthand the creation of the Cinnaswirl Milkbar Pie. It’s basically the classic Milkbar(Crack) Pie, but infused with the cinnamon toast cereal, and then we pipe a swirl of liquid cheesecake into it, and rim the edges with the cereal as well. While I love the idea, I felt like there could have been a more “organic” way to incorporate the swirl than just a piping of liquid cheesecake. With those rippled cheesecakes and mousse cakes, you can just pour two mixtures together and use a skewer to sort of create a pattern. And that was where my mind went with this. I also wanted to include kinako powder, which is a toasted soy bean powder, into the dessert, since it pairs so beautifully with brown sugar and cinnamon. With the fillings, I wanted to do a cinnamon crack pie, and ripple that with a cheesecake mixture so that the swirl would really come through. And then came the idea to use pumpkin.

I had just hired a new analyst at work(hilariously, that is my first hire and it is the same position I had when I was on season 10!), and his favorite dessert happened to be pumpkin cheesecake. Since I was not fully committed to the idea of baking Milkbar/Crack Pie anyways, I figured, why not swap out that with a pumpkin mixture of some kind? Initially, I thought about doing dulce de leche or cajeta with the pumpkin, but since I did not want to spend that much time making those from scratch(that and I was trying to get this all done before my trip to Hawaii), I figured, why not a caramelized white chocolate ganache? I could roast white chocolate in the oven until golden brown, melt it down with brown butter, cinnamon, and pumpkin puree, and then we have this silky no-bake pumpkin filling that would taste delicious! The roasted white chocolate adds in the nutty, caramelized notes that give a level of comfort to the pumpkin, and it would work marvelously with the kinako and the cheesecake! I wanted to also tie in the cinnamon swirl cereal into the final presentation somehow, so I took the scraps of the kinako shortbread that serves as the crust, rolled that with cinnamon sugar, and now we have a fun little topping to tie it all together! And with some cinnamon sugar to dust the sides with as well, for that fun little touch!

For the kinako-cinnamon shortbread:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup kinako powder
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a food processor, blitz the flour, kinako, sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt together. Then slowly mix into that the water and vanilla to form a dough. Refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes before rolling out on a floured surface for about 1/18th an inch thick. Press the dough into the sides of a 6-inch ring mold, trimming the edges. Reserve your remaining dough. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork. Either weigh down the dough with parchment and baking weights/uncooked rice, or freeze the dough for 30 minutes – either process will help your dough from contracting and shrinking! Then bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. If the shell is being baked with the weights/rice, remove the parchment and weights/rice and bake uncovered for another 5 minutes, just to make sure that the bottom is baked through. Freeze the tart shell for 2 hours, then using either a fine grater or a vegetable peeler, smooth out the edges. Store in an airtight and freeze.

For the roasted white chocolate-pumpkin ganache:
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp brown butter
8oz pumpkin puree

Spread chocolate chips onto a sheet tray lined with parchment. Bake at 300 degrees F for 10 minutes. Take the chocolate and place into a pot with the other ingredients. Stir everything together on medium heat until everything is fully melted together, about 5 minutes, then passing through a sieve to remove any lumps. Keep at or above room temperature for initial assembly.

For the no-bake cheesecake:
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp gelatin powder + 1 tbsp water
4oz cream cheese
3oz sweetened condensed milk
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste

In a pot, heat up the milk with gelatin until it fully dissolves. Whip the gelatin-milk into the cream cheese first, then fold in the condensed milk and vanilla. Keep at or above room temperature for initial assembly.

For initial assembly:
Start by pouring about 1/3 of the pumpkin ganache into the tart shell. Then pour into the center of the ganache about 1/4 of the cheesecake mixture. Then alternate between pouring pumpkin ganache and cheesecake into the center of the filling, forming almost like a “target” shape. Gently swirl the two together to resemble the swirls you would find on a certain cinnamon toast cereal. Transfer the tart to the freezer and allow that to set for another hour.

For the cinnamon sugar crunchies:
Reserved kinako dough
2 tbsp granulated or dark brown sugar
a pinch of ground cinnamon

Roll the remaining dough out on a floured surface to be about 1/4th an inch thick. You don’t want it super thin! Mix the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle that over the dough. Reroll the dough until a tight coil and cut into disks that are about 1/8th an inch thick. Spread onto a lined sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Cool down before using to garnish the sides of the tart.

For garnish:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp kinako powder
a pinch of cinnamon

Blitz all of your ingredients together in a spice grinder. Sift the ground sugar onto the edges of the tart right before serving.

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