Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Praline Sauce

Yes, another pumpkin post. This will be my last one for a while, I promise! Three Thanksgivings ago (i.e. two years ago) I was browsing one of my favorite magazine editions of the year: Food & Wine Thanksgiving. In the back of the magazine I came across something I just had to make: Pumpkin Cheesecake. I’m a huge fan of cheesecake, but up until that point I had only made it once and it turned out terrible. Thus, I was a little gun shy about making cheesecake. Thankfully, my BFF, who also happens to be a pastry chef, was visiting and we made it together. She guided me through the process and gave me essential pointers. The cheesecake turned out fabulous, and I made it again after she left for Thanksgiving that year (since we all know the Thanksgiving issue comes out in October. Practice makes perfect!).

Oh, you want the pointers too? First, use real, full fat cream cheese. You are having cheesecake, are you really concerned about those 10 extra calories? Second, your cream cheese must be at room temperature. Think a couple hours at room temp, depending on the warmth of your kitchen. Third, cream your cream cheese thoroughly to avoid lumps. However, once you add the other ingredients, beat at low speed. At this point, you do not want to whip air into the cheesecake. We want creamy, not airy. And finally, perhaps the most important tip of all: scrape the bowl and scrape it often. I repeat, scrape the bowl, and scrape it often.

You have to plan ahead with this recipe. A couple of hours before you plan on making the cheesecake set out your cream cheese, eggs, and heavy cream to come to room temperature. At this point you should also spread your pumpkin puree out on paper towels to drain thoroughly.

This recipe has become a staple at my Thanksgiving table, replacing pumpkin pie. Because, really, this cheesecake tastes exactly like pumpkin pie, only creamier and with a tastier crust.

And, in addition to the delicious praline sauce, I also “make” cinnamon ice cream. Meaning, I buy good vanilla ice cream (I prefer Haagen Daz 5), let it soften, and mix in cinnamon to taste. Sometimes I think people like the cinnamon ice cream more than the cheesecake itself!

I follow the recipe almost exclusively, except I’ve changed the baking process. I never completely followed what is suggested, so for all I know, it comes out better that way. But I’m afraid to change at this point since it tastes so good every year.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Praline Sauce

Modified slightly from Food & Wine

INGREDIENTS

  • One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree (1 3/4 cups)
  • 8 whole graham crackers, broken
  • 1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups cream cheese (14 ounces), at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

  1. Set a rack over a baking sheet and line the rack with 2 (several) layers of paper towels. Spread the pumpkin puree over the paper towels and let drain for 2 hours, until the puree is fairly dry.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450F. (The original recipe says 500, but I’ve found the crust burns too easily at that temperature, so I recommend 450). Butter the bottom and side of a 9-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers until finely ground. Add the pecans and brown sugar and pulse until finely ground. Add the melted butter and pulse just until incorporated. Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake the crust for about 8 minutes, just until it is fragrant (it will smell amazing!) and lightly browned. Let the crust cool completely. Lower oven temperature to 325F.
  3. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese until it is very smooth. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar with the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. With the machine on, add the spiced sugar to the cream cheese and beat until creamy, scraping the bottom and side of the bowl. Carefully add the drained pumpkin puree and beat until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl between each addition. Beat in the heavy cream, lemon juice and vanilla until the cheesecake mixture is smooth.
  4. Take your cooled springform pan and wrap the outside with heavy duty foil, and then wrap it again. If you have heavy duty plastic wrap, wrap first with plastic and then two layers of heavy duty foil. Then place the pan into a roasting pan, or some other dish that will allow you to pour water halfway up the pan. Pour your cheesecake mixture into the pan and place in preheated oven.  Pour hot water about halfway up the pan (if you have a tea kettle, that will be very helpful. Bake until internal temperature is 150F. The cheesecake will be jiggly, but not runny. It will bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. This picture is pre-baking. 
  5. Let cool completely. Place a slightly damp towel over the cheesecake while it cools to keep it moist. Let rest overnight, then serve.

Pecan Praline Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups pecans (8 ounces)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer just until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Let the caramel cool.
  2. Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 8 minutes, until they are lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer the pecans to a work surface and let them cool. Coarsely chop the nuts, stir them into the cooled caramel and serve.

 

 

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