Pumpkin Cheesecake with Salted Caramel Swirl

This was faaaaaantastic! Pumpkin pie has never really been my favorite dessert, so I thought this year I would try something different and I’m pretty sure nobody missed the pie.  I started with this recipe and then added extra spices and some flour to make sure it wasn’t too soft, and then I pre-baked the crust because it looked awfully wet and in danger of being a soggy mess if I didn’t.  I also thought it would be a shame to top such a beautiful cheesecake with a store-bought caramel sauce, so I made this salted caramel sauce instead.  I won’t show step-by-step photos on the caramel because I didn’t change a thing from her recipe (besides adding a little water to the sugar to dissolve it easier, which only adds a few extra minutes for the water to evaporate) and her pictures are better than mine, and also because it was Thanksgiving Day and I had just a few more things to roast, bake, saute, gravy-ify, etc etc etc instead of taking 87 pictures of caramel.  Make the cheesecake the day before you plan to eat it, and then top with the caramel and cream cheese the day of, and then prepare to make even your guests who are in a food-induced-coma long for a piece.

Crust

1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies (if you have Trader Joe’s nearby, go with the triple ginger ones)

1 1/2 cups toasted pecans (about 6 ounces)

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 ½ cups canned solid pack pumpkin (I had 3 roasted pie pumpkins so I made my own puree this time, but it’s totally not necessary)

4 tablespoons whipping cream

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 ½ teaspoons ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 large eggs

Topping

Reserved 3/4 cup creamcheese/granulated sugar mixture

4 tablespoons whipping cream

1-4-ish tablespoons salted caramel sauce

For Crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind ground cookies, pecans and brown sugar in processor. Add melted butter and blend until combined. Press crust mixture onto bottom and partially up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake the crust for 12-14 minutes, until starting to brown, then let cool before filling.

Set a baking pan that is larger than the springform pan and deep enough to hold an inch or so of water inside the preheated oven and bring a kettle of water to a boil. Wrap the outside of the springform pan tightly in aluminum foil- go over it several times until you are sure no water can get through, because you will be sad if you end up with a water-logged cheesecake. 

For Filling:

Beat cream cheese and granulated sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer, until light and fluffy. Reserve 3/4 cup of this mixture in a small bowl to use for topping, and refrigerate until you are ready for some cream-cheese-on-salted-caramel-swirl-action.

To the mixing bowl of remaining cream cheese mixture, add the pumpkin puree, 4 tablespoons whipping cream and ground spices and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, and then the all-purpose flour, beating just until combined. 

Pour filling into crust, then set the springform pan inside the larger pan and carefully pour in the kettle of water around the pan, until the water comes up 1/3 of the way. This is called a water bath (bain marie).

Bake the cheesecake until the top is slightly browned and puffy and the center jiggles only slightly when you move the pan, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Carefully lift the cheesecake out of the water bath and remove the aluminum foil and then cool the cheesecake on a wire rack before covering and refrigerating it overnight. If your cheesecake cracked on top, never fear! No one will even know because you’re going to cover it with caramel and cream cheese.  Mine doesn’t look perfect, and according to Josh, I should have only used 1 tablespoon of caramel on top so it was a prettier swirl and then I could have decorated the plates with caramel squiggles before plating the cheesecake, like they do in restaurants, but whatevs. It’s delicious either way. :-P 

The next day before serving, bring remaining 3/4 cup cream cheese mixture to room temperature. Add remaining 4 tablespoons whipping cream to cream cheese mixture and stir to combine. Pour cream cheese mixture over cheesecake, spreading evenly. Spoon caramel sauce in lines over cream cheese mixture. Using tip of knife, swirl caramel sauce into cream cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate. 

Note: If you do make the salted caramel sauce, you’re going to have a lot leftover, but is that really a terrible problem to have? No….no it’s not. Spoon it on ice cream, spoon it into your mouth, fill macarons or other sandwich cookies with it, stir it into your coffee….you get the point.