From David Lebovitz, a guaranteed-to-please holiday treat. We auditioned this cheesecake at Thanksgiving in 2017 and it won a huge “YES” from our many dessert lovers.
The real star in this recipe is the Pecan Praline Sauce. As David L. says, I can’t imagine eating the cheesecake without the sauce, but I can definitely imagine eating the sauce without the cheesecake.
Remember to use canned pumpkin. Stay away from anything that says “pie filling”. Use a glass-bottom springform pan for the cheesecake.
1 1/2 cups (180 g) graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pumpkin cheesecake filling ingredients
Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
grated zest one lemon, preferably unsprayed
4 large eggs, at room temperature
One 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée
1/2 cup sour cream or whole-milk plain yogurt
1 tablespoon cornstarch, or 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of salt
Pecan praline sauce ingredients
3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup bourbon whiskey
1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted (important) and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
To make the crust, in a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs together with the melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon until the crumbs are thoroughly moistened. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and press the crumbs evenly across the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the crust until it feels set in the center, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Turn the oven down to 325ºF.
To make the filling, in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or by hand, in a large bowl), beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon zest, until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer between each addition to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl, then add the pumpkin purée, sour cream, cornstarch or flour, and vanilla extract, along with the spices and salt.
Wrap the outside bottom of the springform pan with foil so it reaches all the way up to the top of the outside of the pan. Scrape the mixture into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top. Place the cheesecake in a larger pan, such as a roasting pan, then add very warm water to the larger pan until it reaches halfway up the outside of the cake pan.
Bake the cheesecake in the oven until the center feels just slightly set, about 1 hour, to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and let sit in the water bath for 30 minutes, then remove the cake from the water bath and let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.
Make the pecan praline sauce by heating the brown sugar, cream, butter, maple syrup and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, until it comes to a boil, stirring frequently. Let boil for 1 minute without stirring. Remove from heat and add the bourbon, pecans, and vanilla.
To serve, run a sharp knife around the outside of the cheesecake to release it from the springform pan, then remove the sides of the pan. Dip the knife in warm water, wipe it dry, and use it to cut clean slices from the cheesecake. Serve with a ladleful of warm sauce poured over it. If the sauce gets too thick upon standing, you can thin it with milk or water.
The baked or unbaked crust can be made up to three days ahead and stored at room temperature (if baked), or refrigerated (unbaked). It can also be frozen either baked or unbaked for 2-3 months. The baked cheesecake will keep for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.