This is an elegant, fun-to-make cheesecake that is perfect for the holidays. It is loaded with pecans and has a caramel-like topping. The smooth cheesecake filling contrasts well with the crunch of the nuts.
This dessert works well for those busy days when you have company coming. A cheesecake is less work than a cake and the topping is simple. This recipe makes ten to twelve servings.
1 3/4 cups crushed graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
For the filling:
3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup chopped pecans
For the topping:
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
15 to 20 pecan halves
1. Crush the graham crackers. Mix the crumbs with the sugar and melted butter in a ten-inch round springform pan or a nine-inch square springform pan. Press the mixture into a crust across the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Put the crust in the refrigerator to set up while you prepare the filling and the topping.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the cream cheese with the paddle attachment of your stand-type mixer set at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about five minutes. Add the eggs, 1 1/4-cups brown sugar, flour, salt, vanilla, and cream, and blend together until smooth. Do not over beat. Too much air in the filling will cause the cake to crack. Fold in the chopped pecans.
3. Pour the cream cheese filling into the crust. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the top just starts to turn golden and the center of the cake is just barely jiggly. Cool on a wire rack.
4. After the cheesecake has cooled, make the topping. Heat the 2/3-cup brown sugar and 1/3-cup butter together with the corn syrup over low heat until the mixture is bubbly. Continue cooking over low heat for 4 or 5 minutes or until the topping is smooth with no sugar crystals. Pour the hot topping over the cooled cheesecake. Garnish with pecan halves and a cherry. Serve chilled.
Baker’s note: The corn syrup in this recipe is added to the concentrated sugar syrup to inhibit crystal formation. Both glucose and fructose syrups resist crystallization.