Thursday, October 17, 2013

Caramel Pecan Pumpkin Cheesecake

I am sorry for abandoning you guys for a while.  It was midterm time, and honestly I didn't cook or craft much in that time.  I will make it up for you in this week of extra posts.  Please don't hate me/egg my house.

This recipe should help gain your faith in me back.  

The base for my pumpkin cheesecake comes from a recipe Emeril Lagasse featured years ago; before anyone knew who Gordon Ramsey was.  Of course I modified the recipe almost beyond recognition.  Honestly, my best advice to give to a baker or cook is to learn the science behind making food.  Almost anyone can just follow a recipe; a good cook learns how to make it their own.  Use recipes for inspiration and add in or substitute what you really want in there.  If you are starting out and are unsure, learn by trial.  Mistakes simply help you learn.

Now that I am off of my soap box, here are instruction on how to make my version of this pumpkin cheesecake.

Instead of buying graham cracker crumbs, I always prefer to crumble them myself.  It can be a little rough on the hands, but it is really easy to do and takes little time.  That way, the left over graham crackers can be eaten and not just sit around in my cabinet in crumb form forever.  To make enough for this recipe it takes about a sleeve plus two more cracker sheets.

Make sure to wash your hands really well first, unless you hate the people you are feeding it to.
I also like to take the cheap route and chop up my own pecans.  I use them for garnish too, so buying the prechopped stuff just doesn't cut it.

The biggest thing people forget when making a cheesecake is that they are not cakes.  They are delicate custards that will  not be fully firm when you take them out of the oven.  If you over bake them the consistency will suffer and you will form cracks.  Only keep it in until the sides of the cheesecake no longer giggle when moved.  It should only take 60-70 minutes.  I lost track of time and left mine in for ten minutes too long.  This is what an overcooked cheesecake looks like.

It should not look like an earthquake hit it.
Also remember, cracks can form after you begin to cool it.  If you have a small crack while it is still baking, you can bet on there being more later.  It is not always a disaster when this happens; just remember it is not going to be as good.  It will still most likely be good.

I also must stress that if you are having trouble making cheesecakes, that you should try cooking them by weight instead of volume measurements.  This means add ounces, not cups.  Honestly, this is the only cheesecake that I make this way, mainly because I have yet to have any problems with it.

When making a caramel sauce, it is really important to use a double boiler and not just make it in a pot.  You don't want to burn the sauce.  You also don't want the water at a rolling boil either; just a light boil with bubbles breaking the surface every second is more than fine.  Don't have a double boiler?  Take the cheap college student way out.  A pot inside of a pot or a metal bowl inside of a pot works just fine.  Be careful though.  You don't want that falling on you.

Because who has room for a double boiler?
Now that all special directions are out of the way, here is my caramel pecan pumpkin cheesecake.

1 3/4 cups cinnimon graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 stick melted unsalted butter
3 packages of cream cheese (8 oz each at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnimon
1//2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
15 ounces pumpkin puree 
1/4 cup heavy cream
equal parts soft caramel and heavy cream (about 1/4 cup of each, as desired)
whole pecans

1. Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, chopped pecans, and brown sugar in a large bowl
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Mix butter into graham cracker mixture
4. Press graham cracker mixture evenly into the bottom of a spring form pan.  Let the mixture come up the sides about an inch
5. In a mixer beat cream cheese, sugar, and cornstarch on low until smooth and creamy
6. Add in the spices and eggs, mix until incorporated.
7. Add the pumpkin and heavy cream, mix until the batter is consistent.
8. Pour into spring form pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until just the sides don't move when the pan is gently shaken (always put your spring form pan on top of a sheet pan)
9. Let cool for at least one hour before preparing the caramel.
10.  Arrange whole pecans on top as desired
11.  In a double boiler melt caramel and heavy cream, stirring constantly
12. Drizzle over cheesecake while the caramel is still hot.  It will solidify and be hard to work with once it cools.